'Too lazy to come to class'


To be honest: An unheard voice in education:I lecture in higher education. Just last week I had a lecture in which only five out of the 28 registered students turned up. In one lecture last semester of 150 students, there were less than 20 present at one of my classes. Today I had a lecture with just one student. What is going on?

Some colleagues tell me that attendance is not a serious problem, while others are baffled as to why students choose to stay away from their classes. While a majority of students attend their lectures on a reasonably regular basis, there seems to be no pattern to attendance levels at lectures. Almost all my colleagues agree that poor attendance is linked to poor performance in exams, which makes the problem even more difficult to understand.

Why do students choose to stay away from classes all over the country’s third-level institutions?

Some students have part-time jobs, some are sick or have to care for others, some decide that they are on the wrong course and disengage, while some even freely admit that they are too lazy to come to class.

I’m the first to admit that students learn in different ways – a student might learn more from going to the library and reading the recommended course texts rather than attend my lecture.

Some rely on virtual learning environments like Blackboard – a sure-I’ll-get-the-notes- later approach that works for some, but not for most. We as a profession also have to look at the way we teach in our classes.

Students at third level are responsible for their own learning, but we have a responsibility too.

So, what are colleges doing about this? Some colleges require certain levels of attendance. But there is no consequence in my college (such as a deduction of marks) for falling below the required level. Like many colleges, we take attendance for first years so that we can check why a student is not attending.

Many have money difficulties, such as a delay in receiving grants, so we have to be very understanding of the situations students find themselves in.

Whatever the reason for poor attendance, we have to ask if the taxpayer is getting value for money in the third level system. Precious resources are being poured into third-level education. But at third level we are financing some students to the tune of thousands of euro who don’t show up for class on a regular basis. Should we continue to fund in this way? Is this a national scandal that we cannot afford to ignore?

If we pay for students to go to college, is it too much to expect that they attend the majority of their classes? Minister Quinn – over to you.

This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome.