Truant? Don’t do it

Image supplied by: By Adam Zunder

Students in Nova Scotia will soon face a new restriction intended to keep them glued to their seats.

Starting next September, students who miss more than 20 per cent of the class time for a course will receive a failing grade. The move is part of a two-year trial project aimed at reducing absenteeism in the province.

The project is the brainchild of a group of parents, students and educators, including a former deputy minister.

While many students hear of this sort of punishment by word of mouth, few districts in Canada actually make attendance a prerequisite for passing a course.

Any measure that will increase student attendance is laudable, and this one is no exception. Students who skip class miss out on new material and instruction, which often can’t be regained by copying notes or last-minute cramming.

Falling behind discourages a student from attending future classes, especially in an already difficult or dry subject. It’s also disrespectful to the instructor of a course.

While some students are able to teach themselves unfamiliar material, this sort of high-risk approach doesn’t work for the majority. Keeping students in the classroom is absolutely vital.

At the same time, a truancy cap needs to be properly instituted. Though this sort of structure is important for younger students, older students need to take some initiative and responsibility. Over-supervising students about to enter adult life doesn’t teach them about the consequences of absentee behaviour.

It’s also important that educators recognize that persistent truancy isn’t necessarily a sign of laziness. Though the average student at any level misses the occasional class, some students may find the learning environment counter-productive for a number of reasons. These students need additional support, not just a motivation to sit in a chair.

This punishment won’t resolve truancy entirely. Resourceful students will always find ways to skip while staying off the radar. But the pilot project will likely encourage less than enthusiastic students to take their academic performance more seriously.

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