Suspended board exams affect thousands of examinees amid the pandemic

AROUND 200,000 registered examinees are affected by walk-backs by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), excluding the prospective applicants this year and fresh graduates whose waiting time will be much longer, given that the new examination dates, especially for Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET), are exclusively for the canceled March to April 2020 schedules due to the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure the safety of the examinees and its employees.

The PRC canceled the conduct of various licensure examinations including the conduct of the May and June 2020 licensure examinations, as follows: Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Certified Public Accountancy, Dentistry and Dental Hygienists (Written and Practical), Nursing, Criminology, Environmental Planning, and Interior Design Licensure Examinations, and rescheduled the said examinations to appropriate later dates. As early as May 8, 2020, the PRC issued the list of the new set of dates for the postponed March to June 2020 Licensure Examinations and the places of examinations, providing for the opening of online processing and the deadlines in the filing of applications, and rescheduling LET on September 27, 2020.

In June 2020, amid the lockdown, PRC opened the application for September 2020 LET to new applicants and accommodated the examinees of the postponed March 2020 LET; and did the same for other previously postponed board examinations as well. On August 5, 2020, the PRC issued Resolution No. 1256 stating that “large-scale licensure examinations like LET should not be administered during the pandemic,” and therefore also canceled the September 2020 LET schedule, and went further to cancel and reschedule even the “smaller-scale” board examinations. While nothing has changed about LET as a “large scale licensure examination,” the PRC, on November 9, 2020, issued Resolution No. 1283 rescheduling LET for the second time, to March 28, 2021.

On January 12, 2021, PRC affirmed the conduct of LET on March 28, 2021, through the “Advisory Governing the Procedures for Submission of the Request to Transfer from One Place of Examination to Another for March 28, 2021 LET”. In January 2021, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases also allowed the PRC to proceed with the scheduled licensure examinations from January to March 2021. On February 10, 2021, while many teachers have resigned from their work to focus on their preparations for the March 28, 2021 LET, and paid review fees, PRC canceled the LET for the third time and rescheduled it to September 26, 2021, citing its earlier Resolution No. 1256 which states that LET cannot push through because it is a large-scale examination.

The Commission also imposed a strict deadline of only until January 20, 2021 for the submission of a formal request for opting to take the LET on September 26, 2021 stating the examinee’s valid reason/s to the Regional Office where they filed their application. Early this February, the Commission stated that it scheduled licensure examinations for 2021 to make up for the only 11 board examinations conducted in 2020, yet, the publicly announced licensure examination dates for this year are again canceled one by one, following the recommendations of the respective professional boards. Other than the cancellation of the scheduled March 28, 2021 LET, even smaller board examinations like those for Mechanical Engineers, Certified Plant Mechanics, Master Plumbers, Real Estate Consultants, and Architects, among others, were also canceled.

Also rescheduled were even the licensure examinations for allied health disciplines like Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Psychologists previously scheduled in February 2021. Moreover, only recently the Commission canceled the April 7 and 8, 2021 Midwives Licensure Examination with usually only 2,000 examinees and rescheduled it on November 7 and 8 this year.

Obviously, the announcement of new dates for board examinations and then canceling them again later confuse and add anxiety to the public, not to mention the money and resources spent by the examinees on their board examination review in anticipation of the new schedules given by the PRC. While higher education institutions have ensured learning continuity amid the “new normal” in education, we are yet to see relevant and necessary adjustments in administering and conducting board examinations. While some PRC officials speak about moving online, they seemingly take no concrete steps as yet in this regard, even for small-scale board examinations. While colleges and universities continue to produce graduates through flexible learning, their fresh graduates cannot start looking for suitable and gainful employment without PRC license, which can also result in human resource shortages amid the Covid-19 crisis, which in turn may stifle recovery efforts. To ensure the safety of examinees and examiners, the Commission may increase the number of testing sites and set several examination dates to manage medium to large-scale board examination sizes.

The Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization, and Professional Regulation and the Senate Committee on Higher, Technical, and Vocational Education together with the other appropriate committees of the Senate, are scheduled to conduct an inquiry on the series of cancelation of the various licensure examination schedules, particularly the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET), and to identify alternative ways of conducting board examinations amid the pandemic and the “new normal”.