Between right and wrongWhile the negotiations to amend the Health Profession Education Bill have made headlines, a damaging report on Nepal Medical Council’s (NMC) recent licensing exam results has highlighted the need for strong and uncompromising regulations in the education sector as well.
While the negotiations to amend the Health Profession Education Bill have made headlines, a damaging report on Nepal Medical Council’s (NMC) recent licensing exam results has highlighted the need for strong and uncompromising regulations in the education sector as well.
According to the licensing examination results published by NMC on August 5, 276 MBBS graduates from Nepali medical colleges sat for the exam, out of which a whopping 178 failed. In contrast, of the 889 recent exam participants who graduated from medical schools abroad, 498 secured licensing. This means that while 56 percent of foreign educated examinees can now practise medicine in Nepal, only 35 percent of home-grown examinees secured a pass result. This measly pass rate for medical professionals educated in our own nation is absolutely unacceptable. These numbers indicate that the current education provided by Nepali medical colleges is decidedly subpar.
Spokesperson for NMC, Dr Krishna Adhikari, was incredulous that aspiring doctors couldn’t even answer the minimum 90 out of 180 questions required to pass, especially considering all questions were from the core syllabus, and structured into a simple two-choice, yes/no, format. Even an educated guess could have provided answers to the tougher questions if the examinee was qualified. NMC is furious with these results, and rightly so; it’s a slap on the face of every medical educator and professional. The Vice Chancellor of the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS), Dr Ganesh Gurung, has advocated for a study into how internal examinations are conducted by medical schools.
Recognizing the need to make licensing exams more rigorous, education specialist Kedar Bhakta Mathema has recommended the addition of a practical component to the licensing procedure. He has warned that the results from the licensing exam could potentially be even worse if his proposal is applied. A practical component to licensing would guarantee better patient care. Though his recommendation was presented to the NMC committee a year ago, it remains far from implementation.
Sources in the NMC have hinted that there is increasing pressure from political parties and investors not to release detailed statistics on the individual performance of each medical college operating in Nepal. But given the poor results, it is obvious that greater transparency is required to remedy the current situation and improve the MBBS programmes. It is the right of every citizen, and every young Nepali aspiring to study medicine, to have access to benchmark statistics of all medical schools—thus enabling them to make informed decisions regarding future medical treatment or education. Dr KC’s call for promoting the capacity building of current colleges could not have been better timed; it is obvious that there is a need for the implementation of strict and transparent procedures to measure and improve the quality of medical education.