ON MONDAY, students and teachers of JNU gathered in lawns, staircases and walkways to register their protest against the recently introduced attendance rules and show that they are not against attending classes, but only against making attendance compulsory.
Last month, a circular was issued by the JNU administration, making 75 per cent attendance compulsory across all courses, including MPhil and PhD.
At some other universities in the city, minimum attendance has been a long-standing rule, albeit only at the undergraduate level. Universities and institutes in Delhi have also worked out different ways to ensure student performance does not suffer.
Norm: Even though attendance here is recorded on a daily basis, there is no minimum attendance requirement to sit for exams. Individual faculty members are free to fix penalty or minimum norms if they deem fit.
Starting last year, IIT Delhi began using a mobile attendance system. According to IIT Director Ramgopal Rao, if the performance of students starts to slip, their attendance records are pulled out and parents are informed. “If students are performing well, the issue of attendance is not raised unless a particular faculty member has her/his own norms,” he said.
Some teachers have devised ways to ensure students attend class. M Balakrishnan, who taught in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering till last year and is now the Deputy Director (Strategy and Planning) at the institute, said, “I did not have any penalty regarding attendance in my class but held surprise quizzes regularly. These quizzes carried a 15 per cent weightage in the final results. If students did not attend, they wouldn’t pass.”
Norm: A minimum of 66% attendance for undergraduate students and a minimum of 75% for professional courses in needed.
There is no set attendance norm for Masters students. However, they have to attend tutorials, attendance for which carries five marks.
It is compulsory for MPhil students to have 68-69% minimum for course work in one semester. This coursework is also there for PhD students for one semester. After the undergraduate level, attendance norms are relaxed in DU. Class size is also smaller at the Masters and research level.
Former DU Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh said having minimum attendance requirement at the undergraduate level was important. “At the undergraduate level, students tend to get distracted because of the change from the regimented environment of schools to that of colleges. Having a minimum attendance requirement discourages this. At the postgraduate level, DU does not have minimum attendance norms,” he said.
Others at DU pointed out that attendance requirements ensure better quality of education.
Ramesh Bhardwaj, former Head, Sanskrit Department, DU, said, “Attendance rules should be there just to check the presence of students in their prescribed coursework. I have experienced students taking advantage of the no-rule policy and not studying seriously despite getting admission and scholarship money. They generally enrol into civil services preparation classes. If they cannot clear the competitive exams, they come back to complete their PhD in six months to one year and the quality of research suffers.”
Norm: At AUD, there are strict attendance norms. While a first-year BA student needs to have a minimum attendance of 65%, second-year BA students need 50% attendance. In the final year of the undergraduate course, however, there is no compulsory attendance requirement. At Masters level, the attendance norms depend from department to department. Officials at AUD, the youngest government-funded university in the city, said the attendance norms stem from the belief that as they grow older, students become more responsible.
A senior AUD faculty member, on condition of anonymity, said, “I personally don’t agree with a minimum attendance norm. If classrooms are engaging, and if there is consonance between the discussions in classrooms and the final assessment, students will attend classes. Our assessments are so flat and require rote-learning that there is no incentive for students to attend classes. That must change. Attendance requirements are relaxed by the time they reach their third year or are pursuing masters because by then they understand what they must do to perform well.”
Jamia Millia Islamia
Norm: At JMI, both undergraduate and postgraduate students need to have a minimum of 75% attendance. It is compulsory for research scholars to attend the teaching semester but there is no minimum attendance requirement for them. JMI is among the stricter institutions when it comes to attendance. Teachers say this is to ensure discipline.
A teacher at JMI who did not wish to be named said, “It is tough for students to keep up with the semester system if they don’t attend classes. In the annual system, things were more relaxed as a student could make up for lost time towards the end of the year. The new system does not afford you that luxury.”
Mukul Kesavan, associate professor at JMI’s Department of History and Culture, said while there was, perhaps, a case for mandatory attendance at the undergraduate level, at the postgraduate level, it is mostly done by universities so that they feel they are in control of the students.