Learning without regimentation

Context

Attending class in a research university should not be made compulsory.

Why in news?

There is an ongoing debate among students in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, about compulsory attendance. This is not a demand for the right to not attend classes.

Objective of debate

To protect the university’s academic culture, which emphasises that learning is more than just classroom presence.

Roots of this protest

Absenteeism has never been a problem in JNU. Students attend classes across disciplines, not just in their own departments. Undergraduate students complement their core disciplines by attending lectures in allied disciplines at the Masters level. Their motive is the pursuit of learning.

Second, there are questions regarding whether the statutes of this university have been followed rigorously in terms of reservations and seat allocations.

The Circular

Introduction of compulsory attendance is considered by some to be an example of an amendment that was not tabled in the agenda of the academic council.

Third, when students and faculty boycotted this order, the university administration is said to have terminated all fellowships forthwith.

Fourth, stipulated conditions for drawing fellowships do not require compulsory attendance. In this regard, the administration’s move stands outside of its own rules.

Fifth, almost all courses use other methods to encourage and ascertain that students participate in the process of learning, including regular sessional examinations, term papers, class presentations, and continuous assessment in the form of class participation.

Why professor support compulsory attendance?

Professors want students to attend all of their classes so they can teach them directly, but many students want to be given the freedom to decide which classes to attend. Due to the difficulty of regulating a school-wide attendance policy, most colleges and universities give professors the authority to set their own attendance rules.

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