Vince Tan has an urgent proposal for the Ministry of Higher Education — to reform the legal education system.
There exist many law schools in public and private institutions of higher learning which offer a law degree programme – namely, the Bachelor of Law (LLB) — and the number of these higher institutions of learning keep increasing, just like the Malay saying,“Bagai cendawan tumbuh selepas hujan”. The president of the Bar Council, Christopher Leong came out with a press release cautioning students who wish to pursue a law degree to exercise due diligence in selecting a law school. My only concern is this: Are all these degrees recognised by the Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB)? I’m afraid not, as Mr Leong points out that five higher education institutions currently providing the course are not recognized by the LPQB, namely HELP University College, Management & Science University (MSU), Taylor’s University, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA). The million dollar question is why is this course available to the public by these institutions when they are not even recognized by the LPQB ? Don’t we have the Ministry of Higher Education to supervise the performance of these institutes?
Many students aspiring to be lawyers would probably study very hard to ensure their dreams become a reality. But what if, despite doingthe best they could and ending up with good results, they later came to know that their degree is not recognised, therefore making them unable to practise as a lawyer. Being a law student myself, I am constantly being reminded by my seniors to be grateful for being able to study University Malaya and therefore not having to face all that crap. However, I see nothing to be proud of if we look at the quality and the way the university is being run by those “donkeys”.
Nonetheless, it does not stop me from being sympathetic towards my other peers who became victims to this oppressive profit-making business called ‘education’. We all know that education is not a commodity, but a basic human right towards the development of mankind. “Give a man an education and he can build you a new world; give a man a loan you can own him forever”. I understand that many students are funded by the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) loan, where students who obtain the loan have to pay it back with interest, in order to finance their tertiary education. Due to this, burdening the students with this debt for an unrecognised degree would not only be a sin, but also the highest level of immorality a man can do to another, which is to destroy one’s hope and dreams.
One cannot help but to blame the Ministry of Education for allowing all this courses to make a profit out of this endeavour, particularly the private institutions. We must bear in mind how demand and supply works in higher education. With the availability of the PTPTN loan, there is a demand for students to further their education in the course of their choice at institutions of higher learning, but are there enough places in public university to cater to their needs? That is where private institutions of higher learning comes in to make money, by charging a higher fee to those students compared to the ones in public universities. Merely harping on about the problem is not going to help solve the problem; therefore, I have a proposal that might actually solve this problem of unrecognised law courses on offer, which requires a little bit of political will from the ruling. Firstly, instead of opening up new institutions of higher learning, the government should establish more branches of public universities with proper recognition, offering courses of various choices according to demand and supply at a nationwide level. This will mean that universities with recognised degrees, especially law degrees, would be able to set up branches in other states, thus allowing them replace those unqualified law schools. This will prevent the students being conned into studying for a worthless and unrecognised degree.
Secondly, all courses offered in institutions of higher learning must be recognized before the course is implemented and offered to the public for enrolment, and the subjects must be removed if they fails to qualify for their respective ISOs. Thirdly, members of the legal profession board should be allowed to get involved in the decision-making process concerning the way law is being taught in schools, in accordance with Section 42 (1) (b) of the Legal Professions Act 1976, which allows these schools“ to maintain and improve the standards of conduct and learning of the legal profession in Malaysia”. Last but not least, it would do all parties some good to listen to the students regarding the way they are being taught law in these institutions.. The way law is taught nowadays is outdated, with a focus on rote learning and a congested workload, with students allotted as many as seven subjects a semester. It allows students very little room for anything else, nevermind taking part in student activism or extracurricular activities outside campus grounds.
In other words, the legal education system needs to be reformed, and it needs to be done soon, before students’ futures are further compromised.
Featured image from Arthur Lee Lin & Co.