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The real scandal

The real scandal

Last updated 00:27am (Mla time) 10/03/2006

Published on page A10 of the October 3, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN ORDERING a retake of the tainted nursing licensure examination last July, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo belatedly admits that government responses to the crisis, especially those of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), have merely worsened the credibility problem facing Philippine nursing education as a whole. The problem owes to the nagging suspicion that our education system is merely cashing in on the nursing manpower demand in the West so as to jettison all considerations for quality health care, the Philippine reputation for which gave rise to the prestige of and demand for Filipino nurses abroad in the first place.

This cash-register mentality is reflected in the leakage scandal and the terribly inadequate responses of the PRC and the rest of the government. The leak confirmed the suspicion that some nursing schools and review centers would do anything -- beg, steal, borrow, or all three -- so that their graduates could get an advance peek at the licensure questions to ensure they pass the exam and get work abroad.

The PRC did worse in virtually substantiating the suspicion by doing away with the two subjects in which the leak purportedly occurred in the computation of the final grade. The solution might be mathematical, but it showed the twisted mental operations that go by the name of “professional regulation.” The PRC seemed to be impervious to the gravity of the problem. If nurses had been licensed after passing a supposedly comprehensive board exam in which two of seven major subjects had been done away with, then the license would hardly demonstrate the comprehensiveness of their skills, wouldn’t it? So would their patients be better off knowing they were under the care of less-than-comprehensively-licensed nurses?

Oh, but the PRC could exhibit a comprehensive appreciation of the need to cover its tracks! When the College of Nursing of the University of Santo Tomas petitioned the Court of Appeals to stop the oath-taking of the “passers,” the PRC advanced the swearing-in so that half of the passers were able to take their oath as new nurses a day before the court could issue the injunction. That only served to confirm the suspicion that our education system would stop at nothing to make a fast buck out of nursing manpower trends abroad.

But the oath-taking was a Phyrric victory for the new nurses as no hospital here or abroad would take them. It is this apparent lockout that seems to have compelled Dante Ang, chair of the Overseas Filipinos Commission, who was assigned by the President to look into the scandal, to convince her to backtrack from her earlier decision not to order a retake.

Now that the President has changed her mind, it is only proper for the PRC chair, Leonor Tripon Rosero, to resign for mishandling the crisis. The gesture would also clear the way for a fairer inquiry into the leak. For it is not only on the Board of Nursing where the onus of the blame should be laid. The PRC itself is a suspect since it had access to the test questions. Its silly attempts to remedy the scandal with stopgap measures seem to suggest some culpability.

Moreover, since the old nursing board members have resigned and the President has ordered a retake, there’s a need to reconstitute the board which will administer the new exam. The PRC’s attempts to fill up the vacancies in the board has been met by raised eyebrows by the nominees. Many leading nursing educators have declined the nomination for lack of confidence in Rosero’s PRC.

Eventually, the spotlight will have to be trained at the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), which seems to have largely evaded blame for the controversy. The CHEd has not closed a single nursing school despite the alarming increase in number of poor-performing schools as shown by the declining national average in the licensure exams. In fact, the CHEd Technical Committee on Nursing Education has resigned over the inability of its leadership to implement its recommendation to close down substandard schools.

It seems a matter of government policy to coddle these schools, judging from the egregious statement by CHEd Chair Carlito Puno that the 30-percent minimum passing rate for nursing schools is too high! He said the minimum should be 15 or even 10 percent.

An official who believes it is all right for 85 percent of board takers to fail after they spent tens of thousands of pesos to get a health-care education is a testament to the banalization of greed in our nursing education system. The leak last July was only the tip of the iceberg. The real scandal lies elsewhere. And it seems to be at the corridors of the CHEd.


The real scandal is that it did not point out let alone demolish any of the valid grounds for no retake.

eat your words now that GMA flip-flopped again!

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