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By Honesto GeneralInquirer
Last updated 09:50pm (Mla time) 08/27/2006
Published on page B7 of the August 28, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE UPROAR over the leakage scandal surrounding the licensure exam for nurses has gone out of hand. Even the Court of Appeals has entered the scene by ordering a temporary halt to the oath-taking of those who passed the exams. I hope the court throws out the petition soon.

Let's all sit back and settle down. To start, peddling exam questions has been a thriving backyard industry for decades. In 1950, when I was in mechanical engineering school, a companion of mine in the boarding house was quite upset when he came home one evening. He was taking the final exams the next day and he had spent the whole afternoon looking for leakage, and he was ready to pay well for it. He found none. He passed the exams anyway and went on to build a lucrative practice.

Government licensing exams have been brisk markets for leakages. Because of the post-World War II economic boom, schools mushroomed all over the country to meet the demands of a rising student population. Practitioners became alarmed over the threat from a proliferation of lawyers, engineers, accountants, doctors and nurses, and so forth. To cut down competition, government exams, designed and conducted by practitioners out to protect their practice, became very difficult. The mortality, especially in accountancy exams, was always extremely high.

As a result, the demand for leakages intensified. It is safe to assume that, over the years, there have been leakages in every exam in medicine, law, accounting and, now, nursing.

The problem has been worsened by the race among schools to have the highest passing rate and the most examinees among the so-called magic Top Ten. But the schools manipulate the results. For example, a law school will certify only the examinees that it thinks will pass. Those not certified do not carry the colors of their school.

Then, there is the review center, a fairly recent phenomenon. In my time, the school conducted the review classes. Today, the center conducts review classes, especially for examinees from the provinces.

The review center has also become a hotbed of scandal. There is a stiff competition among them to show the highest success rate and the most examinees to land in the top ten. When my niece, who was an honor student in Naga, took the review class for accountancy in a review center in Manila, she was offered a spot in the top ten. She turned it down. She said that, even if she had the money asked of her, which she did not have, she would rather take her chances at the exams. She did not land in the top ten, but with her summa cum laude, she easily got a job at SGV. She soon became a full partner.

What should be done to plug the leaks? A complete reorientation of the entire system is needed. First, local practitioners need not worry anymore about the competition from the young. The whole world needs Filipino professionals.

Just what is an exam anyway? An exam is nothing but a device to measure how much has the examinee learned from his lessons in class. The exam should exclude questions on subject matters that were not taught in school. And, please, no tricky questions.

There should only be two marks: pass or fail. No more top ten. Certification of examinees by the school should be banned; the diploma is the certification.

One who flunks need not take the entire exam again. He should be allowed to repeat only the subjects where he failed, provided he passed a certain minimum number of subjects and his general average was not lower than, say, 50 percent.

The other professions should look into the feasibility of adopting the practice in leak-proof engineering exams where everybody is allowed to bring to the exam room all the reference books he can carry.

Revamping the exam system, and dismantling the leakage industry, is sorely needed. About half a million students graduate from our colleges and universities every year.

In the meantime, the oath-taking of the nurses who passed the last exams should be allowed. If none of them can be proven guilty, why should all 42,000 examinees in 11 testing centers be punished?


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