First up, Alex Steel, UNSW, on the Smart Casual project: ‘Using online modules to build teacher confidence and skills’. Nine modules for adjunct staff development, including Indigenous Peoples and the Law, student engagement, legal problem solving, feedback, reading law, critical thinking, comms and collaboration, legal ethics and wellness in law. Key aspects include appropriate tone (peer 2 peer, videos of sessional staff), level of scholarship, appropriate depth and catering for range of experience amongst sessional, and cross-cultural issues. There were publications that came out of the project. I’m on the Expert Reference Group for the project so I suppose I would say it, but I thoroughly recommend this project and its resources, which is a model of how to develop resources for legal educators, and what professional development for legal educators should look like, in any jurisdiction. Please do go to the above link and check it out.
Next, Kanwal Deepinder Pal Singh, from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, on ‘Teaching tax laws in developing countries: the need to link academics, research and practice’. She argued that in India the national law schools with rigorous clinical programmes created a distinct identity, which created pressures as regards grading, etc. Teachers generally don’t have time to research and published and are overburdened (not least because their schools need to bring in revenue in terms of student numbers). But the latest reform proposals state that teaching ought to be accompanied by research. The basic tax law course is a challenge for both teacher and student because statutes are so complex. There needs to be a link between teaching and what she calls ‘tax design’. There also need to be, in her opinion, links between tax problems, a tax model and tax mechanisms. The challenges to teaching tax include the following. Linguistic confusion (lengthy statutes, contextual meanings, eg the meaning of ‘capital’ Second, active approaches vs passive approaches to learning in analysis of the Tax Code… She argues that passive approaches aren’t sufficient. Third, analytical skills – a dynamic environment is required. Fourth, the gap between law school and law practice needs to be addressed. Fourth, heterogeneity of tax concepts are problematic, for tax law often cuts across other fields of law, eg trusts and estates, partnerships, corporations, etc. Careful cross-reference in teaching is thus required. Kanwal argued that research and academic teachers and practice and practitioners should be linked much more than they are presently. Eg teaching styles in a tax law course should have the goal of teaching tax analysis and design as well as current law, and be restricted to specific regions. Strong critical thinking skills are crucial, as well as research and communications skills. And teaching should be accepted as a form of scholarship in itself. Couldn’t agree more with all of this ambitious analysis, especially when I think back to my undergraduate Tax Law course. It’s an ambitious programme of reform she sets out, but it hangs together as a coherent whole.
Next, Lisa Lukose, from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, on ‘Human rights education in India: a scrutiny of law, policy and practice’. She started by stating that there’s no country that doesn’t teach HRs. But there’s no country where there’s no HR abuse. In India, HR education is compulsory from school, and is present in undergraduate and postgraduate education. At LLB, it’s compulsory, with further options. But HRs are still abused. She argued that we need to revisit the policies and practices of HRs in education, and in three dimensions: knowledge/ awareness, values beliefs and attitudes education, and action — encouraging people to defend human rights and prevent HR abuses. There are three contexts in India: – direct context, indirect context (creating HRs in various subjects) and implicit context, involving the creation of a socio-cultural context for action. Eg (2016 National Education Policy), schools must develop in students qualities such as good conduct, consideration for the elderly and respect for women. The process of education should inculcate a spirit of hard work and entrepreneurship, and a respect for HR and compassion for the disadvantaged sections of society. Students should be made aware of fundamental rights and duties as laid down by the Constitution. This is important in the school context because, as Lisa points out, there is of course a formal curriculum, an informal curriculum (to include HR), and a hidden curriculum (far-reading, that creates atmosphere, etc). Hugely informative, very pacy presentation (cd barely keep up with her) covering HRs education in and beyond law school.
Finally, Awele Ikobi-Anyali, Research Fellow from the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, on ‘Corruption and the misuse of public office in the Commonwealth: the preventive role of law teachers in Nigeria and South Africa’. Her paper focused on Nigeria and South Africa, but she noted global concern about corruption from the 1990s onwards, which led to the establishment of the Transparency International, launched in 1995. Both Nigeria and SA signed and ratified international and regional anti-corruption instruments such as UNCAC. But corruption continues on a substantial scale. She argues that law teachers have a role to play in the anti-corruption initiatives in the commonwealth, which can be achieved through curriculum methods, research and publications. Eg anti-corruption studies, which are not present in conventional law school curricula. Awele advocated active learning methods, including clinical legal education. CLE is not well embedded in Nigeria, but is much more so in SA. Students should also be taught anti-corruption methods. I’d like to hear a lot more about practices in the field, who is doing what, how successful it is – empirical research, in other words. But who could argue with the active learning approaches she advocates.
- Actually I’d say this is one of the most complex and difficult scholarly terms for students to come to terms with, across a range of HE disciplines.↩