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December 22, 2020

Medical exams

Editorial

 
December 22, 2020

We would all agree that students are the future of our country and can define the manner in which it progresses over the coming years. This is especially true of medical students, in a country where there's a shortage of qualified practitioners, notably outside the larger cities and towns. For this reason, the voices of students sitting for the MDCAT examination, which determines admission to medical and dental colleges, deserve to be heard. We are glad to note it is finally heard, at least in Lahore where students protesting outside the Governor's House were finally met by an assistant commissioner, who assured them that representatives of the PMC, the Pakistan Medical Council – the controversial body which replaced the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council last year as the regulatory body for medical practitioners in country – would meet them and their parents on Tuesday today), to determine what could be done.

Students in Hyderabad and Karachi, in Balochistan and in other places allege that the MDCAT exam was outside the syllabus set for it and that, unlike in the past, it had been centralized rather than set out for provinces, making it more difficult for some provinces to catch up with the requirements. In addition, there is allegation that a leak occurred beginning in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with some students in Punjab also allegedly gaining access to the questions ahead of the paper held in November. The students and their parents are demanding that the vital exam, which determines future medical admissions, be reset and retaken all over the country. The agreement in Lahore, that members of the PMC would meet the students and parents, shows that carefully thought-out peaceful protest can bring good results. We hope that the discussion that now follows can solve the matter and bring positive results. This is an important issue and should not be ignored. Professional examinations are vital to ensuring the quality of persons who take them and who begin practice in medicine, or in other professions in the country. The FIA is also currently inquiring into the allegations that part of the exam or all of the exam was leaked in certain parts of the country. This has now also become a serious matter for social activists.

It should also be noted that the PMC has been a body that has brought much criticism. Critics allege that it favours private medical colleges and is unwilling to set any kind of fee limit for them, or check standards that they are able to offer students. In addition, we have a complication in that Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood has said that his ministry has nothing to do with the MDCAT exam, or the PMC. This sets up a new dilemma. If the federal education ministry is not involved, who is to determine if the exam was properly conducted? And how will any kind of fairness be established in other professional exams also conducted by professional bodies?