“What is the best thing about my university?” He pauses and thinks for a moment. “The best thing about my university is……I am able to speak with a fluency that I did not have in my first year.”
He may as well as have punched me in the stomach for all the effect it had. The question I had asked was a fairly standard one; put forth to nearly every student I meet on the law school darshan tour. Most answers follow a fairly set routine. A pause followed by a combination of any of the following: good seniors, plenty of opportunities, infrastructure etc.
But this answer made me catch my breath and think for a while. Have I forgotten what a real education is supposed to be about? Have statistics on placements, on moots and on scholarships blurred my understanding of an “education”?
For various reasons, some of which are briefly mentioned below, I am glad that the National Law Institute University, Bhopal (NLIU) was the last school I visited this year; it certainly did help put a few things in perspective. More importantly, the visit raised more than a few questions about legal education in general and the five-year integrated programme in particular.
Prof. SS Singh is a hard, hard man. This becomes apparent five minutes into my conversation him. After spending close to two decades teaching at the Indian Institute of Public Administration (where his students included IAS and IPS officers), Prof Singh joined NLIU in 2008. From a student’s perspective, I can understand why Prof. Singh might not be the most popular man on campus. I don’t think he is a particularly easy man to convince; he does not buy into the “student is a consumer” kind of thinking, and appears to have a very low threshold for PR or marketing jargon.
Having said that though, Prof Singh does come across as a man with impeccable integrity. He also seems to be a person who will always have the student’s best interest in mind, irrespective of whether the student can see it or not. He has also introduced some remarkable changes in the way NLIU is run; classes are held on time, results are declared within the pre-decided time frame, and also sent to the students’ parents. Like I said, he is tough but fair. I quite like that.
Towards the end of the conversation,