Prospect of Distance Learning in Legal Education Nowadays the knowledge-based higher education, especially in legal fields, has become the most profitable sector of earnings worldwide. Most of the occidental States consider the higher legal education as a lucrative business for financial gain, hence the prospective law students suffer from the funding constraints and naturally most of them drop-out from their cherished dream of a higher professional career. Universally education is the most fundamental key to success in general for all, thus the educational business is more secure and of low risk in view of investment. The engagement of law students has become a big challenge in the higher educational institutions, especially when distance learning is getting more popular.
The ICT-based distance learning (some experts termed as E-Learning or D-Learning as well) is a mode of delivering legal education often on an individual basis conveyed to the law students who are not physically present in a traditional institutional setting such as a classroom-based education. The distance learning can also be delivered through online-based communication that has become a popular method because of its huge access and affordability. It is an off-campus legal education where the law students can easily communicate with the concerned institutions. Bangladesh Open University (BOU) is the only public university that is offering distance education in Bangladesh and it has opened up new vistas in distance education in the country. In lieu of campus-based teaching, this university uses technology including electronic devices to reach people in various corners of the country.
The Bhuiyan Academy is the first institution in Bangladesh to get the permission of the University of London to conduct Certificate of Higher Education in Common Law. It is recognised as the pioneer in this country that provides tuition with all modern facilities to LLB (Hons) students of the international programs at the University of London, UK. The Academy is a privately-owned centre for quality teaching and skill development for the students who are registered with the University of London in the Distance Learning Programs. With the University of London International Programs, a wide range of diploma, undergraduate and master’s level courses can be studied through distance learning. In Bangladesh presently there are more than 1,800 students studying for a range of University of London qualifications.
The BPP University Law School has launched their first ever distance learning program for law undergraduates in Bangladesh, allowing them to work towards a globally-recognized LLB degree online. It has been running online distance learning programs for a number of years and has partnered with the London College of Legal Studies (LCLS) in Bangladesh to support the program. The Bar Transfer Test (BTT) is another newly commenced program which is the most convenient way for the lawyers to become a Barrister within a short period of time. This program is specially organised, set and marked by the BPP on behalf of the Bar Standers Board, which is gradually becoming more popular among the young lawyers of Bangladesh. The BAC International is another institution that is also offering LLM program on commercial law in Bangladesh under the University of Derby, UK.
The law degrees that Bangladeshi students earn through online programs are exactly the same, in terms of quality of teaching, as those earned by the students in the foreign countries. Along with the increasing concerns over higher education standards in Bangladesh, a considerable amount of law students have been opting for the off-campus distance learning programs provided by different foreign Universities rather than the on-campus courses of Bangladesh’s Universities. With a law degree through distance learning, the Bangladeshi law students can gain a top-notch education from many prestigious academic institutions throughout the world.
The cross-border higher education is also recognised and encouraged by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh. The ICT has now become an essential tool for the rapid response and fast communication which tremendously save human time, money, energy and workload in the everyday life. In Bangladesh legal education through distance learning has been approaching the acceptance within conventional education so extensively that it will make up part of the repertoire of most educational institutions in the future. This will also mean that the present distinction between ‘conventional’ and ICT-based distance education will become less evocative in the near future. Though the intensity of ICT application in most of the legal institutions in Bangladesh seems to be backdated due to the lack of motivational spirit and skilled resource persons, the increasing global interest in distance learning and the subsequent expansion of the respective institutions and programs is a most remarkable development in the field of legal education of recent years.
Arif Ahmed is a Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Senior Lecturer, Department of Law, Southeast University