Bond University

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Distance Teaching in Law: Possibilities for Commonwealth Cooperation


Most Commonwealth countries share the heritage of the common law. Many of them face difficulties in training a legal profession to meet current needs. In many areas Commonwealth countries are co-operating in education and training, but, to date, despite the efforts of the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, there has been little formal co-operation at the “academic” stage of legal education. Following the agreement of the Commonwealth Heads of Government at their 1987 Meeting, a new Commonwealth institution, The Commonwealth of Learning, was established in Vancouver, under the presidency of Dr James Maraj, formerly Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific. The Commonwealth of Learning will provide a clearing house and co-ordinating body for institutions carrying on distance teaching activities in different parts of the Commonwealth. Its establishment is seen as a means of developing existing expertise on distance teaching to solve problems which have arisen in Commonwealth countries over recent years. Those problems include: impediments to student mobility created by the imposition of substantial tuition fees in some developed countries, particularly the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada; the need of some developing Commonwealth countries for education and training which is not available within their own boundaries; and the development of new techniques and technologies which are readily fitted to assist distance education. It will be a major force for educational co-operation in the Commonwealth. Distance education in law is relatively unusual. Australia is the only Commonwealth country which has developed and maintained all aspects of distance education in law. Some experiments in Commonwealth Southern Africa have fallen by the wayside. Only in two other countries — the Republic of South Africa and the People’s Republic of China — has any sustained attempt been made to provide formal professional legal training through distance education. The Commonwealth Legal Education Association has commissioned a study of possibilities for developing distance education in law as a co-operative activity within the Commonwealth. Law is not yet a priority within The Commonwealth of Learning. This year, under the auspices of the CLEA, I propose to conduct a survey of existing distance education activities in law and in related disciplines within the Commonwealth and elsewhere, and of the demand for legal education within the Commonwealth. A questionnaire will also be addressed to educational, professional and judicial authorities in different Commonwealth countries about their attitude to legal training under a system of distance education as a qualification for professional work in law and as part of continuing legal education. The study may extend to studies in law which are not the academic foundation of a professional qualification in law. The study should indicate the extent to which distance education offers possibilities for future co-operation within the Commonwealth, and will concentrate on the academic element of legal education, but distance and mixed mode teaching may also offer possibilities for other aspects of legal education — particularly continuing legal education, and no opportunity for co-operation in this area should be lost.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.