The university’s three-year shift to a solely grades-based application process opened the doors for more changes to its admissions model, though not without consequence. Since the implementation of the UP College Admissions (UPCA), the number of qualifiers from private schools has only increased, now even surpassing that of public schools.
This, despite UP’s responsibility to “take affirmative steps, which may take the form of an alternative and equitable admissions process, to enhance the access of disadvantaged students,” as stated in the UP Charter.
Nonetheless, the changes made during UPCA in broadening the scope of the grades-based component are set to be adopted in the 2024 UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) onwards, according to the UP Office of Admissions (OAdms). This dismisses an exact revival of the pre-pandemic UPCAT model.
Students were classified based on their type of senior high school and region, with each category’s passing rate calculated as the percentage of its qualifiers over applicants. This was based on data for the entire UP System during UPCAT 2020 and UPCA 2021 to 2023, as provided by the OAdms.
Despite an increase in applicants from public schools, their average UPCA passing rate is lower by 3.8 percentage points compared to UPCAT 2020. This contrasts with the 4.3-percentage point increase in private school passing rates, owing to a surge of qualifiers from this sector.
The private school category does not differentiate which applicants are scholars or transferees from a public junior high school, and therefore do not have the typical profile of a more financially capable student, noted an admissions official.
Still, private school students composed most qualifiers in all three UPCA years (see sidebar 1a)—a notable increase from UPCAT 2020 where they only composed 45.3 percent of the passers. But in terms of applicants, they have composed a larger proportion since before the implementation of UPCA (see sidebar 1b).
“Sa private schools, may pribilehiyo ang maraming estudyante na makapag-aral sa maayos na kondisyon kaya nagtataasan ang mga grades nila. Sila ang nabibigyan ng priority na makapasok sa UPCA,” said Jose Monfred Sy, a faculty member from the College of Arts and Letters and vice chairperson of the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy UP.
Without the exam portion, an applicant’s University Predicted Grade (UPG) was computed by studying how the high school records of past UP applicants related to their eventual performance in the university, and applying these patterns to UPCA applicants’ submitted grades, explained Admissions Director Francisco de los Reyes. The UPG determines which campus and program an applicant will qualify for.
The UPG is also evaluated alongside an applicant’s type of high school, socioeconomic status, and geographic location, added de los Reyes.
But even with these considerations, qualifiers only shifted toward more advantaged groups. In addition to private school students, Metro Manila-based high school students gained a larger portion of UPCA qualifiers on average, taking 11.4 percent of the total slots that had belonged to other regions in UPCAT 2020 (see sidebar 2a).
The mere filing of applications already heavily tilted toward Metro Manila and Luzon-based high school students (see sidebar 2b). This contrasts with Visayas and Mindanao, which have considerably fewer applicants.
The applicant distribution among localities has remained largely unchanged since 2020, save for a notable dip in NCR applicants during UPCA 2022 that also coincided with a drop in private school applicants.
UPCA 2022 was the first year that applicants had to encode their own grades, compared to 2021 when schools submitted their students’ grades. The rise in applicants in 2023, on the other hand, could be attributed to the mandated return to face-to-face classes, making it easier to request documents for the application process, according to OAdms.
However, this still does not remove the possibility of schools preventing students from accessing documents they need for their applications, OAdms said.
As UPCA was only administered during the pandemic, its results were likely affected by the changes in the admissions model that might have contributed to more fluctuating distributions between groups as compared to past iterations of UPCAT. But comparing results among only UPCA years could still show the effectiveness of these changes.
Though compared solely to 2021, UPCA 2023 saw only a decrease in the portion of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao qualifiers, it at least had a more equally distributed set of qualifiers between private and public, with 50.2 and 49.8 percent, respectively—the closest that UPCA came to mirroring the more public school-leaning UPCAT 2020 results.
But even though UPCAT 2020 had a higher percentage of public school qualifiers than private, it was only by 9.5 percentage points. Metro Manila-based qualifiers also composed more than a third of qualifiers, showing a geographical divide even then.
“Hindi rin naman democratic ang UPCAT dahil sa coverage nitong nakakiling sa science at mathematics na hindi naman naituturo ng maraming paaralan dahil sa kakulangan sa budget at hindi maayos na facilities,” said Sy.
The UPCAT exam is in English and Filipino and consists of four subtests: language proficiency, science, mathematics, and reading comprehension. But the test should cover a wider scope of disciplines since other schools, particularly Lumad schools, teach subjects like agriculture and land protection, added Sy.
The recent UP admissions results still show an inclination toward advantaged students despite the university’s mandate to serve and accommodate those of less privileged backgrounds. This only further underscores the necessity of UP’s continued studies for a more accurate UPG model that factors in its promised “excellence and equity.”
Discussions around the abolition or overhaul of the existing admissions processes have become more frequent too, with students and other UP constituents’ push to raise these opinions to both student and university representatives.
“May malinaw na pagkiling yung UPCA at UPCAT sa standards na namamayani both nationally and internationally. Pero kailangan talaga mabigyan pa ng priority ang mga nasa public schools, lalo na yung mga nasa rehiyon para tunay na makapagsilbi ang UP sa mga mamamayan,” said Sy. ●
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