Student non-attendance in higher education
A phenomenon of student apathy or poor pedagogy?
It is evident from the professional literature that student non-attendance
is a reasonably universal problem, one that transcends country,
university and discipline. ‘It is little short of a miracle
that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled
the holy curiosity of inquiry’ (Albert Einstein 1879–1955).
Perhaps this is what university students have in mind when they
choose to absent themselves from their classes. There are mixed
findings in relation to the relationship between attendance and
academic performance. Nonetheless there are valuable lessons to
be learned from both sides of that particular debate in providing
a way forward that facilitates and encourages student attendance
and indeed performance. While there may be the perception that attendance
is largely a student issue and responsibility, and that there is
little that educators can do about students’ non-attendance,
the time has come for educators to step out from behind this parapet,
albeit reflectively and to expose themselves to self-scrutiny about
their respective roles in improving student attendance.
The literature suggests why students do not attend class, and
also why they do. This information provides educators with an insight
into what motivates students to attend and what puts them off attending.
There are many reasons that are solely student-centred that educators
have little or no control over. Equally there are numerous reasons
that educators do have control over and can do something about.
It is essential that educators utilise this evidence and translate
it into improved practice and positive outcomes for both their students
and themselves. After all, as William Butler Yeats is reputed to
have said, ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the
lighting of a fire’.