Thousands of Philippine students take state U entrance exam

17 08 2010

(originally posted here)

by Romeo Moran

Thousands of high school seniors all over the Philippines poured into nearby campuses last weekend just to try and get into one of the country’s most prestigious universities.

At least 70,000 students took the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT), held last Aug. 7 and 8 in the various UP campuses and public high schools across the country. The UP Office of the University Registrar is still tallying the total number of examinees at this time.

Out of those applicants, only around 10,000 to 12,000 will be admitted, mostly based on their performance in the exam. The relatively low entrance rate compared to other colleges and universities in the Philippines gives the UPCAT its reputation of being the hardest college entrance examination in the country.

That reputation spawns many legends and stories about the UPCAT and its difficulty, and fuels the review center business that helps students study for important exams.

“[I expected the test to be] harsh, because of a review center I attended during the summer,” said Pam, an UPCAT taker from Davao. “[But] I just felt relaxed [during the test].”

Motivation

So why do most students still try for UP, despite the seemingly monumental odds of getting in?

One reason would be the sheer diversity of UP culture, often described as a “microcosm of Philippine society.” “You really get to meet loads of people from all walks of life,” said Lari, a Biology student in UP Manila. “It’s no fun being confined to an all exclusive university filled with the Richie Rich’s of the Philippines.”

Although for people like Pam and Ernest, a student already in UP Diliman, it’s mostly because being in UP is kind of a family tradition. “[I’m going to enroll in UP if I pass the UPCAT] to have a better future, and because I’ve been influenced by my siblings,” Pam says. According to Ernest, the goal of going to UP was “ingrained” by his parents at an early age.

The university’s prestige is also a huge factor, having a reputation of being a breeding ground of the country’s greatest minds and a bastion of academic excellence. “[I aimed to get into UP because] Maganda ang Journalism program nila (their Journalism program is good),” said Enzo, a freshman also in UP Diliman.

Lastly, another huge factor is the cost of education in UP. The state university offers premium education for much less than in private colleges due to government subsidy, even though that subsidy has been decreasing in recent years, resulting in major fee increases. “The tuition [in UP] is way cheaper than in [other universities],” said Lari. “But then again, there is the [Tuition and Other Fees Increase (TOFI)] going on. Too bad, but it’s still affordable for middle-class families.”

Even with the TOFI, which resulted in most students paying Php1000-1500 per unit from the old cost of Php300 per unit, the overall cost of education in UP is still cheaper compared to that in De La Salle University or Ateneo de Manila University, also two of the most prestigious universities in Metro Manila. The difference in the fees per semester between UP and La Salle is at least 51%, and a staggering 98.6% between UP and Ateneo, still making UP a reasonable option for the middle-class.

The results of the UPCAT are usually released in late January.

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