Manila has fallen!
The results of the 2016 bar examinations released last May 3 were nothing short of historical. Of the 6,344 candidates who took the exams last November, 3,747 or 59.06 percent passed. This is a record high in recent history.
An equally staggering outcome of this year’s bar results is the coveted top 10. All 10 positions were dominated by schools outside of Metro Manila—an unprecedented feat in the history of the Philippine bar according to the Office of the Bar Confidant. In the past, it was common—albeit expected—to see Metro Manila law school powerhouses such as the Ateneo de Manila, San Beda College and the University of the Philippines cinched at least one of the top spots.
While many people bemoan the lack of topnotchers from the top Manila-based law schools, the results actually augur well for the future of our nation’s legal education.
This year’s results reveal that quality legal education is no longer limited to Manila schools but can be available and proficiently provided outside. This is good news both for law students outside Manila, who can study in their own communities, and for their parents who may not be in a financial position to send their children to Manila.
Improving legal education
This year’s topnotchers credited their respective law schools in helping them prepare and pass the exams with flying colors. The law school deans of the University of San Carlos and Silliman University cited the dedication of their faculty members and the overall rigor of their respective law programs in helping their students conquer the exams.
San Carlos University of Cebu City, which had four topnotchers, keeps its school equipped with the latest materials. Last year, Silliman University introduced mock bar exams to train its students to answer bar questions clearly and concisely. The university also intensified its review classes and its Juris Doctor thesis program.
These efforts are notably parallel to features of most programs in Manila-based law schools, further proving that provincial law schools can be on par with their Manila counterparts.
On a national scale, the Legal Education Board (LEB) has initiated reforms to prepare prospective students for law school. This year, the LEB introduced the Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhiLSAT), a standardized test designed to measure the academic potential of a law school applicant.
The PhiLSAT is now a prerequisite for admission to any law school in the country. Law schools, however, are not precluded from conducting their own entrance exams as a secondary measure to screen applicants.
The PhiLSAT tests an examinee’s skills in communication and language proficiency, critical thinking, and verbal and quantitative reasoning. These are basic, fair parameters that each law student is expected to be proficient in in order to survive the rigors of law school.
The PhiLSAT not only provides a preliminary measure of a potential law student’s abilities but also safeguards the quality of legal education in the country.
With the PhiLSAT, the LEB is taking a proactive step in ensuring quality legal education in the country by testing if the examinee has the minimum requirements required of any law student and future lawyer. Providing a standardized test by which every aspiring law student will be tested elevates the quality of students to be admitted to any law school. This raises the bar for every law school and increases competitiveness by admitting only those who are qualified in any school across the country.
The absence of Manila law schools from the top 10 should not be a source of bitterness or dismay but should rather be seen as a beacon of hope that good legal education is possible throughout the country.
Could this be the end of the so-called “imperial Manila” as far as legal education is concerned? One should hope so.
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