Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Piloting of standard admission test for Philippine law schools gets mixed reactions
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 7 (PNA) —- A memorandum from the Legal Education Board (LEB), that pilots a standard admission test to any law school in the Philippines beginning school year 2017-2018, drew mixed reactions from law students, deans, professors and government officials here.

Some welcomed the move, saying it will raise the bar of law education while those opposing it believe the measure is impractical as it will kill law schools in the provinces.

In a statement recently issued by LEB, it said aspiring law students must take and pass the Philippine Law School Admission Test or PhilSAT before they could be admitted in law schools for school year 2017-2018.

According to LEB’s Memorandum Order 7 that was issued on December 29, 2016, PhilSAT is a one-day aptitude test that intends to measure the academic potential of an examinee pursuing the study of law.

“It will test a potential student's communication and language proficiency, critical thinking skills, and verbal and quantitative reasoning,” read the memorandum.

The first PhilSAT examination to be conducted on April 16 will be held in seven sites across the country: Baguio City, Metro Manila, Legazpi City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.

According to LEB’s memorandum, while school year 2017-2018 will be the pilot year for PhilSAT, law schools in the country will still be allowed to enroll students who took the exams but did not meet the passing score of 55 percent.

LEB requires all law schools to comply with the provisions of the new regulation or they will be subjected to sanctions and a fine of up to PHp 10,000.

Section 7 of the Legal Education Reform Act of 1993 or Republic Act 7662 has empowered LEB to administer the legal education system and supervise law schools in the country.

The law also vests LEB with such powers and functions as setting the standards of accreditation for law schools and prescribing the minimum standards for law admission.

Rhondon Ricafort, incoming third year law student of Bicol College in Daraga, Albay said he approves of the LEB move as it “all the more defines the regulatory functions of LEB over all law schools in the country today.”

Atty. Fiona Mae Corral-Bobis, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Albay chapter and law professor of Aquinas University of Legazpi and Bicol College, said PhilSAT will be of great help.

“Those who come and attend our classes at least have the qualifications to be in law school and has been vetted, medyo konti ang babagsak (it will decrease the number of those who will fail),” she said.

Bobis said PhilSAT is really intended to raise the bar of the quality of students taking up law because “law school and the Bar is not a walk in the park.”

“Only the dedicated and those armed with a strong educational foundation can pass,” she added.

Atty. Ian Macasinag, dean of Bicol College, School of Law, however, believes the new regulation of LEB will spell the death of provincial law schools.

He said they will oppose the measure as small provincial law schools could hardly cope now because of the limited number of enrollees they get each semester.

“What more if admission tests will be given,” Macasinag said.

Jeffrey Louis Llagan, a student of San Beda College of Law who took the 2016 Bar exams, however, believes PhilSAT is a “great step in elevating the standards of the legal profession.”

“At least early on, an institutionalized entrance exam would serve as a "mini-Bar (exams)" prior to law school, which would screen those who are truly dedicated to the legal profession and those with the aptitude for it,” he said.

In a text message, Albay second district Rep. Joey Salceda said reforms in legal education should emanate from the schools and should not be borne by the students.

“Reform the schools not the students so why shift the burden to aspiring students, they (LEB) should instead focus in the regulation and accreditation of law schools,” he said.

A working law student in this city, Ella Mae San Jose, believes PHILSAT is "redundant and counter-productive.”

She said law schools in the Philippines are already effectively administering their own admission procedures.

“If passing the bar exam is the prime consideration for PhilSAT, is it not best assessed through the students’ performance during his years in the college of law and not before it?” San Jose asked. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD