Legal education in schools needs a holistic push : The Tribune India

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Legal education in schools needs a holistic push

Much investment has been made into the nurturing of law as a professional course. These higher education institutions can play a vital role in the realisation of the requirements laid out. Law schools can help design the pedagogy as well as course structures tailored to such needs and requirements. They can also undertake the responsibility of upgrading the skills of existing personnel as well as training new educators.

Legal education in schools needs a holistic push

Redefining scope: The focus needs to shift from the black-letter law to a more fundamental discourse surrounding its impact on those governed by it. iStock



GS Bajpai

Vice-Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

THE transformative impact that the expansion of legal education has caused, especially after the advent of national law universities, is perhaps the most amazing development in the higher education system in India. Legal education and profession have become so coveted that aspirants now prefer law, in many cases, over engineering, management and medicine because of job prospects. Till now, the study of law has remained the preserve of higher education. But the idea that basic legal education must be introduced at the level of secondary education is now gaining ground.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had announced in 2013 that legal education would be offered as an elective subject for students of Classes XI and XII. Unfortunately, this approach is yet to yield the desired results. More than 70,000 candidates sat for the CLAT examination, hoping to secure a seat in the national law universities. Breaking away from past when law was considered as a ‘last resort’ profession, it is today attracting the brightest of minds. As things stand today, these students are acquiring education related to law from coaching institutes rather than schools. The interest of students in the field of law should be kindled in the school itself. By the time the students appear for their law school entrance examinations, they must be clear about why they want to join these institutions.

The idea of introducing legal education as a subject in schools has not witnessed requisite planning and execution. Several issues need be addressed to ensure the success of such an endeavour. First, there is a need to revise the pedagogical approach to legal education in schools. The textbooks released by the CBSE span immensely vast subject areas such as property, contracts, criminal law, alternative dispute resolution, human rights and legal services, among others. Rather than being a primer for legal education, these topics have been dealt with in a manner similar to what students in law universities would be expected to know at the end of their course. The need, however, is to prime the students for higher legal education.

There is a need to shift the pedantic focus from the black-letter law to a more fundamental discourse surrounding the impact of laws on those governed by them. The students must be educated not just about the existence of laws or what the law says, but to also enlighten them as regards the rights, obligations and duties of the State as well as the citizens. Linking the lives of students with the laws governing them would allow them to better understand the intrinsic connection between the two. Besides, there is scope for the use of technology and software to create animation, graphics and narration to make the teaching of law effective.

Secondly, legal education must be given the same importance as other subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, maths, accounts and economics. The pedagogical approach to these subjects prepares and primes the students for the rigours of higher education while ensuring sound foundational knowledge. The subject of law too must be tailored in such a manner. Legal education must be treated on a par with other subjects and the resources of the State should be used adequately towards ensuring the same.

Thirdly, keeping legal studies as an optional or elective subject is bound to blunt the efficacy of the initiative. It is pertinent, therefore, that all students must be required to undertake the course, given that the laws would have a significant impact on their personal and professional lives, irrespective of whether they become scientists, accountants, engineers or entrepreneurs. As citizens of the country, they should be made aware of their legal rights as well as their obligations and duties — both towards the State and each other. Moreover, the National Education Policy also requires a choice-based option of subjects for the students, irrespective of their core discipline.

Fourthly, there is a dearth of trained educators who are both well versed with the scope of the laws as well as the ability to simplify them. There is a need to create a class of educators who can impart legal education effectively while appealing to the imagination of the students. Involving young law graduates as instructors to support the core faculty in the schools can produce better results.

As evidenced by the mushrooming of law universities, much investment has been made by the State as well as private bodies into the nurturing of law as a professional course. These higher education institutions can play a vital role in the realisation of the requirements laid out above. Law schools can help design the pedagogy as well as course structures tailored to such needs and requirements. Law schools can also undertake the responsibility of upgrading the skills of existing personnel as well as training new educators. The possibility of the engagement of established law schools and legal academics must be explored by the Ministry of Education, as also the Boards of Secondary Education.

We need to move beyond the printing of the Preamble and the fundamental duties on the front and back pages of the prescribed books — hoping that the students would read and imbibe them without any further guidance. The introduction of law as a subject in schools will go a long way in the creation of a citizenry which is legally educated and aware of its rights, duties and obligations in a holistic sense. While there are issues, all such obstacles can certainly be overcome. To carry out a well-monitored pilot of this exercise, law universities can be assigned a role in helping schools undertake this task. This is too important to be ignored and too urgent to be delayed.

Views are personal


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