PESHAWAR: The federal government has directed the provincial government to withhold the entrance test for admission to medical and dental colleges, which was scheduled for October 18, till further orders.

Sources said that there was complete lack of clarity about the directives because Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, like other provinces, had made preparations and more than 40,000 candidates had been registered for the test.

So far, all the provinces have been conducting the test for their students but now there will be centralised test in the whole country, on the same day with same questions and criteria.

A notification issued by Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination has requested the chief secretaries to inform the admitting universities that the process of medical and dental colleges admission tests (MDCAT) for the session 2020-21 might be withheld till the finalisation/notification of the council of Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC).

According to new system, centralised test will be held for students of entire country

It said that further intimation for the said process would be communicated by the said council.

The PMC Act 2020 has been passed by the Parliament. As per Section 18 of PMC Act, MDCAT should be conducted by PMC for the students seeking admission to medical and dental colleges anywhere in the country, said the notification copied to five admitting universities.

The notification entitled “promulgation of PMC Act 2020” has created ambiguity as there is no communication with the admitting universities by PMC as yet and it is the first notification from it.

Section 19 of the PMC Act 2020, says that all admitting universities should ensure that all medical and dental colleges at the time of seeking affiliation fulfil and thereafter consistently maintain accreditation standards including maximum students in each year permitted consequent to the accreditation standard for undergraduate medical and dental programmes of study based in Pakistan as formulated by the council.

So far, all the provinces have been conducting the entrance tests for medical and dental students on different dates but now PMC has made it obligatory that there will be a centralised test with same questions and criteria to be held the same day.

Under the new law, there will be no separate test by the provinces. However, like the entrance test, the MDCAT will carry 50 marks.

Section 18 of PMC Act says that provided that every private medical and dental college seeking affiliation should be a body corporate registered as a limited company under the Companies Act, 2017. No student should be awarded medical dental degree in the country who has not passed the MDCAT prior to admission to medical and dental colleges in Pakistan.

The medical teachers said it was a wise decision to conduct the test on one day because it had been observed in the past that some students obtained lesser marks in one province but got more marks in the same test conducted by another body.

However, the authorities concerned are confused over the new directives as the PMC is yet to announce its board and council with whom they can communicate. The admission process was already late due to Covid-19 pandemic and further delay can be caused if PMC does not start functioning immediately.

The experts said that one test for the whole country might also affect students because of different syllabuses. The new system of entrance test was also in place in many countries including the US and every province would be making its own merit list.

“However, at the moment there is complete lack of clarity,” said senior medical teachers.

Khyber Medical University had earlier scheduled entrance test for September 20 which was later rescheduled for October 18.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020