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Librarians' Licensure Exams: 1992-2007

A recent comment asking for library school rankings reminded me that I've been planning to take a closer look at the results of the Librarians' Licensure Exams for quite a while now. Actually, I've been planning to blog about a lot of things, but this takes precedence because someone asked for it =)

I have no real objective here, except perhaps to start a conversation on the exam results and encourage more in-depth research. Let me start with an overview:

Librarians' Licensure Exams: 1992-2007
The number of those taking the exam has clearly increased almost every year for the last sixteen years. But the number of passers has not gone up proportionally, and even decreased in terms of percentages in the last four years compared to the earlier years. These, however, do not necessarily mean that there has been a corresponding increase in the number of students interested in becoming librarians or that they have not been performing as well as those before them.

Based on the 2007 results—the only one that provides a breakdown of first-timers and repeaters among those since 2002 that I have been able to download from online sources—almost 45 percent of those who took the exam were repeaters, less than a fifth of whom passed. Aside from inflating the number of those taking the exams, the high number of repeaters who do not pass also pull down the passing rate. This merely emphasizes the need to distinguish between first-timers and repeaters when analyzing the results.

There is, however, another reason for the relatively steep decline beginning in 2004. From 1993 to 2003, the passing rate was almost consistently at 50 percent. Now it's in the 30s. The fall, as explained to me by a board member at the induction ceremonies in 2004, was due to a shift from using the mean in computing grades to a system that was being used by all other professions for which the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) administered exams. In short, the previous passing rate was artificial. But the year 2004 was also the year when brownouts at the main testing center and explosions outside distracted those taking the exam, which perhaps explains why the lowest passing rate ever was recorded that year.

More data may be gleaned from the list of passing rates per school from 2006-2007:

The list of schools with the highest passing rates and the highest number of examinees is available from 2002 onward, but this does not really tell us much because these schools do not even account for half of all examinees. A closer look at the detailed lists from 2006 and 2007 reveals that examinees came from 105 and 129 schools, respectively, and that only 30 schools each had more than 10 students taking the exam per year. In 2007, 99 schools with ten students or less accounted for one-third of the examinees, and of the 50 schools that had only one graduate taking the exam, only 17 passed.

Let's take a closer look at the 2007 results for the five schools with the most examinees:

  • Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Main-Sta. Mesa had 52 alumni who took the exam (50 percent passed)
  • University of the Philippines-Diliman had 48 (98 percent)
  • Philippine Normal University-Manila had 44 (57 percent)
  • University of San Jose-Recoletos had 29 (24 percent)
  • National Teacher's College had 28 (18 percent)
If UP's passing rate looks exceptional, it is. No other school with more than 15 students had a passing rate higher than 60 percent. It also had the lowest number of repeaters—just one—which means that repeaters had very little to do with its high number of examinees. And this is true not only of the 2007 results—UP has consistently had the highest passing rate since the exams started in 1992.

What does UP have that other schools don't? (Note: I obtained my MLIS at UP and taught there for one semester, but don't really have any basis for making any comparisons, so what follows are merely possibilities for further research, not conclusions.) Could it have something to do with the admission process? Or maybe many—most?—of the schools don't really have enough faculty, facilities, or funding to adequately cater to the needs of their students? This leads to another question: Do we really need so many library "schools" in the Philippines? If some of those in the same region, province or city pooled their resources, would it lead to better results?

I am not in a position to take this any further, but I hope someone will find this interesting enough—or maybe even get so offended?—that they will do more research to prove that my data is wrong or that I'm not asking the right questions.

The data used for this post are from the files sent by the PRC to different newspapers in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007; and those for 1992-2001 are from "The professionalization of librarians in the Philippines" (pdf) by Antonio Santos.

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