NOBODY really pays attention when annual licensure exams enter the scene. Students, including Thomasians, seem apathetic to their respective schools’ performance in the national rankings. But more often than not, a school’s caliber is gauged by the performance of its graduates in the board exams. To UST’s credit, several departments of the University have never failed to land on the top of the heap.

According to the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC), the government agency that oversees licensure exams, in the 2004 national rankings, the University’s Physical Therapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT), Pharmacy, and Accountancy programs all ranked number one with averages of 94 per cent, 91.65 per cent, 79 per cent and 68.38 per cent, respectively. In the same year, the College of Science’s Chemistry program posted a 76 per cent passing rate, its highest in the past five years.

Three programs under the College of Education (Education) have also been ranked first last year by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched). Examinees both from the Bachelor in Secondary Education (BSEd) and Library Science programs posted 88 per cent, while Bachelor in Elementary Education (BEEd) graduates earned a 95 per cent passing rate.

In the January 2005 national licensure exam for Architects, UST placed fifth with a 56 per cent passing rate.

Where credit is due

The commendable showing of UST in the licensure exams may be attributed to various factors. Credit may be given to the different programs and policies implemented by the colleges and faculties, as well as a foolproof curriculum, efficient faculty members, etc.

Arch. Chona Elvas Ponce, Acting Dean of the College of Architecture, said one of their policies is for graduating students to undergo an extensive apprenticeship program, wherein they train under professional architects for 128 and half days, before taking the board exams.

The apprenticeship program is also a requirement of the PRC before architecture graduates are allowed to take the board exams.

Architecture also has a pre-board examination assessment to evaluate the students’ weaknesses. The pre-board assessors, mostly faculty members, look at each graduate’s performance in the pre-board reviews and observe who are fit for the exams.

Students who do not perform up to par are advised to postpone taking the board exam next time.

College of Rehabilitation Sciences (CRS) interns, meanwhile, are required to take monthly assessment tests, called revalida, as part of their preparation for the board exams.

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“Through it, we can determine which students will pass or fail,” CRS Dean Consuelo Suarez told the Varsitarian. “We talk to the students who got low scores in the assessment test and advise them to think it over before taking the exams.”

According to the PRC, through the years, UST’s PT program has consistently topped the national rankings, posting its highest percentage of 98.55 per cent in 2001.

Suarez revealed that their curriculum evaluation is also a key factor to their continued success, as a good curriculum helps the students cope with their subjects and prepares them better for the licensure exams.

“We evaluate the curriculum every two years. We look at loopholes and deficiencies and make sure that our teaching methods are highly efficient,” she said.

Another important aspect is the PT’s connections to the University of South Australia, one of the top PT schools in the world, the Hong Kong Sports Institute, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. PT’s faculty members and students are sometimes sent to these institutions for further studies and training

The College of Accountancy, instead of an internship program, has the Integrated Accounting Course (IAC). Implemented in 2003, the IAC requires the students to take an increased number of units.

That year, UST’s Accountancy graduates posted a 62.58 percent passing rate, the highest in five years, or since 1999.

Accountancy was established as a separate college last November.

Nursing Dean Glenda Vargas, on the other hand, points to their student selection process.

“Even if the applicants pass, we screen them first before we admit them to our college. Most applicants have to go through an interview first, and then we pick the best among them,” Vargas said.

Nursing recorded its highest passing rate of 98.83 per cent in 2001. It was 98.36 per cent in the previous year. Its lowest percentage was 90.67 per cent, in 2002.

Pharmacy and Education both give credit to several indispensable dynamics: careful student screening, a faculty profile which boasts of numerous master’s degree holders, and facilities that enhance learning.

Problems abound

But not everything is smooth sailing for UST’s colleges and faculties during board exams. PT experienced a 10.88 per cent decline when the passing rate went down from 98.55 percent in 2001 to 87.67 percent in 2002. Suarez said sudden dives are caused by irregular students and students who already graduated a long time ago.

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Apparently, irregular students are less prepared for the exams while examinees who have long graduated do not have the subjects covered “fresh in their memories.”

In a five-year span (2000-2004), Architecture experienced its lowest passing rate, 37.71 per cent, in June 2000.

“Most of the examinees in June are fresh graduates; they are not really experienced in the practical application of architecture. That is why they have a hard time,” Ponce said.

Architecture graduates are now encouraged to gain experience as apprentices first, then take the test later. When to take the exams, however, is the call of the students, which the college respects. Also for several years now, more and more students do not enroll in review classes—another cause of low results.

“The number has been dwindling significantly, but I cannot blame them because these are times when money is so hard to earn and you would rather self-study,” Education Dean Clotilde Arcangel said.

The importance of review classes was seen in 2002 when the College of Education had remarkable passing rates as the BSEd, BEEd, and Library Science programs registered 95 per cent, 97 per cent and 96 per cent, respectively.

“The whole 2002 batch practically took up review classes. They were very eager to pass and their enthusiasm paid off,” Arcangel said.

Science Dean Fortunato Sevilla said it is the student’s own preparation that really counts.

”Kahit sabihin ko, magaling ako magturo, ang tanong, mag-aaral ka ba?” he said.

Further, the University’s colleges and faculties do not have any control over the actual licensure examinations.

The architecture board exam, composed of written and practical parts, requires the examinees to draw manually, whereas in school, most students use computer-aided design to make their drafts.

“That’s why the College is suggesting that the board exams catch up with the times because technology is continuously developing,” Ponce said

Faculty factor

Professors play a major role in preparing the students for the board exams, as a competent faculty profile more often than not produces competent graduates.

CRS takes pride in having a very young faculty (age range: 24-30 years old), which it considers as a strength.

“Young faculty members are very dynamic. Most of our faculty members are also holders of Master’s degrees in,” Suarez said.

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Nursing, unlike CRS, is currently having problems with its faculty, no thanks to the seemingly endless fiscal problems the country faces.

“Our main problem is the increasing number of faculty members leaving the school. Since there is a high demand for nurses abroad, several of our professors here have opted to go for greener pastures,” Vargas said.

Vargas said that keeping their senior faculty members, their “pillars”, is their main goal right now. Nursing is finding ways to improve their benefits and is also in the process of training its young faculty members.

Significant Solutions

From simulation exams to new courses, all of UST’s colleges and faculties look for measures to cure their licensure exam headaches.

Architecture has introduced Esquisse, a special quiz that requires students to draw their design problems in four hours.

“The students are trained to work under time pressure. This helps them prepare for the board exams,” Ponce said.

Science, meanwhile, implemented last year a correlation course program to help students prepare.

“The students can take the whole course as one. It shows how each field or subject is related to one another,” Sevilla said.

The program will also approximate the preparedness of the students through a mock board which will cover all the subjects in the four-year course.

“It has served as a very good review and has produced great results,” Sevilla said.

Of course, there’s the student selection process. With an efficient screening process, only the deserving students enter the University and later on take the board exams.

Accountancy, being a new college, is keen on a foolproof student selection policy.

“We want to improve our selection and retention of students. We will consider the students’ IQ tests and grades in all Math and English subjects,” Accountancy Dean Jose Ireneo said.

The road ahead

No doubt these past years have been successful years for UST, with nearly every program seemingly at its prime.

But will this continue?

Vargas said that they will continue with what they have started and maintain their high level of success.

Suarez is more confident. “I truly believe that once Thomasians have established themselves as great achievers, they will not rest to make sure they remain that way,” she said.

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