Archive News

In March 2011, Professors Ben Boer and Rob Fowler of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law were in Wuhan, China, to lead a week-long training programme on the teaching of environmental law at the Research Institute of Environmental Law. Participants included approximately two dozen senior Chinese environmental law scholars who engaged in discussion of substantive environmental issues and explored questions of teaching methodology. Special thanks must also be extended to Vermont Law School for its support.

Although environmental law is now widely considered to be a core element of the legal education curriculum in a number of countries, the subject is either neglected or of marginal significance in many jurisdictions. (I would suggest not referring to any particular regions. Otherwise our Chinese, or for that matter, our Australian collegues, could be up in arms.) In addition, the intersections of environmental law with trade, human rights, economic policy, and, of course, the sciences, make it a particularly challenging field for teachers.

The Training the Teachers project is an initiative originating in the Academy’s Teaching and Capacity-Building Committee. The programme now comprises both a Basic and Advanced Course in teaching environmental law.

The Basic Course addresses the needs of scholars who are new to teaching environmental law. It provides an understanding of the scope and substance of environmental law accompanied by a demonstration of a wide range of teaching methodologies and approaches to student assessment. Upon completion, participants are expected to be in a position to design their own course with reference to the local context.

The Advanced Course seeks to prepare senior environmental law scholars in the developing world for the task of delivering the Basic Course to junior colleagues, and also provides an opportunity for participants to discuss cutting edge issues in environmental law with Academy trainers. For example, in Wuhan, sessions were held on regulation of offshore oil production activities and the outcomes of recent international negotiations on climate change and biodiversity protection.

In both courses, there is considerable emphasis upon techniques for classroom discussion and sophisticated teaching methodologies such as simulated negotiations, small-group activities, the use of a reflective journal and the contribution of field trips. The feed-back form scholars who participated in the Advanced Course at Wuhan indicated a high level of interest and engagement in the teaching methodology elements of the course. .

The Academy is currently pursuing funding to deliver its Training the Teachers program in collaboration with member institutions in China, Colombia, India, and Indonesia. Further opportunities for program implementation in Eastern Europe and in Africa are also currently being explored.