By Imran Ali Ghouri
ISLAMABAD, Sept 25 (Diplomatic Star): In a nation with a growing demand for healthcare professionals, the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) holds supreme significance for aspiring medical practitioners.
However, the MDCAT exams of 2023, administered under the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), have unveiled a dilemma.
As a healthcare and medical education communications professional, I feel compelled to address the pressing issue at hand, where thousands of students and their families across Pakistan are left in a state of limbo due to an agonizing delay in result announcements, stemming from the incident of cheating in exams via Bluetooth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).
In 2023, an impressive number of students appeared for the MDCAT exams, totaling a staggering figure of 180,534 candidates. These dedicated individuals hailed not only from various provinces within Pakistan but also from the federal area, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and even countries in the Saudi Arabia and Gulf regions.
This diverse pool of talent is a testament to the aspirations of countless young minds eager to pursue careers in the medical field. Out of the total number, 180,151 candidates appeared in MDCAT Exams in national exam centers in all provinces, whereas 382 candidates appeared at two international centers, i.e., 185 candidates in Dubai (UAE) and 197 candidates appeared in Sandia Arabia (KSA). 66875 students appeared in Punjab, 40528 in Sindh, 46439 in KPK, 9230 in Baluchistan, 926 in Gilgit, 4036 in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and 12118 candidates from Islamabad appeared in the exams.
The MDCAT examination was conducted in 31 cities all over Pakistan to facilitate a maximum number of candidates to appear in the exam.
However, the PMDC, entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring smooth and fair MDCAT exams has been unsuccessful in getting it done. Reports of cheating incidents have marred the credibility of these exams, leaving both students and their families disheartened. The ramifications of these security breaches have far-reaching consequences, particularly for the vast majority of honest students.
To ensure clarity and efficiency, the PMDC should adopt the internationally recognized practice of announcing the MDCAT test date at the beginning of the year instead of keeping aspiring students wondering about the test date. This proactive approach eliminates the uncertainty surrounding the test date that often plagues Pakistani students, especially since the last four years consecutively. Or else, the government go back to the old days practice of allowing colleges/universities conduct admission tests themselves and give admissions on merit.
The delay in announcing results is not merely an inconvenience; it is a cruel and frustrating ordeal for thousands of candidates who are now caught in a seemingly endless wait. This unfortunate situation highlights the disheartening reality that a small percentage, hardly 1-2% of the total candidates, was allegedly cheating but a this percentage is causing anguish for the vast majority of students, almost 98-99%, who played by the rules. The repercussions of this delay extend beyond mere anxiety.
The academic year for medical, dental, nursing, and allied health sciences students is likely to shrink due to the delayed start of the 2023-24 session. Conducting a full test reevaluation now would extend the academic year’s start to February-March 2024, leaving only 8-9 months. Such a drastic change would disrupt the entire educational system, potentially leading to suboptimal outcomes.
This can have a negative effect on their careers and the healthcare system as a whole alongside tarnishing the country’s image globally.
The stress and uncertainty faced by students are mirrored in the anguish of their families, especially parents who have invested countless resources and emotional support into their children’s aspirations.
This uncertainty not only disrupts lives but also ignites the potential for a devastating brain drain as disillusioned students may seek opportunities abroad for their medical studies and this can potentially be a detrimental for whole economy ultimately.
In light of these profound challenges, I implore the PMDC authorities and the government to act with urgency and resolve this issue promptly. The future of our healthcare system depends on nurturing the talents and dreams of our youth, and we must not let the actions of a few sabotage the aspirations of many.
It is obligatory upon us to ensure that the MDCAT remains a fair and transparent assessment, for the benefit of both our students and the healthcare landscape of Pakistan.