“Beta, have minimum of 75% attendance in college, otherwise you will be detained and will have to repeat the entire year”
This naked threat that hung like the sword of Damocles over my head each day in college gave me sleepless nights, anxiety and a rising disdain for my chosen field: engineering.
I love to participate in extracurricular activities, but the barrage of threats would make it very difficult for me to improve at either my studies or my skills because I sat in lectures under pressure and tension, and I debated under pressure and tension.
However, as I would realize later on, this threat was invalid, because of one simple truth: attending more classes is not a sure shot way to learn more.
It’s like hitting your TV remote to make it work when it does not. There is no scientific proof that it does anything, but people do it, just because they feel it works.
In my case, it was the collective belief of the faculty and the management of my dear old college that if students sit for enough lectures, they’ll eventually learn something.
Except it doesn’t work that way. No sir!
Lectures Are BOOORING!
Let’s first look at why students don’t like to attend lectures. If you ask the average student, the answers range anywhere from,
“Yaar they are boring, I’d rather hang out with my friends”, to “yaar they are boring, I have better things to do with my life.”
Across the spectrum, a single fact remains that “students find lectures boring”. According to colleges, this is because students are stupid and do not want to study. But that again is not the case.
We find them boring because they are. Lectures are taught as they have been for decades. They have not modernized, adapted to the ever-changing mind of a student. And this has been scientifically proven.
According to an article in ScienceMag,
Undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods.
The way we perceive and grasp information and concepts has changed dramatically from the way our teachers were taught. But they have this innate tendency to teach like they were taught, which leads to a sharp drop in interest and thus attendance.
Students feel disinterested in the subject and refrain from learning further. The syllabus is so outdated and out of touch with current technology that students find it hard to relate. And it’s not just my personal opinion, eminent scientist and Bharat Ratna awardee CNR Rao shares it too.
It makes them question their choices up until this point and forces them to continue in this half legged fashion where they don’t understand anything, but have to be present because the alternative means getting kicked out.
This is the first failure.
Ill Managed Management
To combat this, instead of improving quality of lectures or finding how to connect with students, authorities have a very knee-jerk reaction. Make it mandatory and punish defaulters with extreme prejudice, so as to set an example.
I heard of this last in Nazi Germany. Oh well.
Colleges have this weird entitlement syndrome. They believe that just because a student has taken admission in their venerable institution, they can mold the path we follow according to their predispositions.
And this is problematic, especially in colleges with no students union or representation. Because here, authorities are able to do whatever they want without any repercussion by disguising anything and everything under the garb of “it’s for the benefit of the students.”
They believe for some reason that they know what is right for students, and that we are just mindless beings who have no worry about our futures and the sole purpose of our lives is to carefully set fire to the crisp notes that are the fruits of the labor of our parents.
When they are questioned, they call upon their Bramhastra, the student’s parents, who more often than not are made up of the same fabric as the teacher and preach the same dogmatic message.
What this does is kill the innovation within the student. It forces him or her to refrain from exploring and sit in the confines of a classroom because, for the student, the stakes of not sitting in class are simply too high.
Getting into even an average to a good engineering college in India is no small task. And once the student gets in, being kicked out is an unimaginable scenario. And college authorities know that, which is why they do what they do.
This literally chokes the possible innovation that could have come out had a free environment been provided. This belief that students do not care is simply wrong. We do care, deeply at that, about our careers and our future. Which is why we run around exploring a world in which opportunities seem to dwindle each day with increasing competition.
This is the second failure.
So, consider this my open letter to college authorities everywhere. Allow your students to explore, give them a free reign. I promise you, they won’t run amok and shit all over your beautiful campus.
Image Credits: Google Images
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