08 March 2012

Bar Review

What happened to UP?
This was the question that reverberated all over the country as soon as the 2011 Bar examination results were announced last week.  Criticisms on the University of the Philippines College of Law’s (UPCAL) failure to make it to the top ten list hounded the premier state university.
The passing rate of 94 percent (where 141 out of the 150 UPCAL Bar takers passed), is a major improvement from its 79 percent mark in 2010. Yet, some sectors still think that UPCAL graduates did not do well enough.

Even Senate President  Juan Ponce Enrile gave a piece of his mind on the matter. An ABS-CBNnews.com report quoted Enrile  urging UPCAL students to study harder so they could top the Bar before giving any conclusions on the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
While UPCAL Dean Danilo Concepcion stands by his graduates and is satisfied with the high passing rate, he nevertheless, began to conduct an evaluation to determine what went wrong and what needs to be done.
In a testimonial dinner held for the successful Bar examinees last Friday, they were asked to give their evaluation of the Bar exams through a questionnaire.
In the initial investigation, Concepcion cites the difficulty that the examinees encountered  in the Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ), a new test format introduced last year. Other factors cited as possible reasons why the graduates didn't top the Bar are: the change in the culture of the faculty who have become more linient in teaching; the students' involvement in so many extra-curricular activities which limited their time for studying; their cramming for the review; the working students' lack of time for reviewing for the Bar; and the seemingly antiquated admission process in the College.
"Some of our students are saying that there are questions in the MCQ part that have more than one possible answer. The problem here is there is only one examiner who makes the multiple choice questions and the answers. Unlike in other countries, a panel of experts create the questions, debate on it, and come up with only one answer for each question. Hindi ko sinasabi na mali ang sagot ng examiner natin. Pero baka dun sa mga choices na ibinigay niya, puwede ring may ibang tamang sagot," points out Concepcion.
The Bar exams is currently comprised of 60 percent MCQ and 40 percent for pleading writing and memorandum of law writing where examinees are asked to make a decision on a given set of facts and laws.
Concepcion says he also observed that the faculty at the UPCAL are now more linient compared to the terror teachers in the past who usually fail 15 to 20 percent of the class.
"Napansin namin wala nang masyadong nagbabagsak na teacher ngayon so hindi na we-weed out yung mga dapat. It may have something to do with the changing culture of the faculty which may also be due to the changing culture of the students. Dati pag murahin kami o ibagsak kami, tahimik lang kami. Ngayon magrerebolusyon na mga estudyante," he reveals.
Concepcion says some working students are having a hard time attending the afternoon review classes provided by the college because they can't take a leave from work. If they go on leave, they won't get any salary and would not be able to feed their families. The working students are given a lighter load and attend evening classes from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
The dean is also looking at reviewing the College's admission process.  "Ang aming exam ay aptitude. Maybe the skills that they listed when they prepared the exams before have already changed. There is now a different set of skills that requires a lawyer to be a better lawyer. We have moved into that direction and changed the composition of our Law Aptitude Examination," he says.
Concepcion stressed the need to make significant changes in the Bar exams. First, he suggested that a permanent committee of experts must be in charge of creating the questions and answers of the MCQ. Then a computer program will choose randomly the questions to be used in the exam and also check the answers.
He is likewise proposing to the Supreme Court to change the second part of the exam which are memorandum and pleading writing to purely essay. The MCQ part should then form 80 percent while the essay, the remaining 20 percent.
"Memorandum writing and pleading writing measure lawyering skills. But whether or not you are a good writer or a good lawyer is not the function of the Bar. Its function is to ensure that these Bar candidates know their basic laws. Why test those lawyerly skills if you're not going to practice. Some Bar passers will only run their family business, some just want to have a degree, some just want to be promoted, at ’yung iba mamumulitika lang,” he adds.
On top of this, Concepcion wants to reduce the coverage of the Bar to just the basic branches of the law which are Criminal Law, Civil Law, Constitutional Law, Labor Law and Remedial Law. “Tayo lang sa buong mundo ang nagpapatest sa lahat ng courses na pinag-aaralan sa classroom,” he says.
The College of Law, according to Concepcion, has made its formerly mandatory subjects, such as reviews of basic branches of law,  into electives to allow students to take new, globally relevant courses. These include Intellectual Property, Economic, International Finance, Commercial Arbitration, and International Trade Law.
“Ang solusyon namin diyan, let us meet halfway. We will not change the curriculum of the Supreme Court, only the Bar exams. Nang sa ganon makapag globalize kami nang hindi namin masyadong iniintindi itong Bar. The other schools will also benefit because there will be less chances of failing the Bar if the coverage is reduced,” he points out.
UPCAL 2011 graduate and Bar passer Abdel Bisangcopan feels disheartened by all these criticisms on their failure to make it to the top 10 but he said that they have really studied and done their best.
“I look at it as a good start for the future batches. It is setting the right standards. We prepared for it, we passed it, so be happy for us," he says.
Former League of Filipino Students chairperson and Bar passer Terry Ridon admitted that they had difficulty in answering the MCQ because of the many possible answers. But he stressed that their training at the UPCAL is not just to pass the Bar but to be great lawyers who have the heart for helping the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.
“It's good for the other schools to have the next three days of fame. But what’s more important is after the Bar, What will become of you? Ipagtatanggol mo ba yung mga corrupt, yung mga nagsasamantala sa lipunan, o yung mga naaapi? We are confident that we will produce the same amount of great lawyers like Lorenzo TaƱada, Pepe Diokno, Miriam Santiago and all others before us. As iskolars ng bayan, our role is to be great lawyers and to serve the people,” Ridon ends.




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