MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court will depart from its tradition of announcing the names of top 10 passers in the 2020-2021 Bar examinations, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said Friday.
Leonen, who chairs the 2020-2021 Bar exams committee, said that instead of announcing the top-notchers, an examinee who obtains an 85 percent or higher weighted score for the upcoming examination shall be recognized for exemplary performance.
In the latest Bar bulletin, the Supreme Court said that the modification of the grading system was one of the reforms proposed by Leonen “to enable a more reasonable approach to appraising and reporting on Bar examination performance.”
It has been a tradition of the high court to name the top notchers simultaneous with the release of successful Bar passers, but with the pandemic, Leonen said they have taken into consideration the circumstances of the two batches that will be taking the exams this November.
“On one hand, those who intended to take the Bar Examinations in 2020 either had more time to review, or endured more time for waiting. The 2021 graduates, on the other hand, had to endure the longer ordeal of preparing to graduate during the pandemic, causing delays in the graduation dates. They have been put in a constrained environment, with only a brief window of time to prepare,” Leonen said.
“Testing two batches of examinees that prepared under different circumstances – not to mention the vast number of combined examinees, placing an enormous demand on the examiners – compels the adoption of unique mechanisms that aim to balance these inequities,” he added.
Leonen also noted that the modifications introduced aim to be “more inclusive” by not limiting recognition to an exclusive circle of top-notchers, adding that “limiting the recognition to a circle of 10 risks being beholden to statistical minutiae.”
He also emphasized that the Bar exams aim to determine whether an individual has the knowledge to be a lawyer.
“The Bar examinations measure individual knowledge. It is no race or competition. Neither will it predict who among the examinees will become the best qualified within their batch, the better lawyer, the more relevant practitioner, or the more compassionate individual,” he said.
“In short, good lawyering requires skill and a view to making choices that match the nobility of the profession and its desire for social justice. This is not entirely measured by the Bar examinations,” he added.
The SC postponed the 2020 Bar examinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The upcoming exams will be held in several testing centers across the country in November.
“It is hoped that by shifting the focus away from how to select individuals who excel and onto a school’s collective performance, this will encourage deep-seated and wide-ranging improvements in legal education. Law schools would inspire and aspire for excellence that would uplift their entire studentry, rather than select Bar bets only,” Leonen said
Under the modified grading system, an examinee who obtains a total weighted score of 85 percent or higher for the 2020-2021 Bar Examinations shall be recognized for exemplary performance.
“The names of examinees who earned recognition for exemplary performance shall be made publicly available simultaneously with the list of passers, through the same media. Apart from this, no fanfare shall be devoted in releasing information on examinees who rendered exemplary performance,” Leonen said.
“The names in this list shall be arranged alphabetically, and shall also appear in the list of passers. This list shall replace the traditional Top 10,” he added.
The SC said a report on law schools’ performance will also be released. Law schools having examinees who were recognized for exemplary performance shall also be identified in a separate report.
Statistics on the performance of those who did not pass or did not finish past Bar exams will not be made public, but will be given to the law schools themselves, it added.