While the results of the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) are to be announced on Oct 9, the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Conduct of Examinations Regulations 2021, under which tests were held and a company hired for conducting the test in violation of rules, have put a question mark over the whole process.
Passing the exam is a must for students seeking admission to medical and dental colleges. Public sector colleges give admission purely on the basis of 50pc marks obtained in MDCAT and FSc, but private colleges have been allowed to set marks of their choice for MDCAT and also have 20 marks for interviews.
The test has become controversial as it was taken by a private companythrough computers and it deprives students of an opportunity to get their answer sheets rechecked.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan has announced that the Quaidi-Azam University (QAU) would hold a post-exam analysis of the MDCAT.
However, critics described it as an attempt to get the controversial test validated by a university.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the representative body of doctors, has called for suspension of the MDCAT results and advised the government to restore the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).
However, the PMC claims that tests were conducted under the best possible system in 22 cities across Pakistan and six foreign locations Chicago, Doha, Dubai, London, Riyadh and Toronto in which transparency was ensured.
During the era of the PMDC, theprovinces had allowed public sector universities to hold MDCAT exams on a single date. Moreover, a carbon copy of answer sheets was given to students to countercheck answers.
However, the PTI government dissolved the PMDC and replaced it with the PMC.
According to the PMC Conduct of Examinations Regulations 2021, the syllabus of the MDCAT exam is not bound to any textbook or Higher Secondary School Certificate board syllabus and questions in exam papers can be randomly selected from the examination question bank. No student has the right to object to the questions asked in the examination or the correct answers and the exam is taken in a period of one month.
Moreover, a company SOAR Testing and Evaluation Platform (SMC-private) Limited, which had won the bidding for the contract of theonline MDCAT tests, was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) after the date of filing bids. The PMC has also been facing allegations that it released an advance payment of over Rs115 million to the company.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) stopped the PMC on Aug 17 from paying more funds to the company, but the commission again paid Rs86 million to the company on August 31.
The LHC has referred the matter to the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to investigate if the contract was awarded to the company in violation of the rules.
It is also being alleged that the SOAR did not have the National Tax Number (NTN) and it used another company`s NTN to get the contract.
Students have been protesting against the MDCAT and staging sit-ins across the country. Shahid Nazir,father of a student, while talking to Dawn said that students were not getting marks as per their expectations.
`On the other hand, there is no system to get their answer sheets rechecked.
We are worried about the future of our children but no one is ready to listen to us,`he said.
The PMA Secretary General, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, talking to Dawn, said that across the globe such tests were held on a single day, but the PMC decided to take the examin one month.
`Only about 200,000 students appeared in the exam as compared to 1.8 million students in India who appeared in the exam on a single day.
Because of different editions of tests, some candidates got easy question papers and some difficult ones. Some of the candidates got `out of course` question papers which pushed stakeholders to think why it was happening and whether there was an agendabehind it. Moreover, at a number of test centres there were electricity issues and at some centres computers hanging problem occurred,` he said.
`Committing a blunder, the PMC introduced the online examination system without conducting a pilot project and without taking the stakeholders on board. Now they are getting information about the flaws.
Dr Sajjad added: `Students have been protesting across the country. Last week during Prime Minister Imran Khan`s visit to Karachi, students tried to meet him but he did not give them time. We have also written three letters to the premier but to no avail. Now we appeal to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the matter.
In July this year, the Transparency International Pakistan urged the PMC and the government to take notice of violations of the PPRA rules in the award of the MDCAT contract.