12 January 2017

Marks for Attendance

I am in my final semester of LL.B. at the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. 

On 09.01.2017, the Faculty displayed a notice stating that two compulsory papers of the final semester carry 10 marks for 100% attendance. Classes were to begin from 11.01.2017. The notice is as follows:

On 10.01.2017, the marking scheme of the attendance was displayed. 2 marks were deducted for every 5% drop in attendance. The full text of the notice is as follows:

The timetables and the list allocating sections to students were displayed on 11.01.2017. 

From the aforementioned, it is amply clear that there was no sufficient notice of the policy to the students. A policy that will materially effect the marks of students cannot be announced 1-2 days before the effective date. Notice is not an empty formality that is given hours before the commencement of the policy. The notice must provide sufficient time to the parties effected to enable them to take appropriate steps and/or to request modification of the policy. It is pertinent to mention that this is nothing new to the Faculty. In the middle of the previous semester, it was announced that a particular paper (LB-501, Arbitration, Conciliation & Negotiation) will carry 10 marks for 100% attendance.

But even assuming that this policy recovers from the defect of notice, there are some serious issues with the mechanism and the idea itself.

This semester begins from the 2nd week of January and goes on till the 2nd/3rd week of April. That's approximately 12 weeks of study.  There are 4 classes per subject per week, which works out to be about 48 classes per subject in the whole semester. For convenience in calculation, lets assume there are 50 classes. Taking 50 classes as the base, the current policy envisages that if I miss 2.5 classes in the whole semester for this subject, then I will lose 2 marks in this subject. If I miss 5 classes, I will lose 4 marks. If I miss 7.5 classes, I will lose 6 marks. If I miss 10 classes, I will lose 8 marks. And anymore than 10 classes, I will get a zero.

The effect of the above is that, if I want to score well, I can't afford to even miss a single class. A little slip and I will lose marks. Now, let me enumerate instances wherein a student may have to miss class for no fault of her own and yet she will be penalised under this measure:
  • Illness
  • Moot Court Competition/Debate Competition/Sports Competition
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Conferences (even those within the University campus)
  • The day before Holi/Festivals that are Restricted Holidays
  • Strike by students in college which makes the college an unsafe place of study
The above sample list shows the chilling effect that this policy has on a law students life. The student is expected to be in college all the time. She cannot afford to engage in any other activity. She must attend classes. She must make herself physically present.

The effect is even more stark when one studies the timetables that were published. The marks for attendance policy is applicable to two subjects. The analysis of the timetable of 5 sections shows as follows:

Moot Court
Advocacy, Ethics
Day where student may take leave
Mon, Tues
Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat
Wed, Thurs
Thurs, Sat
Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat
Mon, Tues
Tues, Thurs
Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat
Mon, Fri
Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat
Tues, Sat
Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat

Two important observations follow:

  • Moot Court classes happen only on two days (they are double periods). Hence, on those days, a student cannot take a day off. If she does so, she loses two classes and risks falling in the next lower 5% bracket.
  • The two subjects seen together show that there are hardly 1-2 days that a student can take a day off without risking marks for attendance.

At present, there are no exemptions in this policy. The student is at the mercy of the teacher to grant attendance in case there are 'genuine' reasons for missing class. The length and breadth of genuine is endless. There is no guidance for the same. The limit of genuine is as vast as the boundless sea and the teachers kindness is the anchor.

I understand that we are training to become lawyers and we need to inculcate discipline. But even Court rooms are more accommodative when it comes to emergencies. I also understand the tragedy of opening the floodgate of one exemption as it would lead to its wholesale misuse. But shaping a policy that virtually implies that the student comes to college everyday is also not okay. 

The Bar Council of India (BCI) requirement for attendance is 67 to 70%. The Faculty's policy, by design, ensures that those desirous of marks will be compelled to attend 100% of the classes, at least in these two subjects.

Mechanism aside, the policy also has issues in intent. What is the rationale for marks for attendance? For physical presence? It would have been so much more value adding if there were 10 marks for a report or a project that requires application of grey matter of the student. But marks for attendance only ensures physical presence and attentiveness at the time of roll call. It doesn't ensure that I participate. It doesn't ensure that I learn in class. What legal skill does this policy impart?

Strangely enough, one of the subjects that have compulsory attendance (Moot Court) also states that a student should work with a lawyer for a specified number of hours for certain number of days. Now imagine a situation, wherein a student is assisting the lawyer on a particular case and the hearing of that case conflicts with class time. Ordinarily, a student could have missed class and assisted the lawyer and still be within the BCI's attendance requirement. But what is she to do now? Assist the lawyer, learn legal skills, miss class and lose 2 marks.

My undergraduate studies also carried marks for attendance. But from what I remember they were just 4 marks and there was a comprehensive policy for those engaged in extracurricular activities. There was also a realistic scale that made it possible to receive full marks. The current policy is either designed to kill the life of the student or designed to get sub-par marks.

Having said this, my hunch is that we will drudgingly agree to this policy and follow it. The sincere student who is desirous of marks will now have to be even more sincere and attend all classes. The insincere may not worry. After all, all laws are a burden only on the law abiding.

13 October 2016

सत्यमेव जयते

झूठ से धन को रंगा,
पाप धोने चले गंगा;
कितना संभालेगी एक नदी,
मेरे पाप तो है अनगिनत लड़ी।

सत्य को क्यों नहीं मैं अपनाता?
क्यों असत्य मे उलझता और उलझाता?
प्यारा है मुझे क्षण-भर का सुख,
चाहे पहुंचे उससे कई दिन का दुख।

है संसार की एक ही रीत,
होती सदेव सत्य की जीत;
सत्य का स्वरूप ही है ऐसा,
निर्बल है उसके आगे भय और पैसा।

कभ समझेगा मन मेरा?
कभ छूटेगा झूठ का बसेरा?
रटा-रटा के थक गया रोहण,
अब तो मान जा मन, समाप्त हो चला यौवन!

26 September 2016

मानव कितना विचित्र है तू!

माँ के गर्भ मे रहता तू,
चार दिवारी में उसे रख न पाता तू;

प्रेमिका के लिए तारे तोडता तू,
क्रोध मे उसी रिशते को तोडता तू;

खुशी में भाई को गले से लगाता तू,
लोभ मे खुशी-खुशी उसका गला काटता तू;

सखा को अपना दर्पण मानता तू,
 फिर भी उससे मात्सर्य रखता तू;

भगवान से अपनी कामना पूर्ती करवाता तू,
भगवान कि आज्ञा का पालन नहीं चाहता तू;

मानव कितना विचित्र है तू!