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Class Reunions

Prof Ng-Loy Wee Loon, recipient of the National University of Singapore’s 2009/2010 Annual Teaching Excellence Award, tells Victor Katheyas ’13 how she shares her fascination with the Law of Intellectual Property with her students.

Prof Ng-Loy Wee Loon has an enduring fascination with the Law of Intellectual Property. As the Director of Law School’s LLM (Intellectual Property and Technology) programme, she teaches a number of Intellectual Property modules at the Faculty. She is also deeply involved in the development of Singapore’s Intellectual Property law, currently serving as a member of the Board of Governors of the Intellectual Property Academy, Singapore and also a member of Singapore’s Copyright Tribunal.

You could, in fact, say that she wrote the book on Intellectual Property in Singapore, having authored an academic text on the subject: Law of Intellectual Property of Singapore (Sweet & Maxwell, 2008).

It is thus surprising to hear that she “stumbled into Law unwittingly.”

 “I didn’t think very hard about my choices in NUS. I ticked ‘Law’ in my NUS application because, truth be told, I was acting under duress – pressure from family,” she confesses.

“Hmm, now doesn’t this sound kind of familiar to some – or many – of our Law students?”

She concedes that her Law School years involved a lot of studying. “Sometimes on hindsight, I wish I had ‘played’ more in Law School. But hey, hard work is needed in Law School.”

The hard work did, in fact, pay off. In her fourth year of Law School, Wee Loon found that she was enthralled by one of her electives – the Law of Intellectual Property.

“Copyright, even at that time – and this was way, way before the Internet – was so real in our daily life,” she explains. “Think about photocopying textbooks – the entire book! And shopping or looking through advertisements was never the same again after learning about trade marks.”

Significantly, she had an excellent teacher in Professor George Wei, whom she described as being “truly inspiring."

The interest in the subject carried over into legal practice, which she says she enjoyed “to a certain extent”. However, she felt frustrated whenever she was intrigued by a certain issue in a file, but did not have the time to explore it more fully “because it was not the issue.” Thus, after three and a half years in practice, she decided to join academia. This would allow her to pursue her passion in the Law of Intellectual Property; and also allow her to share that passion for the subject with future generations of lawyers.

Her passion for the subject has translated into extremely effective teaching for her students, and she was the recipient of the NUS Annual Teaching Excellence Award for the 2009/2010 Academic Year.

Four Strategies to Motivate Students

The key to teaching effectively, she explains, is to motivate students to find out more about the subject matter. To this end, she employs four strategies.

First, she tries to use lectures “as opportunities to lay down the foundation – the legal concepts and the basic grounds rules – as clearly and concisely as possible.” She explains that her own experiences as a student convinced her of the need for clearly structured lectures.

“As a student, I looked to lectures to provide me with the fundamentals in the area concerned. In this sense, lectures were the ‘short cut’ which allowed me to quickly learn about the basics, and they served as a platform that allowed me to think about the more difficult issues,” she says.

Second, she tries to make the lectures as relevant as possible by using real life examples where suitable. The Law of Intellectual Property is, after all, a very real subject that impacts daily life.

Third, she encourages students to take ownership of their own learning. This includes getting students to question and probe into the more contentious areas of the law on their own. It also extends to getting students to explain the law to their peers.

“You will be surprised how students understand their peers better, yo!” she quips

Fourth, she tries, as far as she can, to remember students’ names. While this is sometimes difficult – given that she has close to 50 students in a tutorial group – she feels that it is nevertheless important because it "personalises" the learning environment. 

She feels deeply gratified and humbled that these efforts have borne fruit in the form of the teaching award. But equally, if not more, significant are her interactions with former students who still keep in touch with her.

For example, some former students tell her that they were so intrigued by what they learnt in class that they had decided to be Intellectual Property practitioners. And, from time to time, there are emails from former students telling her that they saw some trade mark which may be infringing, and that it started them thinking about how this would be resolved according to the legal principles they remembered from class.

But it need not be about IP Law, she says. Recently, for example, a former student saw her outside the university and came up to say hello and introduce his young daughter.

“It feels good, to be acknowledged by one’s former students,” she says. “Even if I am reminded of my own aging as I see my students becoming parents!”

 

Prof S Jayakumar returns to
alma mater as Professor of Law

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