A huge number of students protested outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Karachi against the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) for delaying the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT) for a period of 30 days.

Students waving banners and posters with anti-online test slogans gathered to demonstrate their opposition to the test. A Suo motu notice was requested by the students from Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, who agreed to take action on the matter. Protesters urged that the PMC and other authorities hold the MDCAT test only once. They claim PMC conducts the MDCAT exam on multiple dates across the country, causing papers to leak. They requested the administration to reinstate the old test procedure.

The students also claimed that the PMC’s online system was inactive for two days, causing anxiety among pre-medial students who couldn’t print their admission forms. They also asked that the PMC address their concerns immediately. They further added that if 1.8 million students could appear in a test in India, why couldn’t 200,000 students in Pakistan?

They reported every exam had 25-30 out of course questions, and they alerted the PMC, but received no satisfactory response and questions should be taken from the syllabus and exams should be held on one day so that all students have the same chance. They also urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene and save their future. It’s worth noting here that the PMC is already under fire for awarding the computer based MDCAT contract to a business that was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) after the application deadline passed.

Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) demanded in July that the PMC president and the government take notice of infractions of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority’s (PPRA) guidelines during the award of the MDCAT contract. The TIP letter was addressed to PMC President Dr Arshad Taqi, and copies were sent to the prime minister’s principal secretary, the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, the Auditor General of Pakistan, the managing director of the Pakistan Public Relations Authority, and the registrar of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The letter noted that the commission awarded a contract for conducting examinations worth millions of rupees to a service provider firm incorporated under the SECP after the advertised date. When contacted, a PMC spokeswoman stated in a written response that examinations were performed using a pool of pre-selected questions dubbed a ‘question bank.

The examination setting process is a meticulous analytical endeavor that requires the ratio of easy, medium, and difficult questions to remain constant over time in the case of a standardized test, the spokesperson explained, adding that while MDCAT was conducted over a month, the actual examination in terms of content and difficulty lacked consistency. Additionally, the representative stated that MDCAT is a computer-based exam and that holding it on a single day would be logistically impossible considering the number of applicants that sit for the exam each year across Pakistan.

He also explained that the examination is a nationally standardized test that adheres to worldwide best practices, which include holding exams such as the SAT and GMAT on numerous days for prospective applicants,” the representative explained. Here it is worth noted that this year, given the large number of students appearing for the exam across Pakistan, it was determined that this approach was the most appropriate in the best interest of public health and safety as defined by the NCOC against the spread of Covid-19, the PMC official added.

It cannot be denied that education is critical for every nation’s prosperity and development. However, COVID-19 has already demolished traditional educational infrastructure by instituting lockdowns that limit kids’ capacity to learn in an effective physical environment. Now this issue has also stressed out the students. Government needs to bring out the solution for them as soon as possible.

By Sawera Amjad

Author is a Lahore College for Women University graduate. She writes with zeal and believes that there is nothing greater than words to express herself.

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