Analyzing class absenteeism

We invest in our human capital over a period of time to make us better equipped for the real world.

Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

The concept behind the educational process is spending money now to hopefully gain substantially more in the future — it’s an investment.

We invest in our human capital over a period of time to make us better equipped for the real world.

From an educational perspective, the returns to this investment are good grades, which eventually allow us graduate with more rewarding career prospects.

Learning is technically the purpose of receiving an education, but good grades are the most accurate reflection of successful knowledge accumulation.

Resources, in the form of lectures and textbooks, are provided to aid with our learning. We are then tested on information taught to us using these resources. This is the foundation of meritocracy by which society largely abides — each individual striving to attain the best possible grades as proof of their advanced human capital.

If the aim is to essentially receive good grades on these testing methods, then the importance of attending lectures can be questioned.

“Why should I go to class?” This usually seems like an illogical question when simply taken at face value.

You should obviously attend lectures because you paid for them and it is more or less an expectation when you attend any educational institution.

However if we view the whole process as an investment, then the logic is slightly altered. If a student doesn’t attend lectures but still receives good grades on the course, then has their money really been wasted?

On the flip side, if a student attends all lectures but performs terribly on the course, is attendance of any real value? The question of whether or not to attend lectures ultimately boils down to the ability to attain desired grades with little to no attendance.

Is this possible? Yes — some students can probably attest to receiving good grades with an overall low attendance record in the course. Nonetheless, it may not always be the most effective and efficient approach to adopt.

There are several factors that contribute to lecture absenteeism. A study published on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  faculty newsletter discovered the most important factor students use to decide on lecture attendance is clarity and quality of lectures.

Some other reasons cited were deadlines for other academic work, lecturer’s ability to engage and entertain and availability of lecture material from printed sources.

At their core, many of these factors are in accordance with a perceived sense of time wastage.

In the sense that the perceived wastage catalyzes their reasons to miss lectures.

This isn’t worrisome in itself — time is a valuable resource that should be utilized to the best of our ability.

Be that as it may, are we truly objective enough to determine this for ourselves, especially when we have a conflicting interest? Wastage would only occur if the lecture time span were not used productively.

In other words, the opportunity cost of attending a lecture would have to be high to justify a lecture absence. This is rarely ever the case with absenteeism. Human beings have a tendency to self-justify actions and this permeates through the decision-making process.

The costs of attending a lecture are often overstated and the various benefits are overlooked.

Benefits that extend beyond the obvious, such as the opportunity to meet people — that could even be an added educational resource — and ensuring students are on their toes in regards to the course obligations.

Sight has been proven to be a very vital part of memory retainment.

Essentially, we could retain information by simply staring at the projector in a class or taking down notes. Lectures also provide preparation for the real world; the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, sit through the most mundane presentations and an overall sense of discipline in the workplace.

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