This was the second year that the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, (IIM-B) persisted with its radical attendance and summer placements guidelines. Better known as ‘attend class whenever you want’ and ‘opt out of summer placements if you feel like’ to the world outside IIM-B, these have been at the receiving end of a fair amount of criticism ever since they came into existence in 2011.

According to students and faculty at IIM-B, the privileges have been much misunderstood. And that could be since takers for both the options have been few and far between. While in the first year, ten students opted out of summer placements, this year the number dropped to five. And to top that, not many students have been known to ‘bunking’ lectures despite been given the freedom to do so.

While this seems like an apparent failed experiment, IIM-B is least perturbed. Says Sapna Agarwal, Head, Career Development Services: “This is not some test we are conducting that we are looking for results immediately. It is better that we offer the options than not allow at all. The numbers are not of worry at this point. Even if few students take advantage it is fine. There is a long-term approach we are looking at.”

Those who opted out of summer placement either have their own set-ups or family business to attend to or are looking to start something new and are doing the ground work for it. “The option is finally open only to those with more than 34 months of work-ex so people who opt out are those who know exactly what they are doing,” Ms Agarwal added.

With regards to attendance too, false impressions are no less.

According to faculty members at IIM-B, while earlier the institute insisted on 75% attendance in any course to escape the penalty, the new rule allows every faculty member to decide on how much attendance cap he or she wants to apply.

Prof Ishwar Murthy who teaches Quantitative Methods and Information Systems, explains: “I wish to correct the misconception that IIM-B has ‘optional’ lectures. I honestly don’t know what that means. What we implemented is an attendance policy which is entirely faculty driven, as opposed to a uniform policy that applied to all courses in the curriculum.”

Explaining further, Prof Murthy said that some faculty may not have an attendance requirement; others may have a requirement more stringent than the 75% attendance rule. “The idea here is that each faculty member knows best what is appropriate for his or her class. In fact, over these one and a half years we have had many varying policies in place.”

One censure the attendance rule faced last two years was that IIM-B, like many other IIMs have been enrolling a large number of freshers. Do these students have the maturity to take a call on class attendance? To this, Prof Murthy’s answer is: “The bottom line is that students should see value in attending a class, hopefully from a learning standpoint, as well as from the point of view their own performance. By the latter point, I mean if it is clear to students that they cannot do well in a class if they do not attend lectures, then they will attend it, even if they are freshers.”

Prof Murthy himself had a unique policy in place. He had made 10% of the grade directly related to attendance. “Therefore, 100% attendance translates to 10%, while 50% attendance translates to 5%. Further, 10% of the grade for class participation. My class has a good degree of analysis, and therefore each student is evaluated on how they perform in class.”

Other faculty members added that more than looking at the rule just as an attendance one, it is more a class participation one. For instance at Harvard Business School, class participation marks are as high as 50 per cent. So while attendance is not taken directly, it is taken indirectly. “At Harvard, a student not only has to show up to class but also come prepared,” quips Prof Murthy.

Students have a different take on the unique privileges bestowed on them. One student said that it is heartening to note that professors have left decisions like class attendance and placements on students.

Another student said added that after paying such high fees, missing lectures feels odd.”Bunking lectures at MBA level is not as much fun as it is at undergraduate level.” One student added that those who have to miss lectures do so anyway. Students at IIM-B have been perturbed by what they call ‘wrong publicity’ that the new rules have been receiving from various quarters. They hope that in time to come, they will be better understood.

Write Comment