Fifty marks move proves bitter pill

RAISING THE BAR: A student must secure a minimum of 50 per cent in each of the five components of very subject. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup  

When the Tamilnadu Dr. MGR Medical University decided on revising the pass percentage for MBBS education in the State, little did it imagine that it would have such a violent response from the students.

The university's order was simple. A student must secure a minimum of 50 per cent in each of the five components of every subject. For instance, in the first year, in anatomy, there are the following components: Paper 1, Paper 2, Internal Assessment, practicals, and Viva. The rule now is that the student must secure a minimum of 50 per cent in each of these components in order to pass the subject.

The rule change was effected in January this year, and was functional from the first exam held in August this year. It was reportedly approved by the university Board nearly unanimously as an attempt to bring in quality standards into the medical education system. “The idea is to make better doctors, professionals and ensure that when they treat you, you can have the confidence that someone well-qualified is treating you,” vice-chancellor Mayil Vahanan Natarajan says by way of explanation.

Further, he says, a thorough understanding of the subject is necessary in medicine, and students cannot afford to leave out portions that students in other streams are used to. “The Anatomy Paper 1 can be about head and neck region, while Paper 2 on stomach. If the student does not pay equal attention to both papers, he or she will not be well qualified. A doctor must have a wholistic approach,” he stresses.

However, students point out that as per the standards set by the top body governing medical education in the country, the Medical Council of India, a student must obtain a 50 per cent aggregate, with a minimum of 50 per cent in theory, including viva, and similarly, 50 per cent in practical in each of the subjects. Going by this, a student could pass even if he scored 40 per cent in Paper 1 and 10 per cent in Paper 2, providing he or she could clear the practicals with the required 50 per cent. MBBS students claim that the university's rule went against the MCI norms.

“The MCI clearly says that these are minimum qualifications. The university definitely has the powers to specify standards for medical education in the State. We are well within our rights to do so,” Dr. Natarajan retorts in response.

But students say it is a question of wasting a student's years. Failing in these subjects means the student has to ‘break' their course of study, write the exams again the next year. They have also claimed that of the first-year students who took exams under the new norm, about 35-40 per cent failed.

“With every exam for the next three years, the number could go on increasing, defeating the whole purpose and wasting precious time in the lives of the students. It is a difficult course as it is, and students are likely to get discouraged and lose their initial enthusiasm and fervour and are put to the agony of facing failure,” according to one aggrieved candidate.

This, when the deemed universities in the State follow the MCI norms, putting the students in the government medical college under greater pressure, students have complained. Another factor that riles them is the fact that there is no provision at the moment for revaluation of papers.

However, the university is now considering a proposal to introduce double evaluation for students who have failed in their MBBS papers. The second examiner will correct the paper and the highest mark will be taken as final. If the difference between both marks is over 30 per cent, a third evaluation will be ordered, says the vice-chancellor. Also, the university has written to the Medical Council of India to suspend the ‘break system' to allow students to move on to the next year and give them a chance to write the paper again in six months' time.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Tamil Nadu Medical Students' Association have expressed satisfaction that the Chief Minister has promised to consider their request favourably and revert to the old system of marking.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 1:19:14 AM |

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