KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet on Thursday decided to slash the pass percentage of Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT-2021) from 65 percent to 50 percent for admissions in medical and dental colleges of Sindh to fill all the seats with students from different districts of the province.
“This decision would not only provide an opportunity to the provincial candidates to seek admission in medical and dental colleges/universities of Sindh but the seats which would fall vacant would also be filled,” Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said while presiding over the cabinet meeting here at the CM House.
The meeting was attended by provincial ministers, advisers, special assistants, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Chairman P&D Mohsin Naqvi, PSCM Sajid Jamal Abro and others.
The cabinet was told that after replacing the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the National Assembly passed Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Act to regulate medical profession, medical education and to recognize medical and dental qualifications all over Pakistan. While the PMC Act empowers the PMC to conduct exams, it also allows the provincial governments to regulate the admissions to medical or dental colleges. Furthermore, the health minister said it nowhere mentions 65pc as minimum passing score for MDCAT.
“The PMC Act 2000 says the marks obtained by a student in MDCAT conducted by the Authority shall constitute a minimum of 50 percent of the weightage for the purposes of admission in the public colleges,” the minister health said and added, “Hence in the PMC Act 2020, there is no mention of pass or fail percentage in the eligibility criteria of Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT). Likewise, there is no mention of a minimum compulsory passing score, which at present is 65 percent.”
According to Dr Azra Pechuho, the PMC conducted computer based MDCAT-2021 exam in October 2021, based on federal curriculum on different dates. “The test from federal curriculum puts Sindh students at a disadvantage, which resulted in low percentage of passing students,” she said and added last year, the passing percentage of MDCAT test was 60 percent whereas this year, this requirement has been unilaterally increased to 65 percent. As a result, the total number of students who qualified last year was 8,287 (32.8 percent) while those who qualified in MDCAT 2021 is 7,797 (22.4 percent).
The total number of seats in medical and dental colleges (Public and Private) in Sindh is 5,490. Last year, with passing percentage of 60 percent in MDCAT, 8,287 students passed in Sindh out of which 2,900 took admissions in public sector medical and dental colleges. Of the remaining 5,387 students, about 800 took admissions in the private sector medical and dental colleges and the remaining 4,587 were not able to get admission mainly due to non-affordability. Therefore, about 1,800 seats were left vacant and the private sector got 1,300 candidates from other provinces, while 492 seats remained unfilled. With this growing trend of lesser admissions, Sindh will face a severe shortage of about 10,000 doctors in the next five years.
The Sindh chief minister said that WHO recommends one doctor against 850 people whereas Sindh has one doctor against 3,200 people. “Hence this gap of availability of doctors will further worsen in the future if the situation persists,” he said.
The Minister Health, Dr Azra Pechuho, said that she held several meetings with the vice chancellors of public medical and dental universities (Sindh Chapter) and with the Pakistan Association of Medical and Dental Institutions (Sindh Chapter), wherein it was decided with consensus that passing percentage of MDCAT-2021 should be slashed from the existing 65 percent to 50 percent to fill the total seats.
Pechuho said that the request to lower the passing percentage was not only communicated in writing to the president PMC but a delegation from Sindh also met him to apprise the situation, but no response was received from the PMC.
Keeping in view the situation, the cabinet decided to lower the passing percentage in MDCAT 2021 from 65 percent to 50 percent and the candidates having not less than 50 percent score may be considered as eligible for admission in Session 2021-2022 while the weightage of MDCAT-2021 in overall merit would remain the same as prescribed under the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) Act.
Commenting on the decision taken by the Sindh cabinet on Thursday, the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has made it clear that it would not register such students who have not passed the MDCAT as per the criteria set by PMC. The MDCAT is mandatory for admissions in the medical and dental colleges across Pakistan as recently held by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“The law and the Supreme Court have laid down the mandatory criteria for admissions to the medical and dental colleges in the country and no entity can alter the mandatory criteria. The law mandates the PMC to set the passing marks and also declare the result of the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT). Even otherwise, there are enough students in Sindh who have passed the MDCAT, secured 65pc and who can be granted admissions to public and private medical and dental colleges in the Sindh province,” President PMC Dr. Arshad Taqi told The News while commenting on Sindh cabinet’s decision.
He maintained that in response to Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuho’s letter to him, in which she had requested him to lower the MDCAT pass percentage for students in Sindh, they had responded in detail and apprised her that around 4,911 students would be available with 65 percent and above percentage in Sindh province to fill in 2,590 seats in the private medical and dental colleges in the province.
“This year a total of 68,723 students have qualified the MDCAT, out of which 7,811 students are from Sindh. If Sindh elects this year again to restrict admission to colleges in Sindh for students domiciled in Sindh only, these 7,811 students would hence be vying for a total of 2,900 public college seats and 2,590 private college seats. After completion of admission to the 2,900 public seats, it would still leave 4,911 students vying for 2,590 total medical and dental seats in private colleges in Sindh. That is almost 2 students competing for each seat,” Dr. Arshad Taqi said.
To a query, the PMC president made it clear that the PMC would not register the students who have not passed the MDCAT as per PMC records and any students granted admissions in the private medical and dental colleges would not be registered by them and they would not be granted licenses to practice in the country or abroad as having qualified MDCAT is also a requirement for grant of license under the law.
“In view of the multiple considerations, it is the considered view of the council that there do not exist any reason to consider lowering of the passing marks of MDCAT from the current 65pc, which was recommended by the National Academic Board and approved by the Council earlier,” Dr Arshad Taqi said while referring to his letter written to Sindh health minister in response to her request to PMC.