The mandatory attendance problem

Most university courses in India have a mandatory attendance requirement.

When I enrolled for an MBA at age 25 at one of the country’s premier business school, I was mandated to attend 75% of my classes, regardless of whether I gained anything from being present in them.

These attendance requirements are imposed by the teachers, keeping the best interest of the students in mind. The underlying assumption here is that those 20 something-year-olds aren’t capable of deciding for themselves whether to attend a particular class or not, and hence, this decision is made for them. The irony here is that the same 20 something-year-olds, on graduating in 2 years, are deemed capable of occupying leadership positions in the largest corporations of the country.

The real consequence of a mandatory attendance requirement is that it lets everybody off the hook. The teachers don’t have the onus to make their sessions attractive to students. The students feel entitled to a degree if they have been present in 3 out of 4 classes. Yet, this is a sorry compromise, since being on the hook is a prerequisite to produce our best work.

Whenever a rule is mandated, what assumptions underlie it? Do those assumptions serve us?

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