The contours of a pedagogy of law in South Africa

Quinot, G. ; Greenbaum, Lesley (2015-03)

CITATION: Quinot, G. & Greenbaum, L. 2015. The contours of a pedagogy of law in South Africa. Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif 26(1):29-62.

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Reform of legal education is currently a topic of debate in South Africa again. Reform in higher education can, however, be dangerous and counter-productive if it is driven purely by policy agendas and in the absence of sound pedagogical considerations. This contribution aims to add a pedagogical perspective to the debates about reform of legal education in South Africa. Drawing on our earlier work in this field, we sketch the broad contours of a legal pedagogy for South Africa. Although there has traditionally been reluctance by law teachers locally and in other countries to embark on engagement with educational theory, we would advocate that this is essential and inevitable if reforms are to be based on sound theoretical underpinnings and empirical evidence, instead of anecdotal views. We propose nothing more than a pedagogical framework and do not intend to present anything as prescriptive. Our approach is premised on transformative legal education (TLE) as developed by Quinot. Within the framework of TLE we argue for an integrated, coherent approach, which aims to integrate skills development with substantive law, various areas of law with each other and with broader contextual influences flowing from the South African reality within which legal education is grounded. This calls for a whole-of-curriculum approach with high levels of co-ordination and co-operation within a law programme. We emphasise the importance of authentic learning and focus especially on experiential learning and clinical legal education. Finally, we consider the major role for the use of information technologies in teaching law in South Africa. Our recommendations are not without challenges with the lack of resources and the articulation gap between secondary and higher education as major concerns. While being realistic about the limitations imposed by these challenges we argue that a re-conceptualisation of legal education in light of the imperatives of transformative constitutionalism has become inevitable in South Africa.

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