Attendance is essential to improving academic achievement

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Questions of personal development of students and the formation of their readiness for future professional activities are keys to the theory and practice of improving the work of modern education institutions. This is because the initial phase of "assimilation" with profession comes just during learning, as well as the process of self-determination of a young man in life: he forms his life and philosophical positions, develop individualized methods of work, behavior and communication. 

In this case one of the leading problems is to build such a system in educational institutions that will be optimal for not only personal development of students, but also their professional development as specialists, their readiness to work.

Consequently, more urgent becomes the problem of identifying the relationship and interdependence of two processes: the personal and professional development of student and the process of studying. That's why it is necessary to determine how the learning process and attendance of college or school affect personal characteristics of students: their professionalism, willingness to work, depth of knowledge, and a total success in the future profession.

Education is part of the process of personality formation. Through this process, society transmits knowledge, skills from one person to many other. During studying the student is not only given, but also imposes certain points of view, opinions, social and cultural values.  The learning process is aimed at the socialization of the individual, but sometimes it interferes with the true interests of the student. For example, some students prefer the process of self-education and not attending schools or college, but rather choose learning by correspondence or distance learning. 

Also the advancement of technology, using computer network to record lectures and to upload course contents has facilitated students in an online learning environment to access material and to repeat classroom experience after class, or even without attending class. Concern for improvements in student learning has attracted a large amount of literature in search for the correlation of class attendance and student performance, particularly in the present time when almost everything is accessible online.

But here the question arises: how effective is that education?  Also, some students do not attend school or college because it is a waste of time for them. However, in the future, these students will have to work, and their professional knowledge and skills are in question. Consequently, there is a fundamental question: how attendance of the university or college affects the professionalism and success in the future work of the student?

Nowadays a lot of schools and colleges have introduced a policy of strict attendance, that means all students must attend classes, and both parents and teachers must control that process. These policies of strict attendance have caused a lot of arguments for and against.

This paper will analyze the importance of attendance policy at schools and colleges, and its importance for students performance and good professional skills. The paper will present three points of view: one supporting strict attendance policy,  one who is opposed to attendance policy, and one that can take either side.

The importance of attendance in the learning process

The traditional form of education is the internal form, when students should strictly attend classes, lectures and seminars. Most students continue to choose this form of education despite the difficulties of economic nature: during 5 years students will not be able to work full time, and will have to devote most of the time to studying. 

In this paper we consider the importance of such form of education for students, and in particular the importance of attendance of classes for their future professional activities.

The main purpose of full-time education, when students attend classes, is that the learning process should give students a certain system of knowledge, should work out a certain way of thinking, should give practice of progressive efforts to obtain and use the knowledge. This type of education is the most widely used today and is based on obtaining the knowledge and skills under the scheme: the study of new material - consolidation of the material learnt - monitoring of results and their evaluation.

The main characteristics of full-time education is that: 

- first, that teachers give students their knowledge, experience and skills;  

- secondly, teachers not only provide students with the necessary stock of knowledge, but also instruct them on various options of life and job situations.

This suggests that classes in schools and universities not only provide students with all the necessary information, but also give the social aspects of educating young people. The above conditions are complementary, and give students all-round development.

Based on this, the most common presentation of strict attendance policy, we should pay attention to some specific features of traditional schooling. There is a joke that has a deep sense: "Education - is what remains with a person after he forgets everything he was taught". Indeed, much of the information people get is usually forgotten after some time, but self-educational and social aspects of learning remain. On this basis, it would be logical to assume, that together with the giving a certain amount of facts and algorithms, the most important task of education is the development of intellectual capacities of students.

From a classroom management viewpoint, there are many logistical reasons to require attendance. Group projects are very negatively affected when a group member does not show up for labs. Class morale is lowered when students show up late and have no clue of the topic being discussed. Students claiming that coming to class is unnecessary to get good grades influence other students, even if they do benefit from attending class. (Clump et al. 2003)

However, class expedience is a secondary issue, compared to every instructor's responsibility to teach her course as effectively as possible. Learning is a joint and wonderful journey between each student, her peers and her instructors. Although the world of academia is rapidly changing with an ever increasing distance- learning component, the sole reading of a textbook (or watching of a screen) cannot be compared in richness and effectiveness of a classroom experience.

To fully present the importance of lessons attendance, it is necessary to give characteristics of students who attend lessons. Who is now a regular full-time student? This is usually a young man who understands that for serious work he must have good knowledge and education. He deliberately chooses a full-time education, wishing to devote all his time learning, mastering the profession. He believes that the acquired knowledge will help to find work, to take a worthy place in life, to grow in the profession and to ensure an acceptable quality of life for themselves and their future family.

Many research and experiments about the regular attendance show that students who attend classes achieve better results in education. For example Clump et al. (2003) studied the effect of attending class in a course in General Psychology, comparing the performance of students "who were present on days were given with those who were not present." They conclude that "attending class is one of the best things students can do with regards to their grades. This is the case for both the immediate future and for the entire course." (Clump et al. 2003)

The advantages of strict attendance of classes are the following:

1. It is an opportunity for direct communication with the teachers, because the personal factor plays a huge role in any work, and especially in education as from teacher's lectures students can learn much more than from a textbook or the Internet.

2. Students have time to visit libraries, conferences, and that, of course, deepens the theoretical knowledge, which is a necessary for professional competency.

3. Full-time students have more opportunities to realize themselves in the faculty and the institute's activities, that is to participate in the informal life of the university. This is of great importance for students, because it is the experience of public speeches, reports and other types of professional activity, which is important for their future career.

2. Arguments against policy of strict attendance

Although the arguments for using an attendance policy are compelling, there are many researchers who provide equally compelling arguments against attendance policies.

Unfortunately, attendance policy has some shortcomings, especially they are important in our times, when grants are small, and the opportunity to work for students is excluded because of lack of time. Of course, full-time education provides fewer opportunities for part-time job, as classes at the institute, as a rule, take time from nine o'clock in the morning to five o'clock in the evening daily, except weekends. So when some students are forced to look for jobs, they have less time for good studying, regular visits of lectures, seminars and libraries.

Another important reason of arguments against strict attendance is that many students nowadays can have bad health, and some illnesses that do not allow to regular attend classes. For example children with diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and some other chronic diseases can often feel not well enough to go to school or college, and they very often stay at home. Health problems really prevent students from regular and strict attendance, and that argument can be the most strong.

When speaking about the strict attendance policy, it is necessary to take into consideration numerous personal factors of students, that this policy can not provide. These reasons can be taking care of brothers and sisters, some active sport activity, psychological problems and numerous family factors.

Also among the most common reason of bad lessons attendance is motivation and responsibility of students. Sometimes student come to high school for very different reasons, for example when parents make them to do this. These students often failed to see an independent life after graduation, and do not understand why they need certain knowledge, what they want in the future profession. This leads to infantile attitude to educational process, focus on formal memory from some students and the desire to just get a good grade, or "slip" from others. 

Some of the criticism for implementing an attendance policy is that it assumes that students cannot judge what is good for them, and that they, not the instructor should decide if they should attend a particular class on a particular day. To make a rational decision to attend or skip class, a student must judge the value of each of these two options. But, it is in the human nature that immediate necessities are preferred over long-term advantages (Kahn et al., 2004). To assume that a young person can appreciate the long-term value of education is a weighty assumption. Of course, the situation is changing in senior courses, when student usually already have a professional interest, and begin to think about future employment.

In all cases, any decision seems rational from the viewpoint of the person taking it. In the case of class attendance, students may skip class for reasons that have nothing to do with bettering their learning. If the student is viewed simply as the instructor's customer, then any student decision is, by definition, right. In both cases, it is a student's decision.

The third variation of the attendance policy - is optional attendance policy 

Optional attendance policy is an open educational opportunity for students. A good example of optional policy is distant learning. A student who takes part in such program studies the same curriculum and takes the same exam as other  students, but he does not have to attend the classes because everything, including lectures, books, materials are available in the internet.

Such students do not have to attend regular classes, so they can save a lot of time and money to get to college. Students do not have to get up early, to take buses to gat to college from far away, no more waste time like this. Instead students just stay at home and do homework.

The main advantage of distance learning is the availability of training and lack of need for attendance. Distance learning is designed for a category of people who, for objective reasons can not use the traditional form of training. These categories include, for example, students with disabilities to health, or students who need to combine training and work.

Conclusion and my attitude to the topic

This paper shows that there are different point view on the strict classes attendance policy, that nowadays is introduced in many colleges and schools.

The first point is supporting strict attendance policy , that have enough and consistent evidence to conclude that student attendance is important for getting good knowledge, skills, it improves student academic performance and professional characteristics. The second point of view is based on arguments against strict attendance, that is impossible for a lot of students. The third point of view touches upon the topic of flexible optional policies, the example of which is distance education. There are a lot of points supporting the advantages of distance learning, saying that this is not just a convenient form of learning, but also a serious alternative to the traditional form in the future: according to the American Association for Research in Education (American Educational Research Association), in 2010 nearly two-thirds of the students will choose it.

I fully agree about the importance of attendance policy, as I'm sure that college or school attendance gives students plenty of opportunities to get knowledge, skills that are necessary for future profession. Such students have far more opportunities not only to get information relevant to the future job, but to develop their own skills and talents.

The conclusion may be that the main objective of any education is to teach people to think independently, to teach students the chosen subjects and professions. But achieving such a goal is impossible to imagine without the activity of students interested in the results of their training. Not the last factor for successful education is the personal characteristics of the individual, who must have a clear motivation. It's no secret that the traditional form of learning and strict attendance help student in many ways: monitoring the learning process, as well as mutual assistance and support from students and teachers.

In conclusion I would like to note that the choice of full-time education is a major step for the future of the student and his family. It is difficult, but the most productive and promising way of acquiring a profession. More and more young people nowadays understand that lessons attendance opens new opportunities for self-realization, finding good job, moving up the social ladder, providing a decent standard of living.