THe LSSA (Law society of South Africa) now wants the current LLB degree to be changed to a 5 year post graduate degree. The current LLB degree is a 4 year undergraduate degree.
THe law society Director Nic Swart lays down some of the reasons for the Societies decision to extend the degree to 5 years and make it a post graduate degree (in the US the JD – Juris Doctor is a post graduate degree) included in the news 24 article – “We often find the students have problems with analysis and critical thinking,” and “In some cases they can’t analyse facts and some graduates cannot research properly.”
The article includes statistics and research which indicates only “31% of 500 lawyers” think the current LLB is capable of manufacturing decent article clerks.
I have been to both an “attendance” university and UNISA a “correspondence” university. The difference is slim if any. However i think the law society has a point here, i did come across many students who clearly were not making the grade (either through their own apathy or simply not capable) and although i sympathised with some of them i still found it unfair that they were even allowed in the programme….why? well its a matter of what i call dilution and numbers. Dilution because if universities continue to spit out law graduates that are scraping though their degrees with 50% we have weaker students and weaker/ less capable attorneys/advocates, its that simple, the real problem is not only with the weak graduates but also because of the sheer number of them diluting the system, they enter the job market with sub standard degrees and take opportunities from those who really deserve the position. Numbers….because the university only has so many spots/seats available for every degree. So for instance the university allows a certain amount of students into the programme based on their marks and others based on race and yet further others in what they call “foundation programmes”. I personally have a problem with this. Students wanting to study law need to have above average english marks in combination with a good mark in the NBT (national benchmark test), over and above this each graduate must complete critical reasoning (as i did at unisa) or logic101
which enables a student to spot basic fallacies or poor reasoning — ie: 1+1= 11…fail!
I think another problem may be the educational system (high school) itself, i have seen some first year students really struggle with research and especially citation. i have personally seen almost an entire class get 0 out of 100 for a constitutional law essay because of poor refferencing….no joke!! The schooling system that i was under (old apartheid system–exams only) was more stringent in its requirements for essays and citation. Some of the students did not even know what citation was….really! So im not at all surprised by the LSSA making this move. In fact i agree with it. Maybe this is a symptom of the schooling system from which they come? it sure looks like it — when one considers that the foreign students dont struggle with this at all (i worked with some on my assignments and all of them had good english and understood the need to reference), it would be unfair to compare our matriculants to the foreign students, but it cannot be ignored either!
The foundation programmes are in place for those matriculants that just couldnt make the grade and are given the chance to enter the programme, BUT, in their first year they only take the first semester modules over an entire year (as i understand it). This is done in order to ascertain if the student will cope ect….is capable of passing/excelling. I spoke to a lecturer whos name i wont mention (last year), i asked the lecturer “out of every ten, how many foundation students are actually passing?” the lecturer showed me 3 fingers….3! Now forgive me for being “wrong”, but why bother with such a low pass rate? why not use those spaces for others that ARE CAPABLE, that are clearly academically sound? It seems like a “quota system” to me and quite frankly if i were only given the chance based purely on the colour of my skin or ethenticity i would be too ashamed to accept the “opportunity”. It would make me question the my motives and capabilities, it would sit in my cerebral cortex and chip away at my self confidence….knowing im not really good enough to be here, knowing that im a “charity case”. The mind has a way of seperating the issues for you, however in some people their ability to asses their capabilities or shortcomings is either short circuted or illogical and therefore has no bearing on the own intellect. This is what i call “ignorance”.
Hopefully we can all work together to overcome this impasse. Hopefully the educational system will improve the quality of matrics it produces, hopefully we can all learn from this.