NEOLIBERALISM: THE RATIONALE BEHIND THE SCHOLASTIC DIMINUTION OF THE LEGAL EDUCATION
Written by: Sonjuhi Kaul and Harshita Malik, Students, Amity Law School, Delhi
Developed in the mid 1970’s as a reaction to the economic stagflation that merges the sharp recession with the increase in prices, neo- liberalism is the comeback to an extension of laissez faire economic ideology but adapted to the contemporary social environment. Neo liberalists keep faith in leaving the economic operations to private enterprises, constantly seeking to change notions of public good to self interest. The Neo liberalism’s latest dimension stems from the form in which it converts the mainstream economic theory to match the new conditions. This phenomenon was rooted in the classical liberal beliefs, which was authored by Adam Smith in his book, The Wealth of Nations.
While neoliberalism refers to collection of propositions, practices, and schemes, this collection is based upon various broad beliefs: consideration of free market, nominal state intervention, economic regulation, and individual as a reasonable economic player. It believes that the market is the governing medium of the economy. The proponents of this theory have absolute belief in free trade and agree that it will lead to globalization and economic prosperity, which would inevitably help the mankind. If there is no such growth and development, they assert, that it is due to the distortions, like the state intervention, trade unions, and social welfare projects. Polyani foretold this in his discussions of the logical extensions of a free market society, “Instead of economy being embedded in social relations, socials relations are embedded in the economy”.The growth of the market results in the commodification of not only goods, labour and services but also of culture, civil ties, and social institutions . The neoliberal society places no demarcation between economy and the society. Everything in the world comprises of the economy in this space. The social institutions, as a fact, are solely positioned as a money generating businesses without being acknowledged as a source of imbibing social knowledge. The application of economic logic to cultural, political and social areas is the exclusive point of neoliberal theory.
The neoliberal assertion is that there is no society as such but only individual men and women. The current offensive capitalist ideology dwells into all aspects of social life subverting many of the permissible functions of the state that demand that everything is to be done through the market.The market ideologists attack the sense of public space representing the measure of defeat to the democracy. These processes have however very little to do with globalization, and are of a great deal to the victories of capital over labour, and hence attacking the structure of a society.
BACKGROUND ON LEGAL EDUCATION:
Proper Conventional education is one of the main responsibilities of a welfare state. Higher education privatization is not a new episode in India. The insights of neoliberal model can be dated back to the new economic policy of 1991. Since then the country has seen changing nature of education from benevolence to profit maximization. The opening of India’s economy in 1991 marked the widespread influence of neo liberalization in all fields including the education. Empowered by the global economic policy bodies, such as the IMF and World Bank, they aim to build more upgraded human resource bearing high capital outcomes. The neoliberal model grabs the educational sector into its web as well.The concern with this way of thought is that knowledge is not yet another product for purchasing and selling in the market. It is a shared welfare.Depoliticizing public sector by transferring them to managerial belt gravely impacts the market at all levels. Public investment has descended in line with neoliberal industry, inevitably causing the universities to follow the business path.
The story sounds familiar in all academics but law schools face extra burdens. Though few scholars identify neoliberalism as a source of broad economic change; these changes seem to give a new shape to the higher education system. Privatization, commercialization and commodification of legal education have bluntly destroyed the public scope. Legal education has been reenvisioned as a commodity, for which consumers i.e. students will have to pay. It is deduced that only the university label with significant qualifications will make the graduate employable and marketable within its profession. The root issues in this respect are the market aligned education system and elitism. Universities and colleges play a special position in the dominion process, as they become the only legal creators and distributors of information.
The Constitution of India lays down the duty of imparting education on the States by putting forward the matters concerning the education in List II of the Seventh Schedule.Currently, this forms part of the concurrent legislative powers of the Union and States. The Legal profession along side with the medical and other professions too fall under List III.
For a Developing country like India which follows democratic principles, the objectives of the Legal Education are numerous. Around the world they have been enumerated as follows,
1. Socialisation objectives –It is the use of education to enhance the perceptions and understanding of the environment, local and global and to further understand the problems of the society.It studies the influence of values and attitude.
2. Manpower objectives – It is the use of entire educational system to generate certain kinds of skills and knowledge required for events and tasks in society.
3. Opportunity objectives- It is the use of education in broadening opportunities which may be the mobility in society- preferably amongst groups who may have been historically deprived or pressurised.
4. Research Objectives–It is the use of educational facilities to create research of great value to education field and the society.
5. Administrative objectives- It is the use of organising the governance of institutions and the use of more advanced methods in budgeting, managing and evaluating programs.
Multiple organizations serve as the controllers of legal education in India which includes the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Bar Council of India (BCI), the Government and other universities. Initially, the legal education system in India was organized through the medium of non specialized universities which granted law degrees like any other graduate degree. These universities taught the syllabus as prescribed by the BCI, but since they were under the overall control and supervision of the UGC it was therefore not possible for the BCI to bring about changes in the legal education. This system continued around more than two decades with the overall legal education supervised by the BCI since its establishment in the Advocates Act, 1961. The first strong decision to this end was taken in the year 1984, when the proposals to modernize legal education were being considered and approved by the Legal Education committee of the BCI, which was an attempt to improve the legal education all over India. One of the main proposals was the decision to establish proper organizations to impart legal education in an integrated and diversified manner.
The first autonomous law school to implement the changes in legal education in India was the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore under the National Law School of India Act, 1986 which was passed by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Karnataka. Following the NLS structure, various other States also passed similar legislations in their respective State Legislative Assemblies to set up new national law schools. Though these national law schools eventually improved their infrastructures and raised the quality of legal education, yet they failed in keeping pace with development in globalization by not taking appropriate steps required to meet the upcoming needs of the new global market.
Legal education in India has not been its best in going beyond meeting the minimal requirement of producing ‘legal technicians’ for a variety of legal markets.The overall view is that, ‘legal education in India’ has been unable to respond holistically and meaningfully to the contemporary legal challenges’.
In pursuit of the neoliberal policy agenda within the legal education system, the role of institutes was gradually strained. The university's role as an independent institution was constantly being threatened by the interests of various corporations. As a result of neo-liberalism, legal education shifted from public to non-public institutions.
In the recent case, the Supreme Court observed that there is a need for a convincing and well organised legal education structure and is absolutely necessary in reckoning the new trend in the world order, to meet the challenges. The legal education should thus be able to meet such ever growing challenges.
It is in this context that the Supreme Court in the case, Unni Krishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh, in 1993 laid down the fact that education in India cannot be allowed to be merely commercial.
THE VARIOUS DRAWBACKS IN LEGAL EDUCATION SYSTEM:
The legal world seeks to find graduates with requisite skills and knowledge who could be potential revenue makers. The market based education system and business ideology make students more commercial minded and encourages them to ignore democratic principles in society.
1. Elitism predominantly attacks the structure of legal education in India. Since capital rules each domain of life in neoliberal world, the universities stand focused to attract registration of financially rich upper class. The borderline for admission in private and public universities is not weighed on the basis of expertise or educational standards, but certainly on whose pocket is heavier. Students with financial incapacity are stuck in public universities whereas private institutions are the entitlement of the richer class.
2. Even teaching in legal institutions is perceived solely as a commercial contract. The growing mentality of treating education as a business has strangled the belief of teachers into its cobweb. Teaching in colleges is generally taken to utilize their time between their masters and PHD affecting the pedagogy.
3. We are producing highly competent emigrants. Graduates are more inclined to take up jobs in developed nations rather than contributing for their own nation’s gain. The universities intend that their student-consumers be shaped to become highly marketable in the capital world. Every graduate has a price attached to them which decides his or her capital expectancy.
4. The tide of increasing tuition fees in government universities makes education inaccessible to certain sections of society, particularly poor, thereby leaving them at their own behest. The approach indicates the plan of state to surrender its duty as a welfare state in regard to education system on the grounds that there is lack of funds.
5. The neoliberal agenda has not only impacted the pedagogical angle of legal education but had also made education high-priced commodity. Corporatization has been the response to neoliberal policies. It has lead to spread of law schools, with students paying high fees. Investing in law schools is result of the unstoppable demand for the profession among generation and constant fall in public funding of universities. In addition, the belief that law requires nominal resources and could be imparted cheaply through lecture methods makes the profession more lucrative business.
6. Another imperative aspect of legal education is legal internships which greatly influences the future prospects of a graduate. However the existence of elitism can be witnessed in this domain as well. The internships in prominent law firms and advocates are the privilege of those who have connections with them, undeniably the rich class. The ones who lack approach are left at mercy of filing applications which are not often accepted.
7. The number of admissions in the private universities is higher than that in public universities. Commercialization of degrees is the new form of education developed by private universities. Trade of knowledge is shaping the current education scenario.
Quality infrastructure and advanced libraries are the selling point for these universities.
8. Students, the economic players, have also changed their goals from what was previously innate to larger outward goal of being financially well off. An education system based on commercial ideology offers no opportunity for students to develop critical thinking.
Neoliberal system seizes the narrative of a legal education in universities which no longer yearns to develop the mind of the student, but to get a “good job.” Learning for the purpose of income generation becomes the first and only goal of the law students .Legal education, thus, is losing its critical edge as it becomes nothing but a mechanistic process , which gradually leads to becoming an instrument of manufacturing ‘professional’ beings geared up to sell their labour as and when required in the process.
Neoliberalism prioritizes free market model as the appropriate way of dealing with the society. Thus denotes the preference of economics over societal phenomenon, creating a slippery ground for legal education system. In the aspect of legal education, this ideology leads to stress on the students that may be detrimental to ethical goals.
An ideology hostile to state intervention in realm of societal institutions can have serious repercussions. Capitalism indisputably cripples the education system and causes economic inequalities.
With the advent of globalization and beginning of neoliberal age, the country has witnessed collapse of public institutions and fall of quality in public education system. The emphasis has been on working solely to the tutoring of STEM fields thereby ignoring other fields of education such as the legal system.
The notion of caste equality, social justice, rights of citizens to afford services also seem to be in danger due to neoliberal application. These tenets of life are undermined and stands ignored.
The transition of portrayal of the university, from knowledge houses to entrepreneurship structures has greatly impacted the system. The neoliberal era marks a negative shift in the access of services. Education being one of the objectives of a welfare state, should be concentrated upon by the government through funding in such sectors so as to promote literacy in the country. Inaccessibility of legal education to various sections of society reflects the professional neglect and inequitable model of education system. In order to protect legal education in India the departments, not ignited by the lust of money, should rise above the platform and provide an environment of study and development. Improvements must be made in education structure so as to boost critical thinking. The policies should be framed to ensure accessible and equal education opportunities in legal profession. The students and educators must be encouraged to assume a joint obligation to foster schooling as a social good so as to alter the capitalist status quo.
The deliberation and awareness about alternative employment opportunities, other than the orthodox metro centric application of law, must be conveyed to the students as it could fulfill the desperation of a lot of young law students who wish to make a valuable contribution to the society. There is shortage of lawyers in regional, rural and remote areas, secondly, most of the citizens ordinarily cannot afford access to legal services, which is a problem that cries out for new innovate responses and thirdly, there is always a need for creative thinkers in government sectors, community sector, education, journalism and the private sector.
The contention is that the neo liberal model is in deep conflict with the conventional method and interpretation of education. The point to be noted is that how people with power and position within neoliberal space could manipulate education according to their own whims.With the growing demand for law schools aided by deregulation of fees, the value of law students is gauged in economic variable and the concerns of student’s wellbeing are put on the edge.
The legal academy explicitly demands for a transformation from the idea of labour market prospects to reproduction of well trained knowledge machinery.
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