The Myanmar Shwe: Empowering Law Students, Teachers, and the Community Through Clinical Education and the Rule of Law
78 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021
Date Written: February 1, 2021
Myanmar’s attorneys, judges, law officers, and law teachers are slowly emerging from the isolated world they inhabited during decades of military authoritarianism. Almost a decade ago, the country triumphantly burst into an era of “disciplined” democracy under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, de facto head of state. Yet, the legal education system continues to be marked by hierarchical and bureaucratic practices, infrastructural and pedagogical neglect, and low confidence in the formal justice sector. The authors—two American law professors and practitioners and two students—discuss the direction of legal education in Southeast Asia and how clinical legal education (CLE) methodologies can be used to empower law students, teachers, and their communities, with an emphasis on the rule of law and access to justice. They draw on their experience in developing and piloting Community Teaching and Externship Preparation law school curricula in 2017–2019 under the auspices of non-governmental organization BABSEACLE (formerly Bridges Across Borders South East Asia Clinical Legal Education Initiative). They highlight two teaching modules: Community Needs Assessments and peer-to-peer “CLE English” classes at university law departments in remote regions of the country and the outskirts of Yangon. Along with receptiveness for new approaches to teaching, learning, and mentoring by international experts, the authors faced centralized decision-making and planning, no culture of faculty collegiality or autonomy, risk aversion, reluctance to “stand out” amongst peers, frequent teacher transfers, inadequate research skills, rote learning, undue reliance on “distance education,” and limited English proficiency. Lastly, the authors comment on the future potential of this educational initiative and the “Development Industry.” Warning against a “Project World” mentality, unwelcome imposition of liberal ideals of individualism, and neocolonial tendencies, they highlight the importance of consultation with educational institutions, awareness of the role of local intermediaries and informal justice sector, and the need for genuine coordination and partnership amongst donor agencies and NGOs.
This paper was published as The Myanmar Shwe: Empowering Law Students, Teachers, and the Community Through Clinical Education and the Rule of Law, 28 Indiana J. Global Legal Studies 153 (2021). No part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or distributed in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photographic, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Indiana Univ. Press. For educational reuse, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center (www.copyright.com). For all other permissions, contact IU Press (http://iupress.indiana.edu/rights/).
Keywords: CLE, Clinical Legal Education, Community Legal Education, Community Needs Assessment, Law and Development, Myanmar, Peer Education, Rule of Law, Teaching Capacity
JEL Classification: K00, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation