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[Reprint] Pan Jianfeng: Reform of Law Courses: Understanding and Practice of Peking University

Article source: Legal Education, Legal Daily Education October 30, 2018
The university opened and the door to the law opened. Peking University is the pioneer, leader and promoter of Chinese legal education. In 1904, the establishment of the "Legal Science Gate" in the Jingshi University opened the first step in the legal education of modern Chinese universities. In 1977, Peking University was one of the first three institutions of higher learning to resume legal education in the country. Since then, China’s legal education has undergone major reforms, whether it is the recruitment of master's and doctoral students, the opening of a master's degree program, or the opening of a legal clinic course, and the promotion of internationalization of law education. Peking University Law School is a courageous person who dares to be a leader. Responsible for history, responsible for the country, responsible for students, the legal education and talent training as the core of the college work. In recent years, Peking University Law School has put forward the working ideas of “all work is carried out around the effective training of students” and has carried out effective curriculum reform.
The reason for the reform of curriculum is that after nearly 40 years of development, the enrollment scale and enrollment category of law education in China have made great progress and significant changes. Taking Peking University Law School as an example, students are divided into different categories, such as Doctor of laws, postgraduate of law, master of law in undergraduate study law and undergraduate do not study law and undergraduates, and there are obvious differences in recruitment way, knowledge background, career planning and so on. Therefore, it is bound to be different in the training goal. For example, for Doctor of laws and Master of Laws, we hope to train them as a research force and research reserve with independent research ability and profound academic accomplishment. For the master of Law in Undergraduate Study Law, the aim is to train it as a firm foundation, a high-level academic or practical legal talent. And for the master of law in undergraduate do not study law, it is cultivated as a compound and practical legal talent with interdisciplinary background. In short, in the training of talents, we should not only have the same overall goal, that is, to train excellent legal personnel for the country, but also to differentiate the different types of students, according to the needs of society and the interests of students, to carry out differentiated training, and set up targeted courses.
Through the reform of curriculum setting, the Peking University Law school divides all legal specialty courses into four types, such as basic category, special topic category, practical category and international category, which embodies the different functional levels of the curriculum. The basic courses include the traditional compulsory courses and the new case study courses. Legal writing courses, which are aimed at helping students to build theoretical knowledge framework, consolidate basic theory, master basic knowledge and develop good legal thinking. And the thematic courses belong to the advanced courses of various disciplines, aiming at leading students to construct a knowledge map of a certain field of expertise, understand the hot spots in this field, cutting-edge development, and master the relevant professional knowledge and corresponding legal skills. The practical courses are designed to lead students to contact practice, and at the practical level to learn to use the legal knowledge, principles, and further exercise their legal logical thinking ability. The purpose of international courses is to expand students ' international horizons, strengthen their professional knowledge, The combination of skills and language expression fosters students ' ability to understand and apply the law in a globalized environment.
1.Basic Courses
Basic courses are the cornerstone of legal application and law research, and only by completing the teaching and training of basic concepts, basic tenets and basic theories can the legal community have the possibility of communication. Peking University Law School has always attached importance to basic courses, and a large number of top domestic professors have taken the lead in the teaching of basic courses and written teaching materials handouts and tutorials personally. Their profound knowledge and in-depth teaching style, for the Peking University Law school students laid a solid professional foundation.
Outside the traditional compulsory course, in recent years we have also developed a special class of basic courses, that is, case study classes and writing training sessions, in the hope of getting through the last mile from legal education to legal application. The case study course is aimed at the basic subject, and the four courses of criminal law, civil law, penalty prosecution and civil prosecution have been offered. Each course is headed by two instructors and two to eight teaching assistants who take a small class discussion of the Socratic teaching method in the classroom, where teachers and teaching assistants organize students to discuss the case, and after class the teacher arranges the case assignments and leads the assistant to correct them. The course of legal writing aims at different writing goals, classifies other skills and methods that need to be mastered in legal writing, so as to train students ' ability of retrieval, thinking and writing, to solve students ' confusion in writing legal documents, academic papers and reading notes, and at the same time to enhance students ' ability to collect and process legal literature information in the information age. At present, "Legal writing and Retrieval" and "law papers and methods" two courses have been offered.
Whether it's a case study class or a law writing class, students are required to complete the prescribed assignments on a weekly basis. Taking any course, almost all the words of the homework completed in one semester are more than 100,000 words. Teachers and teaching assistants also need to give feedback on the timely submission of assignments, so they have to invest a lot of time and effort. Law schools also provide strong support for such courses in the construction of funds, classrooms, scheduling hours, teaching materials and other courses. With the joint efforts of students, teachers and colleges, case study courses and legal writing courses have increasingly become the most attractive types of courses at Peking University Law School, not only in the teaching evaluation by students, but also a number of brother-universities teachers specially come to the Peking University court to attend such courses, and teach teachers to exchange teaching experience.
2.Thematic courses
Thematic courses are advanced in various legal departments. At the end of the basic course, a more open and research course is offered to students who wish to further their studies in the field. In the way of teaching, the special courses are richer and more diverse, and teachers may teach them strictly, or they may guide their classmates to discuss criticism in groups. Traditionally, most of these courses have been aimed only at students majoring in law after division. In recent years, the Peking University Law School has opened up the elective scope of special courses, implemented credit credits, fully respected the wishes of students, and allowed senior undergraduates, law students and doctoral students to participate in the study of thematic courses to provide opportunities for them to expand their knowledge depth.
In the 2018, Peking University Law School will also in the past only for doctoral students "law Frontier Course" to create an innovative open classroom "high-order lecture on the Law Ladder", by the senior professors of various majors in combination with academic frontier issues to teach the basic methods of legal research and the cutting-edge issues of the subject. These lectures were open to teachers, students and the public in the whole school. They received extensive social attention, and the venue was wonderful. They attracted students, teachers and legal practitioners from the institute and other research institutes to come and listen, and won wide acclaim from the society.
3.Substantive courses
Practical courses are a bridge for students to understand the work of legal practice. Unlike the ordinary inviting practitioners to give lectures to students, the practical courses of Peking University Law school are usually built by experts from both inside and outside the school, and are dominated by teachers in schools to ensure the scientific and systematic nature of the teaching content, and to grasp the feedback and evaluation of the students in a timely manner, so as to ensure the quality of teaching and norms.
The practical courses of Peking University Law School pay special attention to the subtle differences in the perspectives and analysis methods of the same legal issues from the perspective of different legal professions, thus distinguishing them from the traditional legal education focus theory perspective, providing students with the most intuitive practical knowledge and practice skills. In line with the practical curriculum, the construction of the practice platform by Peking University Law School, through the creation of legal student clubs, entrepreneurial sand trays, real work workshops and other legal students community, to build a government agencies, the judiciary, institutions of higher learning, law firms and financial institutions and other types of units of the Law Talent Exchange Platform, has greatly promoted the construction of the second classroom, and has formed an organic fusion with the traditional classroom teaching. In the guidance of student internships, Peking University Law School strengthens contact with internship units, instructors and other parties, and strives to enable students in the internship process to understand the true meaning of legal practice, enhances their own ability.
4.International Courses
The international curriculum is an important channel to expand students ' international vision and cultivate foreign legal talents. In order to lay down the foreign legal basis of students, Peking University Law School has vigorously promoted the international development of students, from the curriculum, teacher recruitment and overseas exchanges in three aspects to jointly help.
In the curriculum, Peking University Law School has set up a number of courses directly in English, including the year-round Chinese English course, to guide students to familiarize themselves with the international expression of Chinese law, and to introduce the common law essentials of Anglo-American legal system knowledge, American tort law, United States labor law and other courses, to encourage students to understand Anglo-American knowledge; and the "Global & comparative law", from the perspective of comparative law and globalization to observe the legal English course.
In the recruitment of teachers, Peking University Law School opened the national Law School, launched the "Global Chair program", hired 20 world-renowned law professors and legal practitioners, opened international frontier Law courses, and served as an international mentor to outstanding students, Yale University professor Paul Gewirtz as President of the global chair of Peking University Law School. Every year, Peking University Law School has several outstanding legal scholars and practical experts from overseas as resident teachers and visiting scholars, enriching the curriculum system of Peking University.
In overseas exchanges, Peking University Law School has signed cooperation agreements with more than 100 internationally renowned university law schools, sending more than 200 students to participate in international exchange programs every year. These projects are rich in content and have varying lengths of schooling, providing ample opportunities for students who are interested in internationalization. In addition, Peking University Law School also actively recommends that graduate students go abroad to pursue doctoral degrees through the National Scholarship Council. So far, dozens of doctors have obtained double doctoral degrees in Peking University and overseas universities. Most of these students have worked as a teacher at prestigious universities at home and abroad after obtaining double doctoral degrees.
Summarizing the experience of Peking University Law School in curriculum reform, we deeply feel how difficult and glorious law education is. It is difficult because the law of education determines that it is a long-term cause that needs to be accumulated. It is not allowed to be false, and it is difficult to immediately produce results. Therefore, both teachers and colleges need to devote. Dedication to selfless investment, in order to gather together. It is glorious because we are going through a great new era, shouldering the mission of cultivating outstanding legal talents for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, so that students can grow a little, and the perfect rule of law China is a little more close from realization. It is with such a sense of mission and responsibility that all the teachers of Peking University Law School will be able to take advantage of the talents and cultivate talents as the starting point for all work. In the future work, we will continue to deepen the reform, ensure the investment of resources, promote the further standardization of basic courses, further systematic thematic courses, further diversification of practical courses, further normalization of international courses, improve the quality of courses, enrich the content of the curriculum.


Translated by: Bi Xinyue
Edited by: Chen Qingqing