Pakistan medical education crisis
Medical education in the doldrums
Medical education in Pakistan is going through a serious crisis. With the
significance attached to it as a major component of the social sector, one would
have expected a little more official concern towards this vital area.
Yet different stakeholders are working for their own benefit at the cost
of the national healthcare delivery mechanism. The government and its various
functionaries, public-sector institutions and the Pakistan Medical and Dental
Council (PMDC) - which is responsible for the monitoring and standardisation of
medical education - have all apparently lost interest in this regard. It is
therefore understandable that people with vested interests have taken over.
In the last two years, the PMDC recognised all medical and dental
colleges that applied for registration. There was only one exception which, by
the looks of it, lacked the 'right' political and financial connections. While
we have as many as 92 PMDC-recognised medical colleges in the public and private
sectors, the majority of them struggle to meet even the minimal PMDC
requirements as regards to faculty, space and facilities.
It is also a fact that
the PMDC has allowed several of these colleges to increase their induction
quota. The least expensive of medical colleges in the private sector charges at
least Rs400,000 per student per annum, making it one of those rare businesses in
which millions can be earned without having to make a proportionate investment.
In terms of faculty, there is an acute shortage of educationists to
impart instruction in basic medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology,
biochemistry, pharmacology and histology that are taught during the foundation
years. There was a proposal to have a shared faculty so that, for example, a
professor of anatomy would embark on a teaching tour to various medical
The owners of private medical colleges were quite enthusiastic about
the idea but are reluctant to merge colleges. The reason is obvious: by sharing
a professor, they stand to cut their salary bill which will increase profits.
Public-sector medical colleges are in the same boat. Bolan Medical
College in Balochistan is in a pathetic situation, while the newly opened
college in Swat has an acute shortage of faculty in all departments. Some
colleges in Sindh and Punjab are also faculty-deficient. Dow International
Medical College, a public-sector entity charging a massive fee in foreign
exchange, allegedly has faculty and facilities only on paper.
situation on the clinical side is not too different either. Clinical teaching is
not possible without professionals who are willing to spend time in wards,
outpatient departments and emergency rooms. There is hardly any practical
training under proper supervision worth its name.
During the previous
government the then health minister, who was a graduate of Liaquat Medical
College at Jamshoro, converted his alma mater into a full-scale medical
university. He argued that this would organise medical education along
scientific lines in the province. With the Higher Education Commission providing
the millions that were needed, the Liaquat University of Health and Medical
Sciences came into existence through an executive order, and without any
feasibility study having been undertaken.
Immediately afterwards, the
health minister of Punjab decided to have a medical university in his province.
Thus came into existence the Punjab University of Health Sciences. Since then a
plethora of medical universities have sprung up across the country.With so many
universities one hoped that everybody would have been satisfied, but that is not
the case. No studies have been undertaken on what effective change has been
brought about by the hundreds of millions that have been spent on these fancy
universities. They have started PhD and MPhil programmes but the quality of
training and teaching is obvious in departments where faculty members are not
qualified to deliver.
One of the first things that ought to have been
done after all these institutions achieved university status was to convert
part-time medical institutions into full-time educational centres. That,
however, was never on the agenda. The focus was on construction and purchasing
equipment, which could never have had any impact on the basic structure of
The current government's decision to turn medical colleges in Larkana
and Nawabshah into universities is also rooted primarily in politics. There is
no valid reason to hope that they will be any different from their predecessors
in terms of approach and execution.It is time someone in authority did a
serious, sincere and professional audit of the billions issued in grants. Did
the grant have any impact on the quality of teaching? Was the money well spent?
In terms of postgraduate training, a number of programmes are run by
various institutions but are plagued with the same malaise that is the fate of
their undergraduate counterparts. The establishment of universities has in fact
only exacerbated the situation. Every institution now wants to start some
training programme or the other to justify its existence even though most of
them have neither the infrastructure nor the human resources for a structured
training programme that would produce specialists.
Medical curricula and
training programmes need to be developed according to the needs of the local
people. What we are doing is training doctors to work abroad. Medical students
and postgraduate trainees are not exposed to the masses and their afflictions.
No wonder we have a very high maternal mortality rate, we have failed to
eradicate polio, our neonates are dying, we are unable to save the eyes of young
children and our basic health units, rural health centres and taluka hospitals
Furthermore, a large number of doctors have no
ethical considerations. This is because we initiate programmes without thinking,
planning and setting definite goals. The common man and his problems are nowhere
in sight when we make decisions.
There is a need to form a high-powered
committee or commission on medical education to address these issues. Such a
commission should justify the need for profit-oriented medical colleges and
their role in the country's healthcare system, and examine the role of medical
universities in the war against sickness and disease. Dawn
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Strict action to be taken against failures
Islamabad: Higher Education Commission (HEC) will take strict action
against those PhD scholars who have failed to return home after completing their
studies abroad, said HEC Executive Director Dr. Sohail Naqvi.
a press conference here Wednesday at the conclusion of the Vice Chancellors'
Committee meeting, Dr. Naqvi said that 3,700 scholars have been sent abroad
under the scholarship programme of the commission and so far 350 scholars have
returned to the country. "Those who have refused to come have been served court
notices and FIA and Interpol have been involved in the matter, as public money
has been spent on them," he added.
He said that strict action would be
taken against the scholars who have refused to come back.
chancellors of different universities expressed grave concern over the growing
political interference in the education institutions of Punjab. They said that
there had been a rapid increase in political activities on the premises of
education institutions, which need immediate attention of the authorities in
order to maintain the quality of education in these institutions.
in the meeting the vice chancellors said that by law universities were
autonomous body and were responsible for making its rules and regulations, but
the constant political interference was hindering them to do so.
resolution emphasising safe release of Dr. Lutfullah Kakakhel, the kidnapped
vice chancellor of the Kohat University of Sciences and Technology (KUST) who is
missing for the last four months was also passed by Vice Chancellors'
The newly appointed vice chancellor of Quaid-i-Azam
University, Masoom Yaseen Zai, who was, earlier, serving Balochistan University
as VC said, "It is very unfortunate that university professors in Balochistan
were being killed and many professors have left the area due to security
concerns, which have affected a lot higher education in the province."
The committee also recommended names of three vice chancellors as vice
chancellors' representatives in the Commission for approval by the prime
While responding to a question regarding the illegal grant of
scholarship in NUML, Rector Dr Aziz said that the scholarships were granted
purely on merit and denied all these allegations. "I was not in the selection
committee neither I was in Board of Governors (BOG) so I had nothing to do with
anyone's selection.," he added.
The university heads had met the prime
minister on Tuesday where the prime minister committed that there will be no cut
in PSDP projects in health and education. The prime minister also acknowledged
HEC's efforts to bring the higher education sector at par with the international
institutions. He also mentioned that according to National Education
Policy-2009, the education budget would be raised to 7 per cent of the GDP by
The vice chancellors committee unanimously agreed to improve
quality and give it top priority in order the meet the challenges faced by the
higher education sector. It agreed that all PhD dissertations in subjects other
than languages and Islamic Studies should be written in English. It also
recommended that all PhD defence should be live telecast on the HEC video
It was emphasized that no compromise will be made
whether it is appointment of faculty members; selection of students, graduate,
post-graduate, MS/PhD studies or evaluation of research.
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Education expo 2010
Islamabad: The huge participation of girls in Education Expo 2010 marked
the changing trend in education sector where the students irrespective of their
genders thronged the fair and looked into the opportunities to excel in their
The Education Expo 2010 was organised by HR
Consultants in collaboration with Jang Group where 17 recognised universities of
England and Australia besides three big groups set up their stalls and provided
free consultancy to the students, who wanted to go abroad for higher studies.
The participation of girls in the expo revealed their increasing
interest in taking education from abroad and also the gradual end to the stigma
attached to the practice of sending girls abroad for higher education.
"There is a need to trust your daughters. Once you give them trust, they
will try their best to keep it," said Mohammad Sarfraz, who is a government
servant and came with his daughter Amber Naz.
Amber wanted to do ACCA
from some recognised university abroad and came with all relevant documents to
submit to various universities. "Its my aim to do ACCA from abroad so that I
could return not only to support my family, but also to serve my country in a
better way," she said.
Sadaf Afreen, a student of Human Behavioural
Sciences from Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) wanted to go abroad to
specialise in her respective field. She shared the findings of a recent research
according to which depression would be the biggest disease till 2015. "I would
return after completing my education and serve my expertise to curb this
dangerous disease, which is fast gripping the whole world," she said.
however suggested that such Expos should also be organised on the premises of
different universities so that the girls who could not reach due to some reasons
could also have the knowledge of recent trends, reputed universities and free
The boys on the other hand appeared determined to return
after completing their education from abroad and serve their country in a
constructive manner. Fawad Ali Khan who came all the way from Peshawar to attend
the Expo shared that their group of friends have decided to come back and work
in their own country for its welfare and progress.
"We are greatly moved
by the current situation of NWFP and have decided to go abroad for higher
education so that we could contribute towards the development of our area after
finishing our studies," he said.
Khan warned other students of illegal
consultants who grab a huge some of money and have no knowledge about the
procedure and requirement of visa. "I myself am a victim of these illegal
consultants who have grabbed Rs20,000 for nothing. Such Expos are good as they
provide an ideal opportunity to have a direct interaction with the consultants
and representatives of different universities," he said.
Imtiaz, a student of Punjab University said that it was actually financial
crisis who were forcing youth to look into the opportunities to go abroad so
that they could have a degree, which would help them to get a reasonable job in
their own country. "There are certain good habits, which we could adopt from
abroad including the habit of hard work and punctuality," he said.
said that the Expo appeared an ideal opportunity for him as here he could apply
to number of universities and could also avail scholarship without paying any
registration or consultation fee.
The representatives of the universities
expressed their satisfaction over the number of students who were approaching
them for consultation and scholarships. According to these representatives, the
number of students approaching international universities through such events is
increasing every year.
"It is the response of the students, which forces
us to participate in such expos every now and then. We not only provide
consultation to the interested candidates, but also give partial scholarships to
the brilliant students," said Arsalan Shahid from London School of Business and
He said that most of the students visit them to explore various
subjects they were offering and also the ways through which they could
facilitate the visa process. "We also guide students as to which subject they
should choose according to their aptitude and the finances they have with them,"
Shahraz Rashid, a representative of Brunel University West
London said they were receiving huge response from the students because of the
variety of subjects they were offering, which include Business, Engineering,
Data and Wireless Communication System, Environmental Science, Health Sciences,
Social Care, Information System, Computing and Mathematics, Law and social
"Gone are the days when only boys used to visit and apply for
the education abroad, as girls now seem more enthusiastic to continue their
higher education in some reputable international university," he
He said that they were also offering 2000 pounds to 3000
pounds, which are given to the students who obtained 80 per cent or above
HR Managing Director Hamid Rauf said
that there were misconception among people regarding the process of visa,
lifestyle and deportation of students from United Kingdom. "There had been a
change in Visa Policy on February 22, but there had not been any major change
for the students as they are allowed to work 20 hours a week like previously and
required 80 per cent attendance in their respective education institutions," he
He said that the aim behind organising such Expo was to save people
from the unauthorised consultants who grab a big sum of money in the name of
visa fee or admission fee. "We provide free consultancy to the students, as we
are the only authorised consultant in Pakistan and charge nothing in the name of
visa fee, admission charges or another bill," he said.
informed that they have plenty of partial scholarships for the bright students
ranging from 1000 pounds to 5000 pounds and are truly based on merit. "Sometimes
students could not bear the full fledge expense of education so we try to
facilitate them by providing assistance in shape of scholarships," he
The participating universities included the names of Birmingham
City University, University of Bradford, and Queen Mary-University of London,
Middlesex University, Brunel University West London, University of Leicester,
London South Bank University, University of Hertfordshire, Bradford College,
South Thames College, London School of Business and Finance and Navitas.
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Disgraced NUML brigadier
Islamabad: The National University of Modern Languages (NUML) will again be in
the news as the brigadier who bashed a professor has been summoned to the NA
Standing Committee on Education for interrogation. His patron, the rector of the
university, will also be in the line of fire.
The NUML's Academic Staff
Association (NASA) has written to the president, demanding his immediate
intervention for removing the relics of the past military ruler and streamlining
the university's affairs.
The standing committee, led by PML-N MNA Abid
Sher Ali, has also summoned Interior Minister Rehman Malik for his questionable
role during the drama after the former brigadier Obaidullah Ranjha assaulted the
NUML professor Tahir Malik.
The civil authorities had long been misled into
believing the university belonged to the Army, notwithstanding the fact the
ordinance did not delegate any authority to the Army.
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Polling at Islamia School
Rawalpindi: Casting of votes remained suspended for half an hour at a
polling station set up at the Government Islamia High School No-4 as supporters
of the PML-N and AML clashed over a 'fake vote' casting.
of supporters of the two political parties blocked College Road and Iqbal Road
near China Market. They raised slogans against each other and blamed each other
of resorting to rigging in the bye-elections. A heavy contingent of police and
commandoes reached the spot to control the situation.
Fazal Raheem said that a supporter of Awami Muslim League (AML),
named Muhammad Shafiq, came to the polling station for casting vote. As he
entered the polling station, he raised hue and cry alleging that a supporter of
the PML-N had already cast his vote. On this, several supporters of both parties
reached there and started fighting, he said.
He said that according to
the voters' list, Muhammad Shafiq was not the voter of this circle, however, he
was the voter of circle number 301, which is at the DAV College Road polling
station, he said. He was insisting that the PML-N supporter had cast a 'fake
vote' in his name, he said. He said that polling disturbed for some time due to
the incident but after some time he started polling again.
to pull out supporters of both political parties from the polling station. But
they continued fighting on College Road and Iqbal Road for some time. The news
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