Cause and Effect: Attendance as an Issue in Schools Globally
By Kevin Stoda, an American in the Middle East currently
In many countries of the world, attendance at university and
college classes are not as serious a matter as it is in the
For example, I was a student in
There are several major causes as to why, in general,
Americans--including professors and most students--take university classroom
attendance so seriously as compared to those in some other lands. First of all, in most American universities
and colleges enrollment in a semester course is already fairly fixed by the end
of the first week of classes. For this
reason, students who enroll late or who decide
to abandon a course after the first week face very high fees or financial
penalties. In contrast to the
A second reason why Americans take classroom attendance seriously is because it is often anticipated (or assumed) by students and many teaching staff that the coursework or projects are as important for success in the course as are any exams. This is because in the typical American elementary and secondary school system students rarely have experienced more than a handful of high-stakes exams in their lives as compared to those in other lands who almost exclusively receive their semester marks based upon the marks that they get on one or two exams taken each year.
Third, American public schools receive both state and federal funding based upon student attendance. This leads administrators to give great attention to attendance as part of the process that eventually brings students to college and universities in a daily interaction.
The effect of this more hyper focus on attendance for
American students at the university level include the fact that issues of
time-on-task practicing and time-spent-wrestling with any course material in a
classroom setting are often taken more seriously at tertiary institutes in the
USA than in other corners of the world.
German students studying at American universities, in contrast, often feel
that the American system treats them like they are still high school
students--leaving them feeling demeaned.
At the same time, I--as an American student studying in
Similarly, when I lived, worked, and studied in Japan, many Japanese students--who had worked hard in high schools across that county by taking many high stakes tests to gain entrance at some high quality institutions--were less than serious in attending class for much of their first two years they attended university or college. (NOTE: The Japanese, in contrast to the German students, would often, however, become fairly regular at attending classes once-again by their junior and senior years. This had partially to do with the fact that the easier courses and exams had been put behind them by then and once again high-stakes exams and high stakes-projects took place normally only in the second half of their studies.)
In conclusion, increasingly as teachers and students migrate around the planet, attendance is an issue these days for many in various parts of the world. This is often the case regardless as to whether attendance was-or-is important in someone's homeland. In other words, the issue of student attendance--and how lecturers and students see attendance's role in their education-- is an important issue because our world is one of global migrations. Instructors are moving from one country to another to teach, and likewise some students go to other countries to learn while others back in their homelands experience instructors from many different countries by the time they graduate from college or university.
At times, migrants, academics, and students simply conform
to one another's expectations, but more often than not either the instructor,
the administrators, or students will have to be subservient to the historically
dominant culture on campus. This is a relatively straightforward procedure in
some ways, i.e. one often assumes that if one is in
As a migrant instructor, I am ready to support this reform,
especially as an American I am familiar with the benefits of high attendance
and high participation in a lively and motivating course. On the other hand, many
of my colleagues from neighboring Arab lands or certain parts of Europe, Africa
 Recently, I was in a college employee meeting room with
17 staffers teaching the exact same course curriculum. The birth countries represented in that group
of seventeen instructors included: