ISLAMABAD: While the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT) concluded after one month on Thursday, a large number of students have been protesting against the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) across the country, demanding retake of the exam on a single day to ensure transparency and merit.
A delegation of students met with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan and shared concerns and grievances. A representative body of doctors, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), has also demanded suspension of results of MDCAT and suggested to the government to restore the defunct Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).
However, an official of the PMC said tests were conducted under the best possible system due to which transparency has been ensured.
Students have been protesting against MDCAT and holding a sit-in at D-Chowk. Shahid Nazir, father of a student, while talking to Dawn, said that unfortunately students were not getting marks as per their expectations.
“On the other hand, there is no system to get their answer sheets rechecked. We are worried about the future of our children but no one is ready to listen to us,” he said.
PMA Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad said that across the globe, such tests were held on a single day but PMC decided to take the exam in one month.
“Only 200,000 students appeared in the exam as compared to 1.8 million students in India who appear in the exam on a single day. Because of different testes some candidates got easy question papers and some got difficult ones. On the other hand, some of the candidates got out of course question papers which pushed stakeholders to think whether there was some other agenda behind it. Moreover, at a number of centres there were electricity issues and at some centres tabs/computers were not working properly.
“It was another blunder that PMC introduced the online examination system without doing pilot project and taking stakeholders on board, due to which now they are getting information about flaws. In the past, tests were held on answer sheets and just after exam carbon copy was provided to students. Later, a key was uploaded on the website due to which candidates never argued over exams. However, now that practice has stopped,” he said.
In July this year, Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) had suggested to the PMC president and the government to take notice of the violations of PPRA rules in the award of the MDCAT contract.
The letter addressed to PMC President Dr Arshad Taqi stated that the commission had awarded the contract worth millions of rupees to a service providing firm incorporated in SECP after the advertisement date. The request for proposals was advertised by the PMC on May 4, 2021 for the service providing firms, to hold a computer-based MCQ exam on an annual basis.
Meanwhile, Dr Faisal Sultan after listening to concerns of students, during a meeting with them said: “The objective of the MDCAT is to ensure that students entering this competitive field of rigorous and lifelong learning have the necessary potential in terms of academic achievement, knowledge and analytic thinking. All this is ultimately to enable the public to have safe and competent professionals serving them in the future and reinforce the public trust in the medical education system and medical professionals.”
The meeting concluded with the SAPM agreeing to discuss with the PMC to evolve and share a systematic grievance resolution mechanism for students to register their complaints. He offered to evaluate a sample of complaints for any underlying issues. Furthermore, he had reassured students that a post-exam analysis was already planned by the PMC and would be completed by the regulatory body after completion of the MDCAT, which will address many concerns of students.
When contacted, an official of the PMC said the company had not been paid anything under the Joint Venture agreement.
“Payments are only being made against invoices of third parties who are providing services, equipment etc, for the conduct of examination by PMC. The court has not restrained the examination or PMC from making payments of services necessarily required for the conduct of the exam,” he said.
While replying to another question, he said PMC after evaluating proposals and credentials of 14 companies, to set up a computer-based examination system in collaboration with the PMC selected SOAR Education (Private) Limited, a company operating the highly innovative STEM Schools since the past few years in Pakistan. It was also the only party who submitted proposals which agreed to and had the capacity to provide computer-based examinations in Pakistan and internationally as required by PMC.
He said students had a meeting with the PMC management but they were told that their allegations were baseless. “Later, we also held a meeting in which allegations were again discussed and we reached a conclusion that students failed to understand the examination method and their allegations were baseless,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2021