Life of a Ball at CLE in Viet Nam

As told to Bui Thu Hien

In 2011, one of the BABSEACLE Viet Nam Team’s main missions was to further strengthen the clinical legal education programs in Vietnam under the UNDP.CLE project. In order to fulfil the mission, we have been providing capacity training for law clinics throughout the country. Capacity training consists of several different components, such as:

  • Interviewing and Counselling Skills
  • Supervising and Assessing the CLE Program
  • CLE Textbook / Manual, Curriculum Devel-opment
  • Debating Skills
  • Budget and Proposal Writing Skills

These are all invaluable skills that law students need to develop for their future careers as lawyers and that professors must develop to become better teachers. Integrating these skills into the law curriculum requires us to use a different and creative method of teaching. Thus this ball has become an indispensable ‘co-trainer’ in all of our training workshops.

Let the ball tell you the story of its journey in 2011

“It’s been an extremely busy year for me. I have been to many universities all over Viet Nam with my team. This year has been a little different to other years because the development of CLE in Vietnam is at a new level. We are now at the level where we are focusing on training lecturers and senior students because we believe that at this stage of development, in order to progress even further, each university needs to have its own core team involved in establishing and running the law clinic and training new students and supervisors for the future. We want the universities to become self-sufficient in running their own CLE program.

“We also worked with each university to identify their specific needs and provide skills training tailored to these needs and we provided technical support too. When we very clearly identified the beneficiaries of the workshops, the class size was different among the different universities, as were the topics and materials we taught. So I never got bored because in each classroom I went to, the topic, skills, materials and the number of participants were all different.

“Some of the places I visited included the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, the National Economic University, the Trade Union University, Can Tho University, Ho Chi Minh City Law University and the University of Economics and Law, Hue University and Vinh University. My job is to make the lesson more interactive and encourage students to talk. During brainstorming and Q&A sessions, I am thrown around the classroom and the person who catches me has to talk. I like listening to the students and all their ideas and I keep students awake because no one knows who will have to catch me next – and if they are not paying attention, I might accidently hit their face. I aim to make the class more fun and make the lesson more memorable for students. But I have to say, it does make me dizzy sometimes!

“My highlight of 2011 was the training workshop at Can Tho University in December. There were 15 young lecturers at a workshop on the CLE manual and CLE curriculum design and use.  Nearly half of them had not attended any CLE training workshops prior to this one. So when the CLE staff started throwing me, the beautiful ball, around the class, these newcomers were a little confused. But of course, it made them more interested in the lesson, because the way CLE teaches using interactive methods is very different, and I think much more fun than the traditional teaching method of lecturing. On the last day of the workshop, when the lecturers had to practice teaching chapters in the textbook, most of them used ME to assist them. I felt so happy and proud that we had taught these learners a new and more effective way of teaching.  One of the lecturers even told me that she wanted to take me away with her and use me in her law class. Obviously, I couldn’t do that – I would never leave my wonderful Viet Nam team, we are family now. But I did tell her where she could pick up some of my brothers and sisters who would love to assist her in her class.

“All the universities that have joined the CLE Network in Viet Nam want to achieve the target of having a CLE program as an official subject in the curriculum. Therefore, the workshops that have focused on supervision, assessment, textbook design and use were very helpful. They are not only about skills training but also give faculty members and students the bigger picture of how the CLE course will develop in the near future.”