Protest brewing over changes in special civil engineering board exam for OFWs
There is unrest among Filipino civil engineers in the Middle East regarding the “radical and unexpected changes” in the professional licensure exam administered by the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) in Qatar, Riyadh and other overseas testing centers last December.
In a letter sent last January by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE)-Qatar chapter to PRC Chair Teresita Manzala, the organization said it was “surprised and very disappointed” that the PRC had suddenly increased the number of questions per subject from the usual 30 to 36 items to 100 items but the time allotment for answering the questions remained the same four to five hours.
The overseas engineers were also upset to learn that the examinees in the Philippines were given the old 30-item per set test.
“We consider this so-called adjustment, unreasonable and unfair to the examinees here in the Middle East,” said PICE-Qatar president Delfino de Leon in his letter.
“Calculating from these, an examinee has a maximum of three minutes to read, understand, analyze and compute and finally shade the answer to each item in the questionnaire. Considering this time limit and the stressful conditions in a testing center, we can say that passing this type of board examinations is almost impossible,” he wrote.
PICE-Qatar past president Eric Garcia, who was in Manila recently, pointed out that the civil engineering exams administered in Qatar the past two years had an average 20 percent passing rate, which generally reflected the passing range nationally. But with the sudden changes, no one passed the exam. In the entire Middle East, only one out of 152 examinees passed.
Did CE board agree?
The organization did get a reply from the chair of the Board of Civil Engineering, Apollo S. Enriquez, informing them that the board had in fact sent a “letter request for consideration” to Manzala last November. “We are, however, cognizant of the administrative power of the commission upon us, just like all the other professional regulatory boards,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez advised the PICE-Qatar members to wait. “Inasmush as we have already stated our position on this matter to the commission, we think it will be wise and prudent for us to wait for the reply of the commission. Your letter complaint was consolidated with the other letters of examinees of similar subject matter, together with the letter of the PICE national president,” Enriquez wrote.
Was there expert advise?
Garcia said he doubted whether the PRC’s new questionnaire had been subjected to rigorous consideration or consultations with the academe. “I hope you understand how we feel in Qatar, especially the 28 examinees who took the CE licensure exams last December … We just want fair treatment,” he told the Inquirer.
He said the overseas examinees were already uneasy because unlike previous years, the exams in 2011 were not held during the three-day Eid al-Adha holiday, usually in October or November. The PRC, he said, was late in confirming when the exam would be held, and examinees had to be absent from work to take the exams from Dec. 9 to 11.
Why no reply?
Garcia said their biggest beef is that PRC has not offered them an explanation for the sudden changes despite their formal letter in January and another follow-up letter in February. They have also asked the Department of Labor for assistance.
“I thought government agencies are required to answer public queries in 15 days?”
The Inquirer sought a comment on the issue from the PRC.
PRC spokesperson and chief of staff to the chairman Louis Valera defended PRC’s move. He told the Inquirer: “Technically, it is not completely correct to say there was an increase (in questions). It is within the discretion of the PRC board to give 100-item questionnaires because it is in the table of specifications.”
PRC owes no explanation
He cited a provision in the commission’s Resolution 2 Series of 1995: “The board shall provide a minimum of 500 questions for each subject from which the computer of the commission will select at random on the day or a few days prior to the examinations the questions to be given. The number of questions for each subject shall not be less than 20 at 4 points each. The maximum number of questions shall not be more than 100 at 1 point each.”
The board’s discretion, Valera said, was based on “the responsiveness of the examinations to current trends to ensure the competitiveness of takers in their respective fields.”
As for the lack of an advisory on the changes, Valera said: “The PRC does not need to advise them (licensure examination takers) because they are supposed to be well aware of this.” He added that the board has the option to change the manner of the examinations if needed “as long as they play within the range (of allowable number of questions per subject).”
The PRC spokesperson also argued that it would have been “more unfair if the board had not changed the actual test because the licensure examinations given to civil engineering board takers in the country and in the Middle East are not synchronized and are considered different.”
He countered that the PICE-Qatar’s argument about the average passing rates in previous examinations “would not be a practical gauge” adding “the statistics depend on the performance of the takers.” Continued Valera: “The examination would have been questionable if nobody passed. But someone (1) passed so there is nothing wrong with the test. They just got used to the 30-item exams.”
At any rate, the PICE-Qatar chapter is still waiting for the courtesy of a formal reply. “We want an official reply so we can respond,” said Garcia, who was in town for a few days last week to attend his son’s graduation.