For what it seems could be an effort to support private medical education and private medical colleges, which often charge exorbitant fees, the controversial Pakistan Medical Commission, which replaced the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, under the PTI government, some time ago has made yet another extremely controversial decision. A month before at least 150,000 students across the country were due to sit their vital MDCAT exam, the PMC has announced an addition to the curriculum and some alterations to it.
Medical students in Lahore staged a protest in Lahore with hundreds taking part in the walk during which they chanted slogans against the PMC and its doings. There are also other steps that are irritating students, including the decision that medical colleges in the private sector can admit as many foreign students as they choose and set the fee structure for them. This raises the concern that medical colleges will deliberately take in a larger number of foreign students or those who do not hold Pakistani passports and charge them the higher fee rate, thereby increasing their own profits but in the process damaging the education of Pakistani students. The entire situation is extremely chaotic. Medical students want to return to the previous system in which the exam syllabus was set by provinces.
This has not as yet been accepted by the PMC, which has put in place a centralized system with very few weeks of warning given to students. In addition, it has also allowed a few colleges to set their own entrance exam. Students fear that this could be a precedent for other private medical universities, which often offer inferior quality education and charge large amounts in fees to do so, creating even less equity across the medical field. In other words, we as patients would never know the quality of the doctor to whom we will go to when we are sick or need medical help.
The problem is a dangerous one. Many believe that the PMC was set up essentially on the demand of the private universities, which have grown in power since the current government came to office. There has been no check on the quality of education that the private universities offer. And now students have been placed under a new burden. They have said they want a return to the old system, at least for now, and some discussion with all stakeholders of quite why the old measures are being changed and new ones taken at such short notice. This would obviously be a sensible step in any case. All those involved including the students and their parents need to know what is happening and for what reason.