The Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has promised to write a report on the concerns of students of the Ghana School of Law (GSL), which will be submitted to the floor of the house for discussion.
The committee made the pledge yesterday at the end of a meeting with the Students’ Representative Council of GSL.
The meeting, which was held at the invitation of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, discussed the high fail rates.
The General Legal Council (GLC) and lecturers also took part in the meeting.
- Since the establishment of the Independent Examinations Committee (IEC), formerly known as the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), to administer both Entrance and Professional Law Examinations at the Ghana School of Law, there have been unprecedented massive failures in the Professional Law Examinations.
- In the 2017 Professional Law Course Examinations, only 91 students out of a total of about 600 students passed the examinations. Over 200 candidates were repeated.
- The 2018 Professional Law Course Examinations results are the worst in the recent history of the Ghana School of Law.
Out of a total of 525 students who sat the examinations, only 64, representing 11 per cent, passed all 10 subjects.
A total of 177 students, representing 30.5 per cent, were referred in various subjects while 284 students, almost half the total number of students, were repeated.
Again, out of 33 Post-Call Students who sat the examinations last year, only seven, representing 21 per cent, passed.
Out of the over 200 repeat students who sat the examinations last year, only eight passed.
- The legality of the erstwhile Independent Examinations Board was challenged in the Supreme Court in the case of Asare V Attorney-General and the General Legal Council, and the Apex Court held that the IEB was illegal.
- Consequently, Regulation 12 of the Legal Profession (Professional and Post-Call Law Course) Regulations, 2018 (LI 2355) gave legal backing to the four-member IEC.
- Mr Speaker, the IEC operates to exclude lecturers from the examination process. By its modus operandi, lecturers neither set examination questions nor mark scripts.
- This development has created several challenges, including, but not limited to:
- Some examination questions the committee fall outside the scope of the course outline based on which students are taught.
- Deficient and inadequate examination questions which lecturers usually point out in class when discussing past questions with students.
iii. Wrong set of questions for specific subjects. For example, in 2017, students boycotted the Criminal Procedure Examination because Law of Evidence questions were included in that examination.
- The unpredictable structure of the examinations. For instance, in some cases, students enter the examinations hall only to discover that some questions are compulsory.
- Challenges with the marking of examination results. This is evidenced by the fact that many students who hitherto were reported to have failed specific papers passed upon applying for remarking.
- Again, there have been reports of errors in the tallying of examination results, where students upon application for retallying of their marks passed whereas they were failed initially.
vii. Concerns that in some subjects marking schemes were not available to the examiners. This was indicated in the 2018 examiners report. Also, in some cases examiners’ reports for specific subjects are not available to both students and lecturers. Thus, there are no criteria for improving the teaching and learning of the courses.
viii. That some of the lawyers who are given scripts to mark give them to juniors in their chambers to mark.
- The manual processes of the IEC leaves room for many errors along the value chain of examinations.
- In addition to the above, the IEC delays unduly in the release of examination results since it does not hold itself to any timelines for the release of results.
- Mr Speaker, it is the practice that when the first set of examinations are conducted in June, the IEC holds on with the results until the second set of examinations are conducted in September before releasing the results.
For the 2017 and 2018 examinations the results were released in February 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Eight months after the conduct of examinations. This practice puts students through a lot of psychological trauma.
While we think that this practice is unfair and unreasonable, it is also not akin to international best practice.
- Again, apart from publishing the index numbers of students who passed or were referred in one or two subjects, students are not given a statement of their results.
- The current practice is that students who desire to see their results must visit the records office for an officer to mention their grades to them to write out themselves.
They are not allowed to see their actual marks. This practice clearly violates the rights of students to fully access their examination results.
There is also a high probability of wrong results being mentioned to students and they would have no means to verify this.
- Given the challenges with the management of the examinations, some students decide to apply for remarking of their scripts.
Unfortunately, the cost of applying for remarking is a whopping GH¢3,000.00 per script.
We contend that this rate is arbitrary since it has not been approved in the Fees and Charges Regulations.
It is also exorbitant hence it prevents students with genuine concerns who are unable to afford it to exercise their right to remarking.
- Repeat students have not been placed for the mandatory internship programme. It is our considered view that this decision is unfair.
With the current reforms, students in their first year of the Professional Law Course are required to undertake their internship after their Part 1 Examinations when their results would not have been released. Failure to place repeat students on internship is therefore unfair.
- Following the agitations that greeted the release of the 2017 results in February 2018, the leadership of the Students’ Representative Council petitioned the General Legal Council and subsequently met with various stakeholders, including the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship, Justice Sophia Akuffo. Unfortunately, there was no favourable outcome as the Chief Justice maintained that Parliament gave the General Legal Council the power in the LI 2355.
- The General Legal Council, in its response to the petition from the SRC, indicated in a letter to the SRC dated April 18, 2018 that their allegations were “unfounded and baseless”.
This we find rather unfortunate when in fact students were not invited to adduce evidence to prove their claims.
- The GLC further indicated in paragraph 3 of the said letter that “The Council also decided that it will not react to group communications from the students or Students’ Representative Council on Review, Remarking and Recollation of results in future”.
- By the above statement, the General Legal Council has SHUT THE DOOR to addressing any future concerns about students regarding examinations. This in our view is unfair and a gross violation of Article 23 of the Constitution, 1992.
- In March 2018, the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the General Legal Council, led by Justice William Atuguba, had meetings with students at the Accra Main, Green Hill and the Kumasi Campuses of the Ghana School of Law to obtain feedback from students on the Professional Law Course.
- During the interactions, students raised concerns about challenges with examinations, particularly setting questions outside the course outline given to students. The committee assured students that such incidents would not recur.
- The Monitoring and Evaluation Committee further assured students that provisions in the Legal Profession (Professional and Post-Call Law Course) Regulations, 2018 (LI 2355), which was enacted in March, 2018 particularly after the 2017/2018 academic year intake would not be applicable to students particularly Regulation 33 (3) which states that, “A candidate who fails in three or more subjects shall be deemed to have failed the whole examination and may be permitted to write another examination without pursuing another course”.
- The committee assured students that provisions in the LI 2355 would not be applicable to the 2017/2018 year group of students since their rights has accrued before the enactment of the LI. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The above provision has been applied.
- Upon completion of the 2018 Professional Law Examinations, the Students’ Representative Council, in good faith, submitted a detailed report to the General Legal Council on the examinations.
This report provided comprehensive feedback to the GLC on the examinations from the perspective of students.
It was the expectation of the Students’ Representative Council that the GLC would consider the content of the report. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
- Eventually, the results of the 2018 PLC examinations were released on February 19, 2019 and it recorded the worst performance in the recent history of the Ghana School of Law.
- Mr Speaker, even though the General Legal Council has closed its doors to any concerns from students relative to examinations, the SRC went ahead to petition the General Legal Council. Unfortunately, the GLC is yet to acknowledge receipt of the petition.
- Having exhausted all internal mechanisms of seeking redress to our concerns, we are left with no choice than to seek the intervention of this august House of Parliament.
Mr Speaker, given the above situation, we petition this august house:
- That a thorough investigation and audit be conducted into the activities and procedures of the Independent Examinations Committee.
- That all failed scripts in Family Law and Practice, Company Law and Commercial Practice in which examination questions were outside of the course outline, should be remarked at NO cost to students.
- That questions outside the course outline should be cancelled and the rest marked over 100 percent.
- That the cost of remarking be reduced from GH¢3,000 per script to GH¢500 per script.
- That the repeat policy should be abolished.
- That arrangements be made for repeat students to take their examinations within one year to enable successful candidates called to bar within that year.
- That repeat students should be placed on internship.
- That the IEC should publish examiners reports for each examination conducted.
- That the cumulative release of results be abolished and each set of results be published immediately after they have been marked.
- That students should be given hard copies of statements of their results.
Mr Speaker, the Ghana School of Law, the sole institution for professional legal education in the Republic, marked its sixtieth anniversary last year 2018.
The tremendous impact of professional legal education is evident in all facets of the economy.
Indeed, we commend all the stakeholders, which include the General Legal Council, the lecturers, as well as the student body.
The challenges discussed above are, however, pressing and must be addressed.
We came here in our numbers because as we have indicated earlier, the General Legal Council has closed its doors to concerns from students related to examinations.
Secondly, we have absolute confidence in our Parliament’s ability to intervene to successfully resolve the challenges facing students in the ultimate interest of legal education and justice in this country.
While looking forward to a favourable outcome, we wish to assure the leadership of Parliament of our unflinching cooperation in finding a lasting solution to the problem of massive failure of students in the Professional Law Examinations and other challenges affecting legal education in Ghana.
Source: The Finder