ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Medical Commission’s (PMC) decision to hold a single medical and dental colleges admissions test (MDCAT) across the country has put students in limbo, as the PMC Act states that the commission will hold the national MDCAT in 2021.
Students have asked why the PMC is planning to hold the MDCAT in violation of its act, which also states that the test will be held according to recommendations by an academic board that has yet to be established.
A faculty member has also asked how the PMC, which has directed colleges to propose their annual fees by Oct 20, will assess the infrastructure, faculty, facilities and quality of education of 172 colleges in a week – the length of time that the PMC will take to approve the fees.
PMC President Dr Arshad Taqi said that students’ anxiety was natural, as it is difficult to digest change. He said students should not worry, adding there would not be any complications with the MDCAT and the council was determined to address issues.
A few days ago, students from the Rawalpindi Medical University met with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan and asked why students were not being given an appropriate amount of time before the introduction of the MDCAT and the National Licensing Exam (NLE). They argued that the United Kingdom decided to introduce the UK Medical Licensing Examination in 2015, but it will not be implemented until 2023.
They also said that if the MDCAT is being introduced in 2020, the NLE – an exit exam – should be held in 2025 for the same batch that will sit for the MDCAT this year.
They said that with separate pre-medical curriculums across Pakistan, it was impossible for all students to appear in a single MDCAT.
Dr Sultan told the students that the decision to form the PMC and introduce the MDCAT was made in students’ best interest and would ensure education quality.
A faculty member at a medical college who asked to remain anonymous said there was no precedent across the world for an immediate implementation of policies.
He said: “The USMLE was announced in 1980s and was implemented in 1990s. Same was the case in UK. In Pakistan, it is clearly mentioned in the PMC Act that the MDCAT will be held in 2021 but the PMC has announced it in year 2020.
“Moreover, it is mentioned in section 13 of Act that the academic board, which is yet to be established, will set the standard of MDCAT but test has been announced.”
On its website, the PMC has directed medical and dental colleges to propose their annual fees by Oct 20, which the commission will then take seven days to approve after an evaluation.
“It is impossible to evaluate as many as 172 colleges within seven days. It seems that the fees will be decided through negotiations and students will have to pay the exorbitant fees,” he said.
The faculty member said the during the case that led to the eventual dissolution of the PMC, the Islamabad High Court had mentioned council members by name and asked how they were nominated. Now, the same individuals have been dominated as council members again.
Dr Taqi told Dawn: “Those who have been saying that the MDCAT should be held in 2021 should know that the test is being held for those who will pass out in years 2021.”
He said that previously, there were different syllabi for all the boards of each province and one MDCAT for each province.
“Now, one MDCAT has been introduced for the whole country to bring uniformity. There will be a simple MDCAT and students need not worry,” he said.
When asked about the Sindh health minister’s allegation that the PMC president and vice president were working without being notified, Dr Taqi claimed that a notification was issued by the Prime Minister Office and he possessed a copy of it. Such notifications are supposed to be published in the Gazette of Pakistan.
Nums conducts entry test
The National University of Medical Sciences (Nums) on Sunday conducted the entry test for admissions in the MBBS and BDS session for its 13 medical and five dental constituent and affiliated colleges across the country, including AJK.
Around 50,000 candidates appeared for the test and the result will be announced by Oct 25.
Nums Vice Chancellor retired Lt Gen Syed Mohammad Imran Majeed said the university had achieved a significant milestone by conducting the first nationwide entry test without the involvement of external testing services.
“This will ensure merit, transparency and high standards in the entire testing system under Nums,” he added.
In addition to the entry test, it will be mandatory for successful candidates to pass the National Medical and Dental Colleges Admissions Test (MDCAT) as per the announcement of Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC). The date for the exam will be announced soon.
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2020