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The nursing boards and the larger mess

found this column in the inq7 website... this is something to think about - kitchie

The nursing boards and the larger mess
By Raul Pangalangan


Last updated 01:48am (Mla time) 07/21/2006
Published on Page A12 of the July 21, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IT IS nothing new for us to hear about another scandal, another leakage, in a government licensing examination. There are persistent causes for the obsession to pass -- if not "top" -- exams by the proverbial hook or crook. What is new is the setting: the OFW-funded surge in enrollment in higher education, and the overseas placement-driven demand for new, board-certified graduates. It is this setting that makes board exam safeguards even more urgent, and the place of good university-level schools even more strategic.

The eternal, ever-present reasons are in a way so typically, wonderfully Pinoy. We all love diplomas. We hang them on walls, together with, for the older folk, framed graduation photos in cap and gown. Next, we love those board exams. Abroad, people see them as licensing exams that attest merely that the candidate has the minimum competence, nothing less, but also nothing more. Hereabouts, we think they prove that the candidate is a genius (step aside, Einstein), all of a sudden licensed to talk in strangetechnical jargon meant to impress rather than enlighten.

On the loftier, more romantic side, for the Filipino Everyman, degrees and board exams are the dramatic escape from one's assigned place in life; they are his entrée into the finer classes. Believe it or not, the feudal attitude that each of us is born into a fixed station and immutable status -- something that most of the world began to chuck after the FrenchRevolution -- still lingers deep in the chest of the Filipino.

Commencement day and the oath-taking are tangible moments of release from that ordained pecking order. By token of parchment paper and ceremony, one's social and market worth is suddenly upgraded and, we proudly sermon the kids, that is an achievement that no one can take away from you (by which we imply that everything else that came before was given by others who, therefore, can also take them back).

Board and bar exams are even more special. They are "blind-graded" exams, where the "teacher" doesn't know if the paper he is checking belongs to the daughter of Doña Buding or the son of Buding's "labandera" [laundrywoman]. They stand on equal footing before the grader, and to be treated equally is, again, believe it or not, a rarity in Filipino life. Everywhere else, he is judged by his clothes, his titles, his pedigree, his accent. Before the government boards, he competes solely on his own talent and strength. Board and bar exams therefore embody the meritocratic ideal, the pride in besting others in a fair and equal contest, the democratic romance about the level playing field.

That is why the scandal in the nursing board exams riles us so. Whoever leaked out those handwritten notes shortchanged all those honest students who took the exam on their own. Yet, unless the actual culprits and individual cheaters are found, the only proper course of action is to set aside the results of the tainted examination altogether. Its integrity has been breached, its results are not reliable. To compel the honest to retake an exam they have already passed -- that makes them the innocent victims of other peoples' greed and cunning. That is sad, but that is a legitimate price to exact. To allow the cheaters to be board-certified and to profit from their crime -- that leaves the public unprotected from the incompetent and rewards the dishonest with honors undeserved.

The nursing board's decision to release the results prematurely, while the investigation is ongoing, is a vintage move to silence the critics. Politically, it creates a solid constituency -- all those who passed -- who will lobby that exam results be maintained. (I doubt if those who flunked will conversely have the incentive to either impugn the exam or testify on the leak. Even if they are thus "incentivized," certainly they wouldn't have as much credibility as those who passed.)

Legally, the nursing board announcement may have (perhaps on purpose) "vested" certain rights in every person on the list of passers, unless the board had expressly made reservations when they issued that list. Either way, the board's undue haste raises even more questions.

We are wasting away a golden opportunity by allowing nursing education to succumb to the enticements of the market, when in fact the market can be harnessed to benefit nursing education.

Who could have imagined the blossoming of private universities fueled by overseas Filipino workers' money? The Filipino family, long smitten by fancy diplomas, all of a sudden has disposable income. And guess where he chooses to spend it first? The most noble, most natural path is the road to a school for his children, and he thus invests in a dream that will outlive him. We must make the most of this sudden surge in enrollment.

But nursing schools are even more uniquely situated. Like the rest of the colleges, they have applicants knocking at their gates. But even better, they have interested employers visiting the dean's office.

The papers have lamented the loose accreditation of nursing schools and the Commission on Higher Education's feeble enforcement of academic standards to accommodate powerful lobbies. The nursing board leakage is just the latest scandal that undermines public trust in the nurses produced by Philippine schools. The Filipino public may be forgiving and cheap, but the foreign public is exacting and demanding. The nursingschool bonanza thrives because of the foreign public. To lose its trust just so shortsighted entrepreneurs can make a killing is to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.


Very true. Thanks for posting this editorial article here.

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