By Kevin Stoda, an American who has taught at universities in Asia, the Americas, and Germany.
In test-driven educational settings, like in Japan and Korea, attendance in university classrooms has historically been de-emphasized or neglected historically. Only recently have some Asian countries begun to see the light as to lost-time-on-task for language and theoretical acquisition.
In the Middle East and in Europe, especially in Germany, lack of attendance of university classes by students has been an issue for decades (if not centuries). Now, I have learnt it is also an issue in India.
In the 1980s, I studied in Germany and discovered that there was a very big problem with attendance and seriousness in classroom studies. I have since taught in Oman, the UAE, and Kuwait–where very big attendance problems adversely affect foreign language acquisition–even at universities that have the primary teaching language as English ( a foreign language for most).
The central European attitude was that the good student studied a lot on their own and in teams. This is somewhat the case in the Middle East but has proven unsuccessful as an approach to learning in every Gulf State I have taught at. The whole lack of time-on-task spent practicing the target language has killed achievement levels at many Gulf State universities.
In many American universities and private universities in Mexico, attendance is taken much more seriously. This has led to greater improvements by students in a shorter prior of time. This emphasis on study and practice-time mandated in the USA classrooms may be one reason why USA universities are appealing to foreign students from across the globe.
The emphasis on attendance is high in Indian schools but not at the tertiary level. Perhaps, the Indian students who are missing more than 30% of their classes need to reflect on why so many of their peers go to the USA to study, i.e. the culture of studying is more serious (and costly).