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The right to practice

/ 04:20 AM November 15, 2019

I checked the list once and I checked it twice. The list stopped halfway down a short piece of bond paper, with some more names hopefully making it to the list as the days progress.

I was not Santa Claus, working on granting some children’s wish lists. I was actually busy preparing for the upcoming oath-taking ceremonies. I am very much eager to welcome new members into our profession. Next week, the annual national convention will be held. It would be another long trip, and I’ve grown unaccustomed to such travels, even if these conventions are expected at this time of the year.

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Then there are the not-so-exciting tasks of showing up to work and getting things done. This is the life of the working class, I’ve been thinking—a delicate balance between justifiably sweet and onerously challenging.

Like many members of the working class, I earned my spot in the profession by passing a licensure exam, registering my license and maintaining that license.

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I communicated excitedly with the new passers who are eager to claim theirs. Wasn’t it too long ago when I was in their very shoes? But at the end of the day, inside my own soul, I find that this whole exercise—of living up to a license I had so arduously worked for—is a tough job. Honestly, it is exhausting.

As the year ends and the cycle of professional licensure exams starts anew soon, I congratulate all those who have gone through such daunting experience. I have friends who successfully aced their physician’s exams some months ago, students who are fresh from the CPA board and a few more friends pursuing their bar exams right at this moment.

Perhaps this is a staple for most of us Filipinos, and maybe even Asians. We hear of this cousin passing that exam, or that neighbor passing yet another. Nowadays, it seems like almost every occupation needs a license. Licenses are put in place to ensure that the public is protected from unprofessional or illegitimate procedures. Thus, “the right to practice” is granted to only a few.

But licensure exams have become somewhat like a competitive sport. Perhaps this is most evident among hopefuls taking their exams, as they bring with them the hopes and expectations of their families, and their dreams to live accomplished lives. But not much is then heard of the lives lived after, where the real battle begins.

I seldom talk about my profession. It isn’t a table topic for me. Some days, I pretend to be one of those characters in “Downton Abbey” instead. Wouldn’t it be nice to be landed enough not to work for money? “Downtown Abbey,” for all its greatness, is just some sweet fantasy. Because for those of us who don’t come from royalty, we have to pursue other titles instead—accountant, architect, doctor, engineer, lawyer, nurse, teacher, among many others. And with good reason. Licensed professionals are said to eventually receive higher pay, and may get better chances at promotion.

But despite these perceived advantages, professionals are not entirely compensated for the sacrifices and resources required to remain competitive in one’s field. Teachers in public schools are demanding an increase in their basic pay, and medical professionals have also raised the same concerns. The demands of the workplace are arduous enough, but regulatory requirements are an added cost. Continuing professional development units are expensive.

As more and more Filipinos join the ranks of licensed professions, the demands of their work are changing, too. For instance, we can no longer negate the need for stronger codependence between the academe and the industry. We must also reassess our licensure exams—how effective are they, and are they truly responsive to the needs of the profession?

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And lastly, we need to rethink the concept of the right to practice. It is a responsibility, not a privilege. As the cutthroat times have proven, professions get replaced and they no longer automatically correlate to success and progress in life.

Professions are our contributions to society. And even if many dream of the right to practice, that right also entails much sacrifice. It demands a lot. The dream, then, must not be anybody else’s but your very own.

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