Some times, our government does things that make you wonder whether they have some deep mental problems. Like severe schizophrenia.
Take, for example, what they just did regarding the list of law schools recognised in Singapore. Just last year, it was announced that eight law schools from UK would be dropped from the list of recognised law schools in Singapore. The ostensible impetus for that move was that the numbers of Singaporeans heading to UK for law degrees and returning to practise were burgeoning, which contributed to a possible glut of lawyers in Singapore.
Ok. Fine. You want to prevent people from spending a small fortune going to UK universities to study law only to come back and find it difficult to practise law then go cry father cry mother to you. And you don’t want your NUS Law students to have to fight for a job as a lawyer. Because they also will cry father cry mother if their entitlement to be a lawyer just because they got into NUS Law School is threatened.
Alright. I don’t agree with that, but I can understand why the government would want to do it.
Then why in the flying fuck did Singapore just agree to recognise the Juris Doctor (aka JD, which is a professional graduate law degree) degrees from 10 Australian universities?! This recognition came as part of the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Package (CSPP). With this recognition, students who earn the JD degree from 10 Australian universities would be able to practise law in Singapore. As Professor Tyrone Carlin, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney (one of the universities whose JD degrees are now recognised by Singapore), said:
“It offers real job security for students from Singapore studying Law at the University of Sydney, knowing they can go home and their educational achievements will be valued.”
Eh hello. I thought just last year we were concerned about a glut of lawyers? That’s why we dropped eight UK universities, right? And then now? Not worried about the glut anymore, is it? Can add TEN Australian universities? Ten minus eight is two. So the nett effect of this schizophrenia is that we have added another two universities to the list of recognised overseas law schools. Wouldn’t that potentially add more law graduates vying to be lawyers to our system?
And how do you justify adding those ten Australian law schools? Are they better than the eight UK law schools that were dropped? In what ways? What’s the evidence? Are the graduates of those ten Australian law schools added better quality than those of the eight UK law schools that were dropped? How do we know? Was the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE), which was responsible for dropping the eight UK law schools, consulted this time round? If not, why not? Aren’t they supposedly the experts on this matter?
Or is this whole exercise purely because we desperately needed to get this CSPP thing going? So academic standards of law schools be damned. Let’s not let one minor thing like that jeopardise the whole package now shall we? Perhaps our sense of “meritocracy” is not that iron-clad after all. With the right threats and incentives, our definition of “meritocracy” can be contorted to suit whatever needs.
Come on, WP, you need to press the PAP cabinet ministers in charge of MFA and Law to explain this. That’s why you are in Parliament for! To ask the tough questions! Protect the interests of those poor kids studying law in NUS and SMU. Later they have to fight with graduates from foreign universities to be lawyer, sibei jialat one you know. Must help them!
I really hope that there will be some explanation to this. Can’t stand this level of schizophrenia. But… knowing the government… I am not holding my breath.