Atten dance vs Knowledge: Concern with College Students by Subha Chugh

The Questionable Trade Practices of Colleges

Hundreds of crimes take place in India every day, several go unreported, a few remain
From Monday to Friday, usually between the hours of 8am and 6pm, a crime takes place in every college across the country where teachers hold attendance hostage in exchange for students’ presence in out-dated, boring lectures, all of which further direct the students to swallow raw information and throw it up on answer sheets. The student is then assigned numbers based on how impressive and accurate the vomit is.

Students, helpless, suffering from extortion find no refuge, neither in the various laws laid down, nor the courts, with the Bombay High Court upholding this unfair trade off, giving it legitimacy. A simple case in point being, my college decided to stop taking new students after my batch, no doubt because they’d been waiting to teach me for decades and now that that wish has been fulfilled, the raison d’etre of college is attained. In any case, we’re now about a thousand students waiting to be taught the finesse of law, with a total staff of 15 teachers.
A PhD in Economics is teaching us Environment Law while someone who doesn’t know the difference between shares and debentures is expected to make us masters of Company Law.

The question that arises is what exactly are we, as students learning from this everyday charade? To ensure a few digits remain in our favour in a register, we’re being forced to travel for hours, sometimes to attend a mere one or two lectures, by substandard teachers, while the Bar Council of India attendance guidelines laugh at us with popcorns.

While, the case of my college is exceptional, the minimum attendance requirement persists in every college. Colleges and universities thus participate in a peculiar trade off, with students becoming unwilling and forced participant, one where attendance is traded off for a degree.

It is a well-known fact that bookish knowledge goes only till the doors of a job opportunity. The entry depends on calibre, hands on experience and practical application, skills which are only acquired by stepping outside the bounds of the four walls of a classroom.

In the National Employability Report by Aspiring Minds, it was found, on a sample of 1,50,000 engineers, that less than 8% were actually employable. The report found that these engineers, few of the thousands the engineer producing factory that our country is made, lacked the basic necessary skills required to work in large scare industry. This included basic logical and problem solving skills as well as communication and English language skills.
Yep, that means several “sharmaji ka ladkas” are suffering and unable to find jobs, because the became the by-products of this extremely flawed education system.
The fact is that the unrealistically high expectation of keeping up with the level of archaic
curriculum along with the attendance pressure leaves little time for the student to pursue
extracurricular activities.

Another noteworthy example are the findings of the expert committee constituted by the Delhi High Court to examine the attendance practices of Amity Law School Delhi, affiliated to GGSIP University, which summed up were – no law student can be given attendance for a non-law activity. Upon being asked if this meant they were in essence, telling students that none of their activities would be supported by the college unless related to law, the committee insisted that they fully encouraged the students to participate in such activities, only to do them on the weekend and on their own time.

Colleges and Universities in the most developed part of the world do not prescribe such stringent attendance laws. Classes are voluntary, with freedom of entry and exit even in the middle of the lecture, creating an atmosphere where the student willingly partakes in the exchange of ideas and actually learns. Unlike college students in our country, those in the US need only worry about crippling student loans and not suffer from the night time terrors of being debarred from taking the end semester/ term exams and being forced to repeat a semester.

What are our colleges afraid of? That given the substandard teaching and course in most of them, no student will volunteer to attend class, choosing instead to partake in a hands-on internship where they’ll be able to gain actual, practical work experience related to their field of study.

Even in a scenario where a particular teacher is competent and the students actually get to learn, forcing the student to attend their class and creating the pressure of meeting a number, regardless of sickness or health, creates an unhealthy environment where a person is forced to glue their bottoms to a chair and keep their eyelids open for hours on end. This snatching away of the liberty of the student, who otherwise has the liberty to choose their life partner, who represent them, and by extension what laws govern them, leads to an army of essential zombies, unable to retain knowledge, no matter how captivating or interesting. Barring of course, the few geniuses who are born with extra grey matter, which causes them not only to choose attending boring, useless classes, but also ask annoyingly tricky doubts.

Refusing to give students the choice of whether or not they should attend classes deems them to be treated as the same immature, unintelligent gentry seeking permission to visit the bathroom. While on the one hand we talk about how students are not smart enough to choose attending class and learning of their own violation, on the other hand, we ask the same students to choose a career that will affect their whole life.

An individual must have the right to prioritise their needs. Many a times, a student is required, due to family conditions, to work and or earn a living. Mandatory attendance forces this student to either drop out of college or drop the job or somehow juggle between the two. Can a student who’s spending half day in college and the other half at work, be in a fit enough condition to understand delicate technicalities? Can a student who’s choosing class over helping out their family economically be in a fit enough mental state to actually learn?

Learning and gaining knowledge requires a stress-free environment. Even so much as too hot or cold a room can affect the learning process. Imposing an obligation upon the student and snatching away their freedom of choice, in the so-called noble cause of teaching. Infact, force and obligation, no matter how honourable the intention, always leads to rebellion, and in this case, it is always by the student actively shutting away information and refusing to learn.

Thus, this mandate doesn’t just lead to extra pressure, deprivation of a student’s liberty, but also prevents them from taking part in actually useful activities but are also counterproductive to gaining of knowledge. Something done out of an obligation is always half-assed and to imagine we’re shaping the future of our country into adults who were forced into attending classes and actively rebelled against this obligation by shutting away information, because such is the natural human tendency, to fight oppression. Learning ought to be a voluntary process where students are free to swing towards knowledge, not forced into metal ledges, causing them to tear away at the metal chains or hang themselves from ceiling fans in desperation. Contrary to popular belief, removing ceiling fans will not curb this behaviour, the students are, as established above, way
smarter than they are given credit for.

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