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Aditi Nigam

Teachers or instructors?

Aditi Nigam New Delhi | Updated on April 26, 2013 Published on April 26, 2013

Is biometric attendance for professions such as academics a good idea?

Most of us while recalling the joys of learning during our college days in Delhi University cherish the time spent with some of our teachers outside the classrooms – on the lawns, in coffee houses, even invited over to the staff quarters at times.

While literature students recall the pleasures of watching classic plays and films along with their lecturers, the ones studying history remember the walks and visits to monuments in and around Delhi. The political science types brag about arguing throatily about life and ground realities in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal with some of their teachers.

Thinking that times had changed, and possibly the attitude of teachers, too, I asked some present day college-goers if this still held true. Not surprisingly, many of them agreed that they too enjoyed the time spent ‘learning’ with their teachers after classes. “It’s a learning of a different kind,” said one.

One group of sociology students said their teacher had invited them home for lunch because he wanted to read out an academic paper that he had to present in a seminar, and wanted their views. Another English literature student said she enjoyed and learnt the most in long group chats with teachers on the college lawns over a steaming cup of chai and bun-anda (egg with bun) on cold winter afternoons.

You may ask why this trip through nostalgia? Well, it was spurred by the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor’s move to enforce biometric attendance for college teachers. Yes, there is absenteeism, but isn’t there already a system to check that? What can be better proof than the attendance register, ticked everyday by the teacher herself, marking her as well as the students’ presence. Hasn’t the university churned out the brightest among students and teachers within the given system for so long? And, pray, how does one ensure good quality teaching or real learning in a sphere such as education by marking biometric attendance?

Yes, bunking teachers need to be dealt with firmly. But, what has punctuality got to do with good teaching, say some lecturers. Moreover, the teaching community feels it should have been consulted before such measures were imposed. “We are not private security guards, we need to spend time in libraries, on research, presenting papers, etc. Will the university authorities also clock the hours that we spend in preparing for lectures and correcting assignments at home?” asks another lecturer.

In this melee, it is probably the biometric companies that will laugh their way to the banks, as the Delhi University administration seems to have thrown up its hands, possibly to cover up its own inefficiencies in checking ‘abseentism’.

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Published on April 26, 2013
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