By Bernice Lim
One of the most memorable moments during my degree orientation was when a professor calculated the amount of monetary losses involved in skipping classes. It was a simple, straightforward answer to the age-old question, “Can I skip classes?” (For those who are curious, a typical 2-hour class at my university is worth about RM150.00.) Unfortunately, his sound mathematical reasoning was not quite enough to break the trend.
Perhaps one of the major differences between elementary, secondary and tertiary institutions is that during the first two stages of our education, the notion of skipping classes is (generally) totally foreign to (most of) us. Model students attend classes unless stricken with illness. Depending on the school you attended, it was not strange for kids to spend more than half of their waking hours taking consecutive classes.
If you are just about to step into your tertiary education, here’s a bit of good news for you: This is not the case in University. Particularly if you are serious about achieving merits in extra-curricular and community outreach activities.
Am I implying that students in University should skip classes though? Honestly, no. The usual opportunity costs apply whenever you decide to skip out on a lecture or a tutorial; the first is obvious: you won’t be receiving the information that your lecturer or tutor is disseminating during the class. While various materials for your exercises and lessons may be available to you, lecturers may talk about certain aspects of the unit that one might not be able to find amidst senior copies and tutorial solutions. Techniques for addressing a particularly tricky problem, for instance.
The second, and perhaps more significant cost (for me, at least), is the loss of an opportunity to build my relationship with my lecturers. We are often told that in order to excel in university, we should learn to be independent. I.e. we shouldn’t expect our lecturers to spoon-feed us during classes. However, that does not mean students should refrain from getting to know their lecturers.
The common misconception is that the purpose of attending university is to earn a piece of paper which we can later use to acquire the job of our dreams. What many fail to realize is that the true value of going to a physical university is the opportunity it gives you to rub shoulders with brilliant minds; specialists in their fields. Very often, it’s the unseen things like perspectives, drives and analytical methodology that represent the most valuable things you can pick up from your lecturers. Here’s the kicker: Learning does not always happen in the classroom. So it helps to have your lecturer think of you as more than just another student.
However, if you are thinking of skipping out on your next class, here are a few things to consider:
1) Is the session graded? Yes, some units in your course may require a compulsory attendance which is reflected in your final score. Marks given for attendance are often considered a bonus and should never be missed unless your absence is absolutely avoidable. If the latter, ensure that you communicate with your lecturer to see if you can attend another class to make up for it.
2) Am I going to be able to gain much from the session? As an individual, it may be difficult to relate to a particular lecturer’s teaching style. It’s normal. That being said, academicians are first and foremost researchers. Perhaps teaching may not be your lecturer’s forte. Or, it could be that you’ve just gone through several nights of exam prep and just aren’t in any reasonable state to absorb lesson material. Whatever the reason, as long as the session isn’t graded, it should be alright to skip it. Just this once.
3) Will I be able to make up for it? Not going to class means, chances are, you’re going to be behind your peers in the unit. Are the materials you have at your disposal (streamed lectures, printed material, YouTube etc.) adequate for you to the information you are missing in the class? If not, make an effort to attend the session.
Whether you’re a model student or just someone trying to breeze through your university life, skipping classes should always be frowned upon. Having paid thousands for your education at the start of every semester, it is ideal to reap from the hours of lectures and tutorials allocated to you. However, I hope that this article has given you some insight into deciding when it’s okay (and when it’s not) to skip classes.