Pakistan News

Uniform MDCAT syllabus provides level-playing field to students: ministry

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said on Tuesday that it was necessary to introduce a uniform syllabus for the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) to provide a level playing field to students across the country.

In a statement, the ministry also said that students who are not sufficiently equipped with the requisite knowledge to pursue higher education in medicine should not be admitted in the first place.

“There is a plethora of misinformation that is being peddled across social media platforms and news media alike regarding [the Pakistan Medical Commission’s (PMC)] ‘abrupt’ MDCAT syllabus and examination amendments. Students, as well as key opinion leaders on social media, can be found claiming that PMC has added ‘many extra topics’ to the MDCAT examination than are taught by federal boards across Pakistan. This is simply presumptive conjecture stemming from a lack of understanding of PMC’s structure and policies,” the ministry stated.

It added: “It is a known fact that, in the past, some admitting universities had been consistently limiting their question bank to reduced topics from the FSc syllabus, resulting in an easier MDCAT exam for some compared to others.

“This inequality in the level of difficulty of different provincial MDCAT exams consistently resulted in public objections, especially from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who found the difficulty level of their MDCAT exams to be much higher than others, resulting in their students obtaining lower marks compared to MDCAT aspirants from other provinces and regions. This also negatively affected the final merit of these students due to other students giving easier MDCAT exams, thereby acquiring higher marks.”

A spokesperson said this was why a national standardised test was needed, as it allowed aspirants from across Pakistan a “level playing field” in terms of merit when applying to medical colleges.

“The PMC has not changed the MDCAT syllabus ‘abruptly’, or at all for that matter. In fact, there exists no such syllabus for the MDCAT at all, therefore the issue of PMC changing the syllabus should be rendered null and void.

“The MDCAT examination is based on selected topics from FSc syllabi for purposes of limiting the scope of questions to remain in the domain of checking a student’s aptitude to pursue higher medical education. These domains include requisite knowledge in the disciplines of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and English,” he said.

“To promote practices of transparency, the PMC invited all provincial universities to review and select only those topics from each FSc syllabus which had already been selected by each of the admitting universities, thereby ensuring that no student anywhere in Pakistan would need to study beyond what they have already been studying from their FSc syllabus to give the MDCAT examination,” the spokesperson said.

“To address the issues of domicile restrictions, it should be noted that according to PMDC’s section 6, subsection 5 of the Admissions Regulations 2018 approved by the Supreme Court, it was stipulated that there would be no provincial domicile restrictions for private colleges. The PMC, however, has left the decision of provincial domicile to the executive authority of each province as it is their domain, according to PMC’s Admissions Regulations for 2021,” he said.

A student who asked not to be named said that although the headings of various subjects have remained the same, there is a significant difference in the content of similar topics across the board.

He said: “In the past, the University of Health Sciences used to provide a carbon copy of answer sheets to students to ensure transparency. In recent exams of the National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS), the carbon copy was not provided. We urge the PMC to provide a carbon copy of answer sheets to ensure transparency in the MDCAT.”

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2020

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