Pakistani medical students demand promotion to next semester

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Pakistani medical students demanded on Friday their promotion to the next academic semester immediately.

They cited rising numbers of Covid-19 cases among students and an incomplete delivery of the curriculum, questioning the fairness of exams amid the pandemic.

Students enrolled in the MBBS and BDS programmes at various colleges in Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa objected to physical exams and called for them to be held online.

The annual professional exams, usually held in October-November every year, were delayed because of the closure of educational institutions by the National Command and Operation Center until January 10.

A representative of the Doctors Wake-up Movement, a medical students and doctors rights group, said that due to the restrictions, classes were being taken online since March 2020. While theory classes had been adequately covered, clinical skills and practical laboratory training fell behind, he said.

The representative believed that students could not be prepared for this part of the annual professional exams, which accounts for 50% of the overall score. Any student failing the professional exam and the supplementary exam would be set back by two years, instead of the ordinary one year, he explained.

A number of medical students cited provisional promotions in India and asked why that could not be done in Pakistan.

The Indian medical education regulator has, however, advised institutions against promoting students without completing exam requirements.

Dr Sadia Akram, the Jinnah Sindh Medical University registrar, reassured students of fairness in the upcoming exams. “We teachers are constantly monitoring what they are taught. The exams will be set accordingly,” she said.

Dr Akram explained that clinical and practical skills were taught at the JSMU as usual until March 2020. During the first lockdown, medical institutions identified critical components that could not be taught online and when the restrictions were lifted temporarily, these components were given priority, she said.

Muhammad Atif, the media director for Lahore’s University of Health Sciences, said the send-up exams, which are conducted internally as a pre-requisite for the annual professional exams, have already been set on the regular curriculum and been conducted.

Ali Raza, the Pakistan Medical Commission vice-president, said taking exams didn’t fall under their domain and it was a call for the medical institutions to make.