In the first quarter of 2015, a couple of high school students intending to pursue Law at University approached me for guidance on the pre-entry exam that they were going sit a few months away.
They were terrified! They hated the whole arrangement with a passion. To them, it was a ploy by Universities for making money. They even informed me of some of their colleagues who have instead applied to other institutions that do not administer this exam.
My unenviable task was first to convince them that this idea was actually for their own good and for the profession as a whole. You should have seen the frown on their faces!!!
Before going further, let appreciate the basics. A law pre-entry exam is a standardized test for prospective law students designed to assess their reading, comprehension, logical, communication and analytical abilities as well as awareness of contemporary issues both locally and internationally.
In Uganda, the test was introduced around 2009 by Uganda Christian University. A year later, the Law Development Centre (LDC) adopted it and Makerere University School of Law followed suit in 2011.
By administering this test, Universities hope that they will be able to attract students who are more mentally focused and ready to undertake the Law program. This is why the nature of test examines the student’s reading and comprehension skills, language and numerical competencies, general knowledge, oratory and analytical writing skills– basic talents each lawyer must possess.
From my experience helping these “vacists” in commencing their journey to Law School, I agree with the long-standing observation that most of them lack the aptitude to pursue this rigorous course that demands a curious mind that can logically analyze and resolve legal issues. They wanted to be fed on answers. Actually, some of them thought I had access to the paper they were going to sit. How absurd!!!
This exposes the gaps in our Secondary School training which has become largely privatized and commercialized, unfortunately with disproportionate supervision by the government. Stories are told of how students in A’ Level are advised to do “simple” subjects that easily fetch them AAA grades (to get law) as opposed to the “hard” subjects that build their critical thinking abilities.
One of my friends, David Okwii has propounded what he calls the “theory of disruption” in which he argues that the quality of education must increase if students hope to have better chances of getting jobs. He roots for a form of new thinking that will usher in “disruptive” innovations to not only enhance access to education but also improve on its quality to reflect 21st Century challenges.
The pre-entry exam, in my view is one of those “disruptive” concepts that is not only going to check on our Secondary Schools but also improve the quality of legal education in Uganda. It is a game changer in Uganda’s education history. It is no longer business as usual but rather business un-usual since it has removed the monotony of some schools to supply students to law school.
Pre-entry exam affords an opportunity to passionate learners who may not have “excelled” at the national examinations but have the right mindset and predisposition to become fine lawyers to pursue this coveted course.
Besides that, it also contributes to the profession’s quality assurance infrastructure by ensuring that the right students are trained at undergraduate level, who will in turn (easily) undertake the rigorous one year Bar Course training. Ultimately, (it is hoped that) competent and professional lawyers are produced!
I have heard rumors t the effect that Universities are planning to expand this test to all other courses. I hope it happens soon!!!