COVID-19 pushes UP to call off annual admission test

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
COVID-19 pushes UP to call off annual admission test
This undated photo shows students lining up to submit requirements for the annual University of the Philippines College Admission Test.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File

MANILA, Philippines —  State-run University of the Philippines on Tuesday said it will not hold its admission test, which draws thousands annually this year amid logistical issues brought by restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

University councils of the UP system were unanimous in calling off the exam as its members found it difficult to push through with paper-and-pencil testing as well as allowing applicants to take it online.

"Taking into account the uncertain trajectory and uneven spread of COVID-19 in different parts of the Philippines," a report on UP's website said, "majority of the UC members did not deem it feasible to administer the usual UPCAT involving around 1,600 testing personnel deployed to 94 testing centers throughout the archipelago."

The two supposed methods were part of the possible options the university's admissions office said it was studying back in October, along with foregoing the UPCAT as one of its last resort. Under this, UP will take into account from applicants factors such as personal data sheet and high school grades to arrive at a University Predicted Grade.

Commission on Higher Education chairman Prospero de Vera had earlier expressed his doubts on universities conducting its admissions test through the internet as he said others may do it for the applicants. 

UP, however, sought to explain that nixing an online UPCAT was "primarily due to the length of the exam and variety of items that would require a consistently strong Internet connection to download within the time allotted for examinees to answer."

The admissions office now faces the task to come up with a modified system by February 2021 for accepting freshmen, per the instruction of UP's Board of Regents, the highest governing body of the university system. 

"This includes the use of big data analytics to arrive at a UP admission score model, which the [Office of Admissions], together with other concerned offices, is currently developing, as well as the determination by academic units of an additional layer of screening for particular programs, if deemed necessary," the website report continued. 

With UP's latest decision, application period for the next academic year where face-to-face learning is still uncertain, has been moved to December. 

The ongoing pandemic has forced learning in the Philippines to continue through online classes which had met calls from groups to postpone, with poor internet connection a long existing problem in the country as well as spelling the challenge of gadget availability for both students and teachers. 

UP's move not to hold its exams this year follows through with other universities' decision in the past months, such as Ateneo de Manila and University of Santo Tomas moving to instead screen applicants through past academic records. 

Some 11,821 applicants made the cut in the last UPCAT held out of the more than 90,000 who took it, based on the results which was released in end-May this year.

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