Friday, July 28, 2006

PDI Op Ed on the NLE scandal

Manila Standard Today's headline reads: Nurses can’t take oath. Some 17,000 board passers can't take their oaths because of the said leakage. Luoy kaayo sila. I'm sure majority sa ila walay parte sa cheating. That's the unfortunate part of this whole issue; it would be very difficult for the NBI to track down who really benefitted from the leakage, so the PRC's likely action would be to nullify the test results of all those 17,000. Tsk tsk tsk.

Today's Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial also talked about the NLE scandal:


THE leakage in the nursing board examination held last June 11 and 12 again brought to the fore what has gone wrong with many of our institutions: Core values, like honor and honesty, are dealt with like ordinary clothes, to be worn or discarded at one’s convenience. As Inquirer columnist Raul Pangalanan put it in his July 21 column, “It is nothing new for us to hear about another scandal, another leakage, in a government licensing examination.”

One can’t help being reminded of the string of other scandals tearing our society apart. And to be sure, there is outrage and serious concern. But the voices that shout in exasperation and protest are, more often than not, dismissed by an apathetic majority, not unlike the voice of the minority in Congress being drowned out not by reason but by the tyranny of numbers.

The reaction of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to the reports about the leakage in the nursing board exam has been, to say the least, half-hearted, swinging from denial to disinterest. “After an initial investigation by the Board of Nursing, the board concluded there was no apparent leakage,” the government agency tasked to protect and uphold the integrity of the professions in the Philippines declared a week after the board exam. The examination system is “nearly foolproof” -- it has been “so streamlined that leakages are now things of the past,” the PRC asserted. Then it proceeded to release the results and to schedule the oath-taking of the “successful” examinees.

The haste with which the PRC made these twin moves did not escape criticism. And it only raised suspicion that the PRC was moving to outmaneuver its critics, by making their protests academic.

Thanks in large part to the persistence of a few concerned nurses, educators and examinees, the PRC did conduct an investigation into the leakage. And last July 20, it filed administrative charges against the two members of the Board of Nursing to whom the leakage of some question was reportedly traced. In the meantime, the PRC asked them to voluntarily go on leave. It could not place them under preventive suspension because both are presidential appointees, the PRC explained. And there has been no word from Malacañang until now.

Simply put, government action has so far failed to measure up to the urgency and significance of this case.

The quality of nursing education has long been on the decline, authorities admit. One clear proof is the passing rate in nursing board exam, which has fallen from 80 percent to 42 percent. Indeed, for many years now, the passing rate has not gone above 50 percent, according to Marilyn E. Lorenzo, director of the Institute of Health Policy and Development Studies. The result is that we are fast losing our reputation as a producer of “world-class nurses.” Chair Carlito Puno of the Commission on Higher Education has said, “I am the first to admit that the quality of tertiary education has gone down in general, including nursing.”

The decline in the quality of nursing education has been blamed on the rapid increase in the number of nursing schools (not to mention the “excessive political meddling” in the accreditation of such schools), lack of hospitals to provide students clinical experience, unqualified deans, lack of experienced teachers -- even grades for sale.

Such weak school preparation, coupled with a strong determination to pass and find employment, makes cheating very tempting. The leakage of the examination questions is, therefore, in a sense a “manifestation of a deteriorating and highly commercialized nursing education,” as one nursing school official put it.
(Italics mine)

The leakage, of course, affects not only the examinees and practice of nursing in this country. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has warned that this puts in question the credibility of the government’s entire system of professional testing and licensing, and thus tarnish the image of all Filipino professionals, many of whom are practicing abroad.

The nursing exam leakage may appear less grievous than the charges of election fraud against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the P728-million fertilizer scam, but there is more at stake there than the government cares to acknowledge. Whether the leakage happened by design or by mere negligence, what is clear is that some people no longer deserve to sit in the Board of Nursing. This a matter of honor -- and not just for them, but for the entire nation.

The real casualty of this scandal is not only the 17,000 NLE takers whose eligibility to practice nursing is currently being questioned, but, to a larger extent, the reputation of all professional nurses in the country and overseas.

And I really agree, what's wrong with most of our institutions is that there is not anymore the core values of honor and honesty. In our school for example, and in most schools I bet this is also true, cheating has become a commonplace thing. Students cheat everytime the opportunity presents itself. Makatawa na lang ko usahay, kay it reminds me of that old song, "Honesty... is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue..." I'm not excusing myself because I, too, have been a little less than honest a few times (or more!). But, I've always tried to avoid it na... honest! Pero seriously, it seems honest students today are hard to find, like endangered species. That's why it doesn't seem to shock us very much that the leakage happened, because everyday in school that's the reality, people cheat (especially those motivated by the drive to finish nursing in haste, so that they can start working abroad; these folks will do all that is necessary to pass nursing, nevermind "ethics" and all those silly inconviniences). Some teachers can even be bought! Our moral sensibilities are not really offended because... there's really nothing in us to offend.

And doesn't this whole issue closely mirror the situation with our country's political life? Look at Gloria, the whole issue of her being involved in the massive cheating in the previous elections hasn't yet been settled (she's not willing to clear her name through an impeachment proceeding; one wonders why, since someone falsely accused of a crime would normally readily seek every opportunity to prove her innocence). And what about the fertilizer scam? It seems she continues to be mum about it. And what about the fact about the rising number of killings of members of the Left and the Media happening under her administration which she has largely if not totally ignored? We go on about our daily lives as if everything's fine. All these dishonesty, this total lack of honor in our institutions, doesn't all these happen because we, the people, ourselves don't have these core values inside us, or don't hold them in high regard?

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