THE crisis of dishonesty that afflicts all sectors of Pakistani society includes academia. Unfortunately, the resort to illegal means is not uncommon in our houses of learning. Yet while all academic corruption is reprehensible, when sectors such as medical education — which have a direct impact on human lives — are infected by the contagion of dishonesty, the state cannot stand by and do nothing. The recent scandal involving the use of illegal means during the recent Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test should be an eye-opener for the state as well as the medical community, as allowing ‘doctors’ who have cheated their way through the system to enter the profession is tantamount to playing with patients’ lives. As reported, some students, particularly in KP, resorted to using various gadgets to cheat in the MDCAT. The caretaker health minister says ‘mafias’ are involved in the racket, with some media outlets saying that a former KP-based government employee is the mastermind of this dubious scheme. Apparently, candidates made use of ‘wireless GSM pens’ with mikes, micro earpieces and other devices powered by Bluetooth to get external help in order to solve their papers.
Tech experts say that such devices can be neutralised by using jammers. Certainly, the authorities need to look into such solutions to prevent novel ways of cheating. But beyond the immediate controversy, there is a need for deeper introspection to root out the menace of corrupt practices from the academic realm. Particularly where medical education is concerned, some senior doctors have recommended life bans on candidates who cheat. Considering that a wrong or botched prognosis — which is the expected outcome if individuals enter the profession using illicit means — can literally kill people, this suggestion is not without merit. Aside from the menace of cheating, moves to lower standards of admission to medical colleges are also a bad idea. The Sindh government had previously reduced the pass percentage for admissions to medical school, before the move was struck down by a court order. Simply put, only the most well-trained and ethically responsible individuals should be entering the health profession. Those who cut corners or cannot handle the academic rigour of medical training should opt for other careers. All stakeholders — the government, the PMDC, the PMA and medical colleges — need to take a united stand against academic dishonesty.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023