By Fatima Muhammad Barka
Yobe State University
The academic curriculum is ever-present in college and always used in places where learning occurs. This article aims at probing into the nature of Legal curriculum so as to clarify what are the issues to be concerned by the lecturers in the school context. A layman also understands legal curriculum and can explain in his or her own languages and while defining what a legal curriculum is, there are others which have been criticised due to their rigidity. Based on these hitches is there an importance in elucidating what legal curriculum is and its importance?
In this article, I will first introduce curriculum in its perspective and descriptive way. Secondly, I will elucidate whether it is important to know what legal curriculum is. Thirdly, I will discuss the aims of legal curriculum. Fourthly, I will look into how the legal curriculum is attached to the legal education. Thereafter, I will look into what I think are the main problems facing the legal curriculum in Nigeria. Lastly, I will discuss what I think are the solutions to the problems facing the legal curriculum in Nigeria and conclude the paper by giving the general overview of what the paper is talking about.
Many definitions of curriculum have been given by different authors of which some of the authors defined curriculum in perspective way while others defined curriculum in the descriptive way. John Dewey (1902) in his own perspective way defined curriculum as “a continuous reconstruction, moving from the child’s present experience out into that represented by the organised bodies of truth that we call studies. . .the various studies. . .are themselves experience__they are that of the race”. Franklin Robert (1918) in his own view defined curriculum as “Curriculum is the entire range of experiences, both directed and undirected, concerned in unfolding the abilities of the individual”. Ralph Tyler (1957) defined curriculum as “all the learning experiences planned and directed by the school to attain its educational goals”.
In the descriptive way. E.Silva(2009) has descriptively defined it as “an emphasis on what student can do with knowledge, rather than what units of knowledge they have, is the essence of 21st-century skills”. D.F Brown (2006) has this to say in defining curriculum:
“All student school experiences relating to the improvement of skills and strategies in thinking critically and creatively, solving problems, working collaboratively with others, communicating well, writing more effectively, reading more analytically, and conducting research to solve problems”.
2.WHETHER IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE MEANING OF LEGAL CURRICULUM
The layman in his own language will define legal curriculum as the set of courses relating to law of which the law students are being treated. As a matter of fact, legal curriculum or education educates individuals on principles, theories of law and practices of law. In other words, Google defined Legal education as “the education of individuals who intend to become legal professionals or those who simply intend to use their law degree to some end, either related to law or business”. William P. Alford defined legal education as “preparation for the practice of law”. It is salient to know that legal curriculum differs from the phenomena of curriculum because curriculum is the syllabus that is used by teachers to their students or rather it is used by lecturers to their students While the aspect of legal curriculum does not only suppress the syllabus to be treated to the students but also tutor the law students the practices and theories of law.
Another rationale behind the importance of knowing the meaning of legal curriculum is that it sometimes accumulates the mind of the students that will wish to study and practice law in the future. Different people in their own desirous ways defined legal curriculum and it generally has a number of theoretical and practical definitions.
The legal curriculum also put students forward to a superintend, conscientious and diligent opportunity to learn legal skills through practice, transaction, contract, clinics courses. The ideologies or rather philosophies that is guiding a country or a society is also contained in the legal curriculum and so for that reason it is important to know what the legal curriculum stands as and what it takes to maintain the just society.
3.THE AIMS OF LEGAL CURRICULUM
The truth of the matter is that the aims of legal curriculum differ from subject to subject, period to period, and sometimes even teacher to teacher. Generally, as I mentioned earlier on that the legal curriculum is sometimes defined based on a theoretical perspective or a practical perspective and so too applies to their aims. One aim is focused on cultivating the students with the legal concepts and instructions with modes of legal reasoning. Another aim of the legal curriculum is to make the students or rather people understand law in its whole context, be it social, political, economic or scientific. For the purpose of legal curriculum, students too are opportune to be familiar with the process of making law, settling disputes, and regulating the legal profession. The legal curriculum aims at putting the student’s mind in one place with some sets of course outlines and guides on the practical part. As it was mentioned by Palak Jain in his Article names “Legal education and its goal” he said:
“The primary goal of legal education is to create skilled lawyers. The term “professional lawyers” encompasses not only the “litigating lawyers” i.e., a lawyer who represents a client in a court of law, but also all individuals educated in law whose work is primarily based on their legal degrees”
From the above opinion given by Palak Jain we can see that the legal education does not only aim at creating litigating lawyers but also all individuals or rather people that studied law as their course of degrees and they are educated on Law.
4.HOW IS LEGAL CURRICULUM?
Before a person would be able to get access to legal curriculum, that person must have applied to study Law in the university after graduating from the high school. In order to qualify as a law student, the person must have passed his WAEC/NECO and most importantly JAMB after writing it and then most importantly the person must have passed English, Literature, and Government in your WAEC/NECO and so applies to the JAMB, you must have written those subjects in your JAMB before you will be given admission into the Faculty of Law.
The time range for studying Law is 5 years and during these years you will have to study some courses before you will gain your L.L.B which is also regarded as Bachelor of Law.
A) FIRST YEAR
In the first year, you will probably spend your time not taking mostly the law courses and that is for the purpose of imparting general knowledge and prepare for the rational thinking and skills that you will ned as a law student.
The Courses for the first-year programme includes Legal Method, Political science, Sociology, Logic and philosophic thoughts, English, English for legal writing and some of the GST courses. The lecturers are also expected to use the course outlines for their courses in other to guide them and not to confuse the students. Each year consist of 2 semesters whereby mostly during the first semester, students are mostly being introduced to a particular course.
B) SECOND YEAR
After completing your first year successfully, you will be required to move to the second year whereby 4-5 courses are taken each semester. A student that passed without any carryover of any course from his first year shall register for all of the second year’s courses but if a student has unavoidably gotten a carryover from his first year, then unfortunately that student would not be able to register for all of the second year’s courses as that person will have to register for his carryover too for clearance. The courses for the second year are:
Nigerian legal system, Constitutional law, Law of contract, Arabic for legal studies, Ayat and Ahadith Al-Ahkam, and some GST courses.
These courses are to be treated on the first and second semester in LLB2
C) THIRD YEAR
As a law student is moving forward, the coin continues to tilts. In this year some of the courses are elective but, a student must choose one among the elective courses to offer. As a student is moving forward successfully without any carryover, the student is expected to offer all of the courses of his next year but if a student has a carryover, then he would not be able to offer all of the courses for L.L.B 3. During this year, a student is expected to treat 6 core courses and 1 elective course making it to be 7 with 1 GST course. Below are the compulsory courses to be offered for this particular year
Criminal law, Equity and Trust, Commercial law, Islamic family law, Islamic law of transactions, and Islamic law of crime.
The elective courses include of:
Family law, Administrative law, Insurance law, Islamic law of banking and insurance.
D) FOURTH YEAR
In the fourth year, some of the courses are as well elective while some are compulsory courses. The compulsory courses are:
Company Law, Property Law, Law of Torts, Islamic Land Law, Mirath and Wasiyyah, Legal Research and Methodology.
The elective courses are:
Law of banking, Revenue Law, Environmental Law, Clinical Legal Education.
E) FIFTH YEAR
The final year courses are lesser than that of the first-fourth year. It also comprises of compulsory and elective courses. The compulsory courses are:
Jurisprudence, Law of evidence, Usual-Al-Fiqh Tafsir and fiqh, iqh Tafsir and fiqh, Islamic Law of Procedure and Evidence, and Application of Shari’ah in Nigeria The elective courses are:
Labour Law, International Law, Conveyancing, Oil and Gas, and International Humanitarian.
F) LAW SCHOOL
After successfully completing the undergraduate level, that does not require you to be a lawyer because you still will have to go to Law school in one of the Six campuses in Nigeria. Ordinarily, after you have successfully gained your certificate for the undergraduate level, you should be shortlisted in the list of those going to Law school. The reason for this additional year on top of the five years of the undergraduate level is that, in law school you will learn the practical side of the profession.
Apart from academic learning, students also undergo some instructions with regard to their ethics, comportment, and dressing of which, they must abide by the rules and regulations set to them because of that will train them on how to be a good lawyer. However, before they are called to the Bar, they must also attend two formal dinners and one formal dinner afterwards.
People who have received Law degrees outside Nigeria will have to come back to Nigeria to attend the Law school for them to be regarded as Lawyers. However, foreign graduates will have to spend another six months in a programme called the Bar part 1, to learn the basics of the Nigerian law.
5) PROBLEMS FACING THE LEGAL CURRICULUM IN NIGERIA
A) THE LECTURERS AND FACULTY OF LAW
In most of the universities, most especially the state universities, lecturers are not well paid and so for that reason the students won’t gain a lot from them with regards to their studies. In some cases, even if the lecturers are paid well, they don’t go to lecture the students on time until the semester is about to end and the students will seat for exams, that is when they will start coming, by then it will be very late for them to cover the course outline for the students. Sometimes the lecturers will give materials to the students to go and study on their own without explaining much to them.
B) LACK OF ADEQUATE FUNDING
It is no secret that lack of adequate funding today has been detrimental of our curriculum and legal education in Nigeria. It has been a serious issue to Nigeria to the extent that the state lecturers sometimes go on strike because their salaries are not paid to them. The academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) too on their own part too went on a long time strike (in the year 2020) to the detriment of the student’s curriculum as they were delayed for a long period of time.
6) SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS FACING LEGAL CURRICULUM IN NIGERIA
A) THE LECTURERS AND FACULTY OF LAW
Like I mentioned above, in most of the universities, the lecturers are not paid well and so for that reason they don’t lecture the students well. I would like to call on the attention of the government in order to be paying the lecturers with a good amount of money so that the students will be given full attention by the lecturers. The second issue is about the lecturers not attending to their students on time until it is examination time, that is when they will start coming and by then there won’t be enough of time to teach the students the necessary things. For this I think the solution is just by replacing the Lecturers that have workload on them with those that have lesser than them because by not doing that, the students will not be taught the right thing and at the end they will be left with some of the topics untreated and these also can cause harm to our curriculum.
B) LACK OF ADEQUATE FUNDING
Funds are needed so as to provide the school maintenance, salaries of the lecturers by the government, instructional materials, etc. The government are to provide adequate fund for the payment of the school lecturers and also the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
How a legal curriculum is planned shows itself as one of the most important factors that predetermined the success of the students. In order to achieve satisfactory outcome, the challenges facing the legal curriculum has to be determined first before finding the solution to it. This paper has probed the legal curriculum and other relevant parts of it. Probing into some parts of the legal curriculum does not act as the main issue of the paper but paves the way to look into the overall view of legal curriculum.
John Dewey (1902); Perspective definition of curriculum
Franklin Robert (1918); Perspective definition of curriculum
Ralph Tyler (1957), Perspective definition of curriculum
E.Silva (2009); Descriptive definition of curriculum
D.F.Brown (2006); Descriptive definition of curriculum
William P. Alford; Legal education
Palak Jain in his Article; Legal education and its goal