But what troubled me is the propaganda pic below circulating in Facebook, apparently designed as an offshoot of the release of the 2011 Bar Exam results. It capitalizes on the fact that Aguirre got a higher score than Santiago:
|An attack against Sen. Santiago circulating in Facebook. The one above is|
circulated by a certain Ma. Stella A. Vizmanos
This fetish on Bar Exam results as a barometer for a lawyer puts into light another issue, that no student from the University of the Philippines College of Law was able to make it to top ten in the recent Bar Examinations Result.
No UP in Top Ten?
That UP, the country's premier university, failed to have one of its students reach the top ten in the bar surprised many, including UP itself (compelling them to have a meeting on the matter). This is when passing rate (31.9% of 5,990 examinees) is the 2nd highest this millennium (after 2001's 32.89%), supposedly due to reforms initiated by Corona. And this is when UP Law graduates consistently made it to the top ten: 4 in 2010, 2 in 2009 and 2008, 3 in 2007 and 2006. In 2005, UP law graduate Joan A. De Venecia even topped the bar.
|UP College of Law Centennial Commemorative Stamp|
UP Law may not have anyone in the top 10, but then again, UP students, from UP Law and elsewhere, are not trained to memorize stuff and ace exams reflecting other people's thinking. UP students are trained to think differently, critique, argue, and invent. UP law students in particular are more trained to be practice-oriented rather than bar-oriented, to be litigators and not just attorneys-at-law, and as such are required to spend time as interns at the UP's Office of Legal Aid (see "From Classroom to Courtroom: OLA bridges gap between theory and practice of law").
In fact, as testament to hands-on and litigation-oriented rather than exam-based training in UP, UP Law's applicant team defeated Ateneo's (which bagged this year's top spot) respondent team in the national rounds of the prestigious Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition at the Supreme Court, giving them the opportunity to represent the country in the Washington DC International Rounds from March 25 to 31, 2012.
Proposal to Eliminate Ranking in Bar Exams
Some may ask then, what's the point of exams to begin with? Am I for the abolition of the bar exams? Of course not!
Before one becomes a lawyer, we have to require mastery of some of basic aspects of the law, enough to enable you to make valid legal arguments and to engage in legal reasoning. And this is what is measured by the exam - the mastery of the basic stuff. It does not measure if you will actually be able to make sophisticated (and competitive) legal arguments, or if you have a firm grasp of the political/economic context within which these legal arguments are made (and this requires exposure, experience). In this sense, whether you are a topnotcher or got a barely passing mark - if you have passed the bar, then it only means you learned enough to pass for a lawyer. Your grade doesn't automatically indicate future legal acumen. However, it doesn't stop you from learning more. It is possible for a "class goat" to know more about he law than the topnotcher through continuous study.
|From Hope for the Flowers. Caterpillars pointlessly climb the "caterpillar pillar" which|
emerged from the act of climbing itself.
So what do we do? What we can do is to stop ranking bar exam passers. SC will still maintain its highly competitive passing rates, but should no longer announce the top 10 bar examinees. The examinees will receive letters in private containing their scores in each of the subjects and suggestions on how to improve. Together with reforms pushed by UP Law Dean Danilo Concepcion (specialized courses should no longer be included, the focus should be on the basic and litigation skill), other reforms that will engender new methods of pedagogy, and an increasing emphasis on legal philosophy, the nature of the exams should gradually move from being competitive and doctrinal to collegial, collaborative, open, and scientific.
Eliminating ranking in the bar exams may contribute to producing more creative lawyers: lawyers who have not memorized and overstudied the current logic and letter of the law in order to pass an exam, but rather aimed to have a grasp of its essence in order to creatively interpret it according to her own principles. Lawyers will be licensed on the basis of their skill on argumentation and comprehension of the norms of society.
On Ranking and Education
Ranking has a certain effect on one's psyche - not only does it impose hierarchy and imposes differences in relative confidence (people who are at the lower ranks may be persuaded that they will always perform less, and thus they do), it stifles paradigm-changing ideas from surfacing. For instance, the less legal education focus on bar exams which focuses on mainstream law, the more room we give to say, alternative law or development law.
The elimination of ranking in legal education goes against tradition and practice, but it is the way to the future - the 21st century post-enlightenment, post-factory-based education system.Our current system, designed to address to needs of mechanized industrialization, replicates all the elements of a factory system: testing and rejection criterion, ranking (through grades) and batching (year of graduation) for quality control, compartmentalizing for efficiency (dividing education in fields and disciplines), mass production (through huge tertiary schools), etc. In our post-industrial society that dismantles divisions between disciplines and recognizes the innate capacity of humans to learn and intuit, our method of legal education are slowly becoming obsolete.
Eliminating ranking in the education system may be too avant-garde for some, but more and more schools are doing so. Besides, more likely than not, it is the colleges and universities and not the students themselves which obsess over rankings, externalizing their obsessions to students through academic pressure and conforming their lessons to maximize passing rate.
In this sense, Miriam, judged by some as obnoxious, arrogant, and incredible, is still a brilliant lawyer, in terms of her grasp of the law and the norms and behavior of the Filipino society (maybe including how to navigate and survive while going against it). Whether she is a moral or patriotic or pro-people lawyer is another thing, and let that be a subject of a different debate.
Let us attack her politics, her attitude, her temperament. But let us not discount her intelligence and her ability by a mere score in an exam. It will be an insult to the concept of intelligence itself to do so. It will be an insult to those who did poorly in formal exams but excellently in life. It will also serve to calcify old and obsolete notions of learning, intelligence, and ability.
|Another attack pic circulated by a certain Reyna Elena|