JIS News

The Human Resource Committee of the House of Representatives will review a proposal to look at the need to extend training and certifying facilities for new entrants into the legal and medical professions.
The decision was taken by the House on Tuesday (October 20), during debate on a Private Members Motion from MP for Central Kingston, Ronnie Thwaites. The motion called for consultations between the Ministries of Education, Justice and Health, to extend facilities for training and certification of new entrants into the professions of law and medicine.
Mr. Thwaites said that only a small portion of qualified applicants are able to be admitted through the certifying facility of the Norman Manley Law School each year. He said that this was forcing aspiring lawyers to qualify in other jurisdictions, at great costs, and often migrate to the detriment of the justice system.
The resolution also suggested that a similar situation obtains in respect of the training of medical doctors, and proposed consultations between the three Ministries to extend the facilities for training and certifying new entrants.
Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, agreed that there was a need to expand the number of facilities available to train and certify persons in the fields of law and medicine. He said that they were, undoubtedly, two of the most competitive professions.
Speaking specifically to law, he explained that the situation was that anyone who studies at the faculty of law (UWI), does one year in Jamaica and two years in Barbados and are entitled to a space at any of the law schools within the region.
Jamaica takes in approximately 80 students each year, and the Norman Manley Law School also takes in students from other jurisdictions. However, a growing number of persons have decided to conduct their studies through external programmes, such as the University of London’s.
“But, the University of Technology (UTech) has now developed a law faculty, (and) the dilemma we face, and the problem that has existed is; what do we do with those students who are studying law through foreign universities? And, now that UTech is offering law at the undergraduate level, where will these students get their certification for practice?” he observed.
The Education Minister stated that the time has come for the Government to revisit the treaty arrangement that established the Norman Manley Law School and the certification process for lawyers in the region, to ensure that it is fair and democratic.
“So that students who study at UTech will have equal opportunity to get certified, should they chose to go on to become practicing attorneys,” he proposed.
Mr. Holness also explained that the medical faculty faced its own problems, having opened a programme for full paying students, which now has significant challenges.
“Many times I receive letters from students asking for some assistance, asking for the state to sponsor them. But, the state already sponsors approximately 120 students, so we have to consider very carefully, that when we are reviewing the processes of certification, we seriously consider the cost involved,” he added.
Member of Parliament for South East St. Andrew, Maxine Henry Wilson, also noted the cost of establishing the right infrastructure for additional faculties.
“Its not just an issue of asking these Ministries to provide for additional spaces, but for us to recognise that, in addition to the spaces, there are infrastructure and personnel needs. There are real costs that we have to be willing to undertake, if we want to ensure that those who graduate,- from whatever entity in Jamaica that is graduating lawyers and doctors, that they have the international recognition that we have always had,” Mrs. Henry-Wilson outlined.
She pointed to critical issues, such as ensuring that matriculation requirements are met; that admissions are properly posted; that the students’ grades are properly entered so that transcripts can be easily obtained; and that courses are properly accredited.
She stressed the importance of maintaining quality, cautioning that while it is recognised that there needs to be expansion, the country has to be careful that, in the end, “we do not become known as a destination for low quality graduates.”
She said that this would tarnish the reputation of the universities in the region.

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