LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly Special Committee’s recommendation to do away with the whopping weightage of 50pc assigned for medical and dental colleges’ entrance test is expected to be materialised after a joint meeting of the stakeholders agreed that it must be drastically reduced.

The special committee had laid its report on the floor of the House in October last recommending that the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT) weightage be brought down to 10pc. Later, the report was unanimously adopted by the Punjab Assembly as all the Treasury and Opposition members were on the same page.

On the persuasion of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA Mian Aslam Iqbal in the House time and again, Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal called a meeting of the stakeholders and directed the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) to move a summary to the chief minister seeking Punjab cabinet’s approval to approach the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) to assume powers under the 18th constitutional amendment and fine-tune entrance test weightage.

Such powers in terms of the Engineering Colleges Admission Test (ECAT) are already with the Punjab government.

All stakeholders on the committee asserted that the revised percentages be approved and implemented from the upcoming entrance test after the ongoing FSc annual examination 2018.

The committee also recommended that the entrance test be organised on the second Sunday after the FSc examination to eliminate exploitation by the private academies.

The private academies are thriving on the pretext of offering preparation and crash courses for medical colleges’ entrance test and are said to be making a turnover of around Rs3 billion in just couple of months putting massive financial burden on parents across the province. “This is not an economic activity but blackmailing on the part of few owners of private academies. Only a few thousand teachers make a fast buck across the province,” a stakeholder said.

While the special committee recommended reducing the MDCAT weightage to 10pc to facilitate the students belonging to poor strata of society, the Higher Education Department seems reluctant to go ahead with a clear mind. It says the unrealistic weightage must be reduced from 50pc but kept it around 30pc, it is learnt.

PTI MPA Mr Iqbal, however, asserted that the special committee had categorically recommended that the Punjab government must bring down the entrance test weightage from 50pc to 10pc, while matriculation and FSc examination results’ weightage be enhanced to 20pc and 70pc, respectively.

“If the Punjab government does not give due weightage to its matriculation and FSc examinations results, it means the government has failed to make its board examinations authentic and true reflection of students’ learning outcomes,” he said.

“Since the subject of education was devolved after the 18th constitutional amendment, it is Punjab government’s prerogative to align weightages so that students may have a level playing field besides saving parents from academies’ exploitation and massive financial burden,” Mr Iqbal said.

The HED officials say the specialised entrance test is a standard practice the world over but agree that the percentage of weightages are perhaps “too high”. Admitting that 50pc weightage is too much for three-hour test compared to four full-fledged examinations spanning over four years, they say, the weightage of admission test may be reduced to 30pc – as a second tier of quality assurance.

Sources said the stakeholders are also deliberating on other issues including holding of the entrance test – whether just before the FSc examination results or after the results or on the second Sunday after the examination.

Asking the University of Health Sciences about the rationale behind waiting for three months before taking the examination, the special committee asserted, “An earlier entrance test with low weightage will give a level playing field to all students”.

In case the UHS is asked to take entrance test on the second Sunday after the last theory paper of examination, an HED official said the university could be asked to include 75pc questions from FSc Part-II syllabus and 25pc from Part-I syllabus.

The students, who are currently appearing for the FSc examinations, are waiting for a favourable decision.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2018