The Law Commission feels that there is a necessity to ensure modern and updated Legal Education to respond to the needs of modern society and economy. The Law Commission while undertaking the present work took different steps such as meeting stakeholders, collecting expert opinion and arranging regional conferences at different places of Bangladesh. The Report of the Commission prepared on the matter was approved in its meeting dated 02/12/07 and in the said meeting it was also decided to send three copies of the report to the Government.
Noor Md. Jahangir Sarker
Dated: December 02, 2007 Secretary
REVIEW OF LEGAL EDUCATION IN BANGLADESH
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS
December 02, 2007
Considering that legal education has immense impact on the quality of judiciary and on the rule of law in various spheres of national life, and that the present state of legal education in Bangladesh does not sufficiently respond to the needs of modern society and economy, its reforms have become a national need. Our law curriculum, teaching methodology and institutions that provide legal education have generally remained where they were decades ago, incapable of producing law graduates that our nation needs to cope with its enormous problems.
First of all, objectives of legal education need to be clearly defined. It is not only principles and provisions of law and legal system that legal education needs to provide, it must also emphasise justice and social value of law. It is not only to prepare professionally qualified skillful lawyers and judges with sound substantive and procedural knowledge of law, it is to commit the law to the service of the people, to facilitate their access to justice. Law has a great social engineering role to play for poverty alleviation, redistribution of national wealth and protection of rights of the marginalised sections of the people. These objectives of law ought to be reflected in the curriculum, teaching methodology and motivation of the law students and teachers.
Law is a practical social science. Therefore, both academic and vocational nature of legal education is important. There is a great need to combine these aspects of law to create opportunities to provide quality legal education. In Bangladesh academic aspect of legal education predominates with the result that methods of teaching law are mostly lecture-based. It is necessary to emphasise the need for practical methods of teaching law i.e. Socratic Method, problem method, case study, moot-court and mock trial, clinical legal education etc. For would be lawyers to introduce Bar Vocational Course (BVC) for one year to qualify them to sit for bar examination merits serious consideration.
In Bangladesh there are two separate streams of legal education, first, private law college based two-year post-graduate course and the other is four-year undergraduate LL.B. (Hons.) course provided by law faculties of public universities. Recently, private universities have also started to open law faculties for LL.B. (Hons.) courses. There exists wide gap in the quality of legal education imparted in the law colleges and in the public universities. Poor quality of education in the law colleges is explained by lack of funds, absence of government control as well as financial assistance, infrastructural inadequacy, lack of academic facilities, poor management, absence of full-time teaching staff, irregularity in admission and examination of students, and poor monitoring and control by affiliating National University, besides host of other factors. These factors very negatively tell on the curriculum, teaching methodology and performance of the students in the examination. Picture in the public universities may be better, but they also need major reforms for upgrading curriculum and teaching methodology as well as for endowing the students with social and ethical values of law.
Under prevailing historical and socio-economic conditions, it may not be advisable or even possible to do away with or to unify the separate streams of legal education, and go for either post-graduate stream as prevailing in the law colleges or undergraduate stream in the universities for awarding first degree of law. Both streams can continue to run. However, they specially college legal education needs to be improved and their gap narrowed down.
Since law is an all pervading and all-embracing discipline and law graduates are expected to work in important sectors of national life including judiciary, and to underline special responsibility of the law graduates before the society, inter-disciplinary approach in legal education needs to be emphasised. Besides incorporating new branches of legal science relating to ICT, e-commerce and globalisation, fundaments of economics, political science, sociology, history need to be incorporated in the curriculum. ADR especially court sponsored mediation presents new hope for our justice delivery system. Law schools need to include ADR in their curriculum and devote more time to its study and research to further explore its potentials. Law curriculum also needs to put more emphasis on social and ethical values of law.
Our legal education needs to seriously explore the potentials of clinical legal education to reap its diverse benefits. This North American concept of clinical legal education if carefully adapted to our conditions can make positive and practically significant change in teaching law and to serve the purpose of law in Bangladesh. Clinical legal education is learning by doing. It is experiential learning. It is not merely practical method of teaching and learning law, it is also providing service to the people. When young students at the formative stage of their career are exposed to community legal services, they get sensitised to the problems and needs especially of the marginalised sections of the people and feel motivated to continue to work for them when they enter professional life.
Research in law provides ‘critical intellectual guidance to the study of law’. Legal research is an essential condition for legal scholarship. Legal scholarship defines and identifies links between law and individuals, law and society, law and development, law and politics. Without quality research and legal scholarship, it is virtually impossible to speak of quality legal education. In our seats of higher legal learning research is a much neglected area. This needs to be taken care of.
Legal ethics as a separate course is almost non-existent in our curriculum. Very purpose of legal education and profession could be frustrated by the lack of ethical values. Ethical value is not divorced from professional or social value. Human rights and gender issues also need to be sufficiently reflected in our curriculum.
Globalisation is leading the states to look beyond national horizon of law. Inter-dependence of states, massive international transactions at both public and private levels and emergence of innumerable common issues and problems have rendered transnational approach to law inevitable. International trade and foreign investment accompanied by rapid cross-border mobility of capital, labour and services have led to transnational or global legal practice, which is likely to be more frequent in the coming years. These developments have not been sufficiently reflected in our legal education, neither in curriculum, nor in teaching methodology, nor in the attitude of providers of legal education. Our curriculum continues to centre around traditional subjects of national law, and our judges and lawyers are averse to application of international law in domestic courts. Reluctant and unattentive attitude of our judges and lawyers towards international law are greatly explained by lack of transnational components of legal education in Bangladesh.
Academically sound and vocationally skillful law graduates would make great human resource for various sectors of our national development. However, many of them would not become lawyers and judges, nor the bar and bench can absorb all of them. Legal knowledge, both substantive and procedural, along with inter-disciplinary experience and motivation and vision of legal education of those graduates who would decide not to become judges and lawyers, would need to be employed for services other than judiciary and legal practice, where their specialised knowledge of law would be required. It would be most appropriate and desirable to create job opportunities for them where they would be better able to apply their specialised knowledge. Given that law graduates have received modern and socially relevant legal education, their knowledge ought to be used and applied to the needs of the nation in various government, semi-government, autonomous, non-government and private sectors. It is recommended that the government create a separate service, could be called legal service, consisting of law graduates who will have to qualify in competitive examination to be conducted by the Public Service Commission. Members of this cadre service, called legal service, or BCS (legal) in distinction from judicial service, would be employed at various ministries, government and semi-government agencies to deal with legal issues.
Bar council’s role in providing quality legal education needs to be enhanced. Its powers and functions need to be comprehensively increased in respect of creation and maintenance of standards of legal education in curriculum development, teaching methodology, evaluation and award of degrees. Bar council ought to have power to de-accredit law schools in case of non-compliance with its requirements. Representation of legal academics in the legal education committee of the Bar Council will need to be increased. Legal education committee of the Bar Council in collaboration with the legal education committee of the University Grants Commission (proposed to be formed) would exercise overall monitoring and controlling power over law schools.
1. Inclusion of legal education in government’s policy priorities, and to undertake concrete steps to improve its quality.
2. Formation of a Council of Legal Education for overall control, monitoring and supervision of legal education in Bangladesh. The Council will exercise its functions in collaboration with the Bar Council and the University Grants Commission. Necessary law is to be enacted for the formation of the Council, which would also entail amendment of the Bangladesh Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Order 1972, in so far as it concerns legal education.
3. To form legal education committee in the University Grants Commission consisting of the representatives of the law schools, and with this end in view to make necessary amendments in the University Grants Commission Order, 1972 and the relevant rules.
4. Provision for additional vocational course up to one year for law graduates as prequalification for appearing at the bar examination. How this course would be designed and run would be determined by the proposed Council of Legal Education.
5. Rational combination of academic and vocational character of legal education to make sure law graduates acquire knowledge, skill and competency for legal practice as well as law related general services. It is necessary to provide for more practical methods of teaching law i.e. Socratic method, problem method, case study, moot court and mock trial, clinical legal education etc.
6. Promotion of inter-disciplinary approach to curriculum to help students better understand the societal problems. Subjects like national history, economics, political science, sociology, logic etc could be included in the law curriculum.
7. Inclusion of new law courses (subjects) in the curriculum to respond to the needs of modern economy, ICT and globalisation. Subjects such as corporate law, international economic law, e-commerce, intellectual property law, environmental law, medical jurisprudence need to be included.
8. To include in the curriculum separate courses on ADR, legal ethics, research, drafting and conveyancing.
9. Need for emphasising transnational aspects of law to include more subjects on public and private international law and comparative law.
10. To enhance human rights and gender sensibility of legal education. Separate papers on these issues are suggested to be included in the syllabus
11. Narrowing down the gap between college legal education and university legal education by including more subjects in college curriculum and extending its duration.
12. Introduction of clinical legal education which means learning law by providing legal services to the community. Students need to be involved in various ADR activities where they will be exposed to real life situations and get opportunities to apply their knowledge of law as well as be sensitised to the rights of the marginalised sections of the community.
13. Immediate need for massive reforms and overhauling of college legal education by —
(a) extension of duration of courses from existing two years to three years with emphasis on practical courses in the final year;
(b) introduction of admission tests;
(c) limiting number of seats for admission;
(d) mandatory appointment of full time teachers;
(e) provision for government financial assistance;
(f) provision for adequate infrastructural facilities like class-rooms, library, books, computers etc;
(g) provision for effective supervision of the colleges.
14. Establishment of government sponsored model law college to set the norms and standards of modern legal education.
15. Evaluation and examination of students by problem oriented questions.
16. Introduction of basic legal education at SSC and HSC levels as a part of general legal awareness, and as a stage of prequalification for higher studies in law. Ministry of Education is to provide necessary directives and frame rules to incorporate fundamentals of law of the land in SSC and HSC curriculum.
17. To preserve the present bilingual character of medium of instruction for law with an emphasis on effective learning of English.
18. To provide for institutional accountability of teachers, and their evaluation by the students. Details of the procedures of accountability and evaluation would need to be worked out.
19. Provision for training of the teachers.
20. Besides legal profession of a lawyer and a judge, to create more diversified professional job opportunities for the law graduates in various government and non-government departments. One of the ways to do it is to create by competitive examination BCS cadre service(legal) for law graduates to perform law related works in various government and autonomous bodies.