The National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) on Sunday, 29th Nov 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.

The Pakistan Medical Commission’s (PMC) decision to hold a single medical and dental college’s admissions test (MDCAT) across the country has put students in limbo, as the PMC Act states that the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) will hold the national MDCAT instead of University of Health Science (UHS). Examination centers were set up all across the country, including Gilgit Baltistan & Azad Kashmir.

Students are left in cosmos as to why the PMC was planning to hold the MDCAT instead of UHS in violation of its act, which also states that the test will be held according to recommendations by an academic board. The board was established days before the decision came in to replace UHS with PMC as the MDCAT test taking authority. The course outlines of PMC for the medical college’s entrance test are also different from the UHS. PMC follow the federal syllabus pattern whereas UHS used to follow the Punjab’s syllabus pattern. It’s been years that UHS had been conducting the test and it was almost a norm for medical students to prepare their strategies accordingly.

According to a press release issued by PMC, the National Medical and Dental Academic Board convened on 21st November 2020, the test date was further delayed to decide the academic and accreditation standards of medical education in Pakistan. The initial date of test was Nov 21st which moved on and test was taken on Nov 29th following the pattern of PMC.  Same test for the Private as well as for Public Sector Medical Colleges.

A faculty member of Pakistan Medical Commission 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 was swapped with the accessibility of infrastructure, faculty, facilities, and quality of education which was all checked and strategized by UHS before. Another faculty member of the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has also shown the concerns of the test who said that there was no precedent across the world for an immediate implementation of policies.

According to the scope followed all around the world, the precedent set in Pakistan is different from all around the world and no such example can be seen anywhere around the globe. The United States Medical Licensing Authority (USMLE) was announced in 1980s but it was implemented in 1990s. Same was the case in UK, where the UKML was taken in to consideration in 2015 but it is to be implemented in 2023. However, In Pakistan, it is clearly mentioned in the PMC Act that the MDCAT will be held in 2021 but the PMC announced it in year 2020 and took the test on 29th November.

PMC President Dr Arshad Taqi while addressing the concerns of the aspirants looking to enter medical colleges said that, “student’s anxiety was natural, as it is difficult to digest change in the last moment of preparation.” He further added that, “the students should not worry about the MDCAT entrance test, as there would not be any type of complications with the MDCAT and the council was determined to address issues.”

The faculty member said the during the case that led to the eventual dissolution of the PMC, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had mentioned council members by name and asked them that how they were nominated for the board of PMC? Now, those all same individuals have been dominated as council members again in the board of PMC.

A few days ago, a group of medical students from the Rawalpindi Medical University went and met with the 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). No hint was given about change of syllabus and test taking authority as it was the last minute decision of the government and the medical commission. They further argued that the United Kingdom (UK) decided to introduce the UK Medical Licensing (UKML) Examination in 2015, but it will not be implemented until 2023.

They also added to their argument that if the MDCAT is being introduced in 2020, the National Licensing Exam (NLE) – an exit exam – should be held in 2025 rather than this year i-e 2020 for the same batch that will sit for the MDCAT this year. They said that with separate pre-medical curriculums across Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir, it was impossible for all students to appear in a single MDCAT as each province has its own test conducting authority which was changed last minute when aspirants were preparing for the entrance exam on the previous norms.

Dr Sultan the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAP) on National Health Services (NHS) told the students that the decision to form the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) and introduce the MDCAT was made in students’ best interest and it would ensure the education quality all across the country. The NHS has put an end to the deprived culture of every province test taking authority on their own merits and de-merits i-e UHS in Punjab.

It was mentioned in section 13 of Act of Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) that the academic board, which is yet to be established, will set the standard of MDCAT. The academic board which is not established as a sub-branch by the PMC, however the test has been taken 4 days ago. It looked like a mere experiment by the PMC, but the future of medical aspirants is on the stake. What further consequences this pilot experiment will bring to the medical colleges and circles. We have to wait and see.


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