THE college of law of the University of San Carlos (USC) made history when one of its graduates, Karen Mae Calam, topped the 2016 bar examinations. Calam was joined in the top 10 by three other Carolinians: Fiona Cristy Lao, who was third; Anne Margaret Momongan, seventh: and Jefferson Gomez, eighth. All of USC’s law graduates who took the 2016 bar exams also passed.
But that is not only what was historic in the recent bar exams. For the first time, no Metro Manila-based law school is in the top 10. Graduates of traditional bar topnotcher-producers like the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda can nowhere be seen. The passing rate of those schools, though, has remained high.
For this year, at least, schools outside of the National Capital Region acquired some bragging rights as far as landing in the top 10 of the bar exams is concerned. That, though, is not the sole measurement of the quality of education offered by law schools. Several factors contribute for those who take the bar exams to get high grades in a certain year. That includes preparation and review, the intellectual capacity of the examinee, and even luck.
One good measurement of quality education is consistency. In the 2015 bar exams, USC graduate Athena Plaza was second. In fact, USC law school has produced bar topnotchers through the years (25), including former congressman Pablo Garcia (third in 1951). The consistency exhibited by USC and other law schools outside of Metro Manila, though, has been largely unrecognized nationally.
Thus, USC College of Law dean Joan Largo was correct when she quipped “it’s about time” when asked about this development by Manila media. The top 10 achievement of schools like USC and Silliman University, together with the domination of law schools outside Metro Manila of the top ranking should, to paraphrase Largo, be a “validation that quality can be achieved” by law schools outside Metro Manila.
But it should be a continuing validation, not a one bar exam thing.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on May 04, 2017.
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