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Experiential Learning

Enhancing Experiential Learning Opportunities within the Human Rights Curriculum


Abstract

This project enhanced the human rights curriculum and learning experience by providing opportunities for students to actively contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights.

The initiative’s individual course offerings and projects allowed students to serve the community while developing a professional network and mentoring relationships with practitioners at international and local law firms, barristers’ chambers, government bodies, United Nations agencies, and international and domestic civil society organizations. The experiences, networks and mentoring relationships enhanced and deepened student learning as well as promoted the values of pro bono legal services.

The project created concrete and sustainable experiential learning opportunities by:

  1. Exposing students to the challenges and skills of acting in the role of a lawyer within the unstructured situations that international human rights lawyers confront in practice;
  2. Expanding opportunities for collaborative experiential learning;
  3. Giving students an opportunity to practice their professional skills and ethics;
  4. Encouraging students to identify and provide services for unmet legal needs;
  5. Encouraging critical analysis of the law, the relationship between international and domestic legal systems, and the clients’ place and the lawyer’s role within the international legal system; and
  6. Providing students an opportunity to evaluate the real-life application and effects of international human rights instruments, as well as contribute to the promotion, progressive enforcement and internalization of international human rights.

Principal Investigator

Ms. K.A. Loper, Department of Law, Faculty of Law Contact

Project level

Programme-level project

Project Completion

April 2015

Deliverables

The deliverables will all be accessible via the Human Rights Programme’s new Experiential Learning Website which is currently under construction and will be launched in 2017. Please contact Lindsay Ernst (lernst@hku.hk) or Kelley Loper (kloper@hku.hk) for additional information.

Human rights-related experiential learning and clinical legal education opportunities identified, designed and successfully developed during the grant period:

  1. Community Legal Education Programme:
    The grantees launched the Community Legal Education Programme: “Street Law for Refugees” (See “Experiential Learning Components” below.) The Community Legal Education Programme continues as a standalone community legal education/knowledge exchange initiative with an expanded outreach to persons with intellectual disabilities, migrant workers, law students and law professors in Myanmar, marginalized communities in Myanmar, and select non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) in Hong Kong.

    The Community Legal Education Programme seeks to empower communities by making the law accessible to all and by supporting NGOs to incorporate rights-based practices. We use interactive methods to teach practical law lessons to non-legal professionals, marginalized community groups, and other members of the community.

    Law students and pro bono lawyers who participate in our Community Legal Education Programme collaborate with community groups to develop and teach interactive legal education curriculum designed to meet the legal needs of the community and strengthen the legal knowledge and skills of the community.

    A website is being created and will be launched in early 2017.

  2. “Human Rights in Practice” course:
    The course design is modeled after leading International Human Rights Clinics at Australian and North American law schools, using experiential learning projects as the primary mode of teaching. The course empowers and equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in the changing global legal environment by providing them with the opportunity to work on cutting-edge international legal issues while serving both local and international communities. Students collaborate with pro bono lawyers from leading international law firms, community partner organizations, and professors and students from international human rights clinics at universities outside of Hong Kong.

    Through providing a real-life service to NGO clients, students are encouraged to think innovatively about human rights and public interest law while critically engaging with legal processes, and to question the status quo while developing the insight to make good professional judgments.

    Project deliverables in this course have included:

    • Developed an easy ready “Know Your Rights” manual for persons with intellectual disabilities in Hong Kong
    • Designed legal curriculum and led a series of interactive legal training sessions for persons with intellectual disabilities
    • Conducted comparative legal research on LGBT rights and produced detailed legal memorandum to support a partner NGO’s legal training needs
    • Conducted comparative legal research and focus group sessions to support the development of a partner NGO’s advocacy strategy around transgender rights
    • Drafted a “Child Protection Guide: Legal Manual for Social Workers” and related training curriculum for a Hong Kong-based NGO
    • Drafted and published a legal practitioner’s manual on migrant workers rights in Hong Kong (A Practitioner’s Manual for Migrant Workers: Pursuing Civil Claims from Hong Kong and from Abroad (Hong Kong: Justice Without Borders, December 2015))
    • Collaborated in a regional workshop on migrant workers rights, held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, including contributing to the drafting of a collaborative report on laws governing employment agencies in Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, which will be published in the summer of 2016
    • Conducted a study of statelessness in Hong Kong
    • Designed, developed and led a community legal education training curriculum for migrant mothers.

    Community partners include: Chosen Power, Equity and Justice Initiative, Transgender Resource Center, Chinese La La Alliance, Justice Without Borders, Mother’s Choice, PathFinders and UNHCR.

  3. Experiential learning components in existing courses:
    The grantee designed and launched experiential learning components in two human rights courses: 1) Equality and Non-discrimination, and 2) International Protection of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. The components were launched at the outset of the grant period, in the second term of the 2013/14 academic year.

    • Equality and Non-discrimination Elective – Experiential Learning Component, second term 2013/14 academic year and second term 2014/15 academic year: In the second term of the 2013/14 academic year, the experiential learning component was offered in collaboration with the Equal Opportunities Commission, Mother’s Choice and Christian Action’s Domestic Helpers and Migrant Worker’s Programme. Through field placements with the chosen partner organizations, a competitively selected group of students developed their knowledge of human rights, legal skills and professional judgment in a real practice setting. The component provided participating students the unique opportunity to experience how the right to equality and non-discrimination is implemented in practice in Hong Kong.
    • International Protection of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Elective – Experiential Learning Component, second term 2013/14 academic year: law students enrolled in the International Protection of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons elective taught practical law lessons using interactive teaching methodologies to asylum-seekers and refugees at Christian Action’s Chungking Mansions Service Centre. The students designed and implemented a 6-week course curriculum that 1) engaged refugees in a critical examination of their legal rights and responsibilities, 2) advanced refugees’ knowledge of practical laws affecting their daily lives, and 3) fostered conflict resolution, problem solving and rights-based advocacy skills.
  4. Presentations of deliverables at international conferences:
    • 3rd Annual Asia Pro Bono Conference and Workshop: “Creating vibrant pro bono ecosystems to strengthen access to justice”: Upon invitation, the grant-funded research assistant presented an overview and analysis of the Human Rights-focused Experiential Learning and Pro Bono legal opportunities available to law students at HKU. The presentation served as an exemplary model to assist other law schools in the region with developing clinical legal education and experiential learning programmes. (National University of Singapore, 1-3 October 2014)
    • Ed O’Brien International Street Law and Legal Literacy Best Practices Conference 2016: The grant-funded research assistant presented the Human Rights in Practice course’s work in the area of Street Law at the International Street Law Conference in Durban, South Africa from 1 – 3 April 2016. This will serve as a model programme for Street Law courses around the world and will be included in an international conference publication. (Forthcoming, University of Kwazulu-Natal, 1-3 April 2016)
    • 2016 Asia Pro Bono Forum: “The Impact of Pro Bono on Transformational Change”: Upon invitation, the grant-funded research assistant presented an analysis of the Human Rights in Practice course’s pro bono collaborations (“Impactful Pro Bono Collaborations: Real Results from Better Collaboration”), community legal education trainings for people with intellectual disabilities (“Pro Bono and People with Disabilities”), and practitioner’s guide to migrant worker’s rights in Hong Kong (“Migrant Workers and Pro Bono Assistance”. (Indonesia, 29 August – 1 September 2016)

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