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Is public display of student info a breach of privacy?

DU’s proposal to post attendance data online gets a mixed response

education Updated: Jan 11, 2012 11:08 IST
Garima Upadhyay

At a time when one is just a click away from connecting with the world, Delhi University’s proposal to make its students’ attendance records available online might seem in sync with the times. The question, however, is: are the students happy about it? The HT Education Facebook page received mixed responses on the issue.

Riddhi Gohil, a student of KM Patel College, Ahmedabad, says, “The move could demotivate a student. S/he may not like it and feel insulted. We all know that suicide rates among students are increasing. I think this may add to it.”

Ishita Bhatia, a student at the Technia Institute of Advanced Studies, however, has nothing against it. “The peer pressure that leads students to buy branded clothes and gadgets will surely lead them to work harder for their attendance and marks,” she says

“Times have changed and the sensitivity levels of students are also changing. In times like these, it becomes important to understand that too much transparency might lead to problems,” says Geetesh Nirban, faculty, Kamala Nehru College.

In India, posting results online is a routine process. In universities abroad, however, privacy is a serious issue. Students’ personal details including enrolment status, grades, courses taken and amount of outstanding fees are covered under laws such as the Canadian Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Most Canadian universities don’t have a policy on attendance though some professors may allocate marks to it, says Maria Mathai, former director of the erstwhile Canadian Education Centre, now a Canadian education consultant. The rules have been put in place because the student is an adult and “it boils down to respecting the individual” and his/her privacy. The universities “can’t share the results with the parents without an authorisation by the student,” adds Mathai.

US institutions have no hard and fast rules on attendance. At the outset of a course, some professors ask students to maintain attendance while others may not, says a higher education advisor at the US-India Educational Foundation, New Delhi.

College and university students’ grades or scores in exams are not meant for public consumption. Even examination results are not shared with the student’s parents though he or she can share his/her log-in and password with them.

With inputs from Rahat Bano