MANILA — Citing the commercialization of nursing education in the Philippines, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) expressed opposition to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III’s proposal to abolish licensure and bar examinations.

In a statement on July 10, FNU has labelled as “perilous to people’s health, especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic” the proposal to abolish board and bar exams. 

They highlighted the importance of the board examination given “the current situation that nursing education is highly commercialized with poor government regulation as to the standards and quality.”

“Although FNU believes that licensure examination is not the only barometer for quality of nursing education, the government has to have a mechanism to ensure and maintain the standards of health care practice,” the group said. 

“Unlike lawyers and engineers, nurses deal with the health and lives of patients and communities where human error or omission is critical to human safety, prolonging life and survival,” the group noted. 

In a separate statement, Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) President Melbert Reyes has told dzMM the PNA and the Philippine Board of Nursing “immediately rejected” Bello’s proposal when he raised it in a meeting with them. 

“The lives of Filipinos, the health of the public are in the hands of health care professionals so we have to ensure they are competent enough and a board exam will measure what they learned in school and their readiness to serve in the profession,” Reyes said.  

At a virtual press briefing on July 7, Bello floated his proposal of abolishing licensure exams, particularly for nursing and law, insisting that people entering professions requiring exams have already had enough tests as students.

“Napakamahal kumuha ng kursong nursing. Kukuha sila ng four years, after graduating, kukuha sila ng board exam. Bakit pa kailangan ng board exam eh ilang exam ang dinaanan nila sa nursing?” Bello said. 

“Palagay ko hindi na kailangan, especially so kung ‘yong eskwelahan ay accredited by no less than the CHED(Commission on Higher Education). Hindi ka ba naniniwala sa mga eskwelahan nating accredited by CHED?” he added.

According to a report by The Philippine Star, Bello also wanted licensure exams for engineering, dentistry and law abolished.

“Why don’t we do away with Bar (Exam?) Tutal ‘yong estudyante may four years pre-law, four years (law school) proper, dadaan ka sa rigorous scrutiny, graduate ka as Ll.B. (Bachelor of Laws) graduate, tapos pak, dadaan ka pa sa Bar,” he said.

Bello also said that his pet bill, should he make a return to Congress, is the removal of licensure exams. 

Chief Justice, VP and former Supreme Court associate justice reject Bello’s proposal 

In another report by The Philippine Star, former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio dismissed the proposal to abolish Bar examinations for aspiring lawyers in the country while Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo believed “we should maintain the Bar examinations so that we can sift those who are competent, considering the nature of the legal profession,” which he described as vested with public interest.

“I think there should be an exam because not all schools are of the same quality,” Carpio told ONE News’ The Chiefs last July 9. 

“Most countries have qualification requirements, usually an examination. In the UK, they don’t have one that is nationwide, you can be certified by a law office. But the trend is an examination,” he added.

Vice-president Leni Robredo, meanwhile, said that the country’s entire educational system should be remodeled if the professional licensure exams will be scrapped.

“Iyong mga exams naman hindi naman ito iyong walang purpose eh. Ang purpose nito ay para i-test kung pumasa ka sa standards ng profession mo,” Robredo told dzXInoting licensure exams can’t just be abolished as an “overhaul of the educational system that produces those professions.”

Look at the situation of nurses in PH than scrap licensure examination

In another report by The Philippine Star, PNA President Reyes said the government should look at the situation of nurses in the country instead of proposing to abolish licensure examination as they receive meager compensation and benefits on top of a lack of job security. 

FNU, on the other hand, is calling for a “mechanism that will ensure and maintain the standards of healthcare workers” as they believe that licensure examination is not the sole barometer for quality of nursing education. 

“People deserve the quality health care and should not be compromised with lowering of standards by the government instead of having a political will to provide adequate, well-trained and well-compensated health professionals like nurses,” FNU said.

According to the report, the government in June increased the number of healthcare workers allowed to go overseas to 6,500 annually, with the Philippines among the world’s biggest sources of nurses.