A FORMER head of the country's largest association of nurses called on the government Tuesday to implement “selective admission” for students who want to take the course.

This if the government is really serious in arresting the decline of nursing education as shown by the low passing rate in the recent licensure exams.

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“There really should be a selective admission for those who want to enter the nursing profession to ensure quality. Not all those who want to take the course should be accepted… because if that is case, the quality will definitely suffer,” said Dr. Leah Samaco-Paquiz, former president of the Philippine Nursing Association (PNA).

Samaco-Paquiz said the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) should initiate such a move, adding that it is their mandate to ensure the quality of higher education in the country.

“The Ched should take a look into this. This problem should be given attention, otherwise the number of enrollees will only get bigger and other professions might be affected too,” she added.

Earlier, the Ched said nursing and allied courses still topped other courses in term of enrolment this academic year with 422,978 enrollees closed to three times the number in the Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM), the second course with the highest number of students.

Although the number of enrollees decreased by more than 36,000 from the 497,214 enrollees last academic year, it has increased significantly in the last eight years based on actual figure.

From only 49,995 in academic year 2000-2001, nursing enrolment peaked to 178,626 in 2003-2004 and drastically swelled to 420,015 in 2007-2008.

In 2007 alone, nursing students comprised nearly a quarter of the 2.5 million college students in the country.

The data also showed that while there were advances in nursing enrolment, the number of board passers dropped significantly in the last 10 years. From 62 percent in 1981 to 1988, it went down to 48 percent between the year 2002 and 2006, and plunged to 44 percent last year.

The decline continues today with only 37,527 out of the 94,462 examinees passing the board exams administered last November 2009 and whose results were released Monday.

Current PNA president, Dr. Teresita Barcelo, echoed her predecessor's comment and reiterated their call on Ched and other government regulatory agencies to address the mushrooming of schools offering nursing program.

“There has to be a strict monitoring of substandard nursing programs offered by these schools otherwise all our efforts will come for naught since obviously when you expand suddenly, may magsa-suffer talaga at ito na nga ang resulta,” Barcelo said.

The group said from 125 to 128 from 1988 to 1991 nursing schools swelled to the present 470 though many of the institutions are lacking in adequate facilities such as base hospital and other facilities as well as qualified faculty members.

But Ched chairman Dr. Emmanuel Angeles said putting a ceiling in nursing enrolment is a violation of the rights of students to choose which course they want to pursue.

“We will be curtailing the freedom of the students if we establish a ceiling. We might be charged with violating their rights,” he said.

He said the Commission is not remiss in its duties as it barred several schools from implementing nursing programs if they lack the proper facilities needed such as base hospital and laboratories and lack of adequately trained faculty.

The Ched chairman also assured that several measures have been put in place to address concerns in nursing education. One of them, he said, is the tie up with the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) to publish names of nursing programs that have low board passing rate in the last five years.

Late last year, the Commission took the measure of warning 152 nursing schools whose passing rates in licensure exams is way below the standard set by the PRC for the past five years to “shape-up or be phase-out.”

They performed below the National Passing Rate of 46.14 percent, according to Ched.

Likewise, Angeles said 15 schools have voluntarily phased-out or closed down their nursing programs.

‘Fly-by-night’ schools

The proliferation of “fly-by-night” nursing schools in the country has contributed a lot to the decline of education leading to the low passing rates in the licensure exams as shown by recently released results of the November 2009 board exams.

Ched Executive Director Julito Vitriolo said these erring schools lacked the necessary facilities such as base hospitals in which their students can enroll for on-the-job-training prior to their graduation as well as qualified faculty members.

Vitriolo said this predicament prompted Ched to intensify its campaign against sub-standard schools.

“The first part of the process is to give them notice of warning for them to improve and if they don't improve within the next three years, they will be phase-out,” Vitriolo said, adding that for those who have zero passing rates will be closed to ensure that students will get only quality education.

Among the standards set by Ched were the school faculties, quality of faculty members, curriculum, learning activities and passing rates in the licensure exams.

Schools are ranked from poor to excellent with those having zero to 3 percent passing rate ranked in the lowest category. (AH/Sunnex)