ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has summoned former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain over the mushroom growth of private medical colleges during his tenure as chairman of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, during the hearing of a case regarding low standards at private institutions, also observed that there is need for a uniform education system. Insisting that the education of children between the ages of five and 16 is the state’s responsibility under Article 25-A of the constitution, the CJP asked if state institutions were fulfilling this responsibility.
PMDC’s counsel Akram Sheikh agreed with the chief justice’s concern.
Latif Khosa, counsel for Dr Hussain, said that 30 million children in the country were out of school. Upon this, the bench wondered who would rectify that.
Later, the three-judge bench, headed by the CJP, directed that Dr Hussain should inform the court on Wednesday (today) the steps he had taken during his PMDC tenure to give benefits to private medical colleges.
Meanwhile, the PMDC through its lawyer Akram Sheikh challenged the December 7 judgment of the Lahore High Court (LHC) wherein it had annulled the PMDC’s Central Induction Policy and allowed private medical colleges to carry on with their regular admission procedures during the upcoming session.
The petition states that for a long time, medical education has exclusively been in the public sector. However, with the population growing rapidly, the demand for trained manpower qualified to render medical treatment to the needy arose, which gave birth to another stakeholder – private medical and dental colleges.
“The wisdom of keeping medical education exclusively within the public sector was maintenance of a uniform and quality standards of education wherein the service providers were subjected to the same rigor in terms of student admissions, curricular depth, training methodology, examination models, clinical or scientific research, tuition fees, and identical standards of medical degrees and graduates,” according to the petition.
However, shortly thereafter, the narrative emerged to drive economic growth was introduced which paved the way for private medical educational institutes to enter the market, is states, adding that the country then experienced mushroom growth that, unfortunately, eroded the uniformity and quality maintained at public sector institutes.
The petition says that the LHC did not take into account the practice of private colleges in compromising the merit set out by the PMDC. “The custom of accepting donations and patronage from influential people in exchange for admissions of students well below the merit was common knowledge,” it adds.
“PMDC is constantly facing regulatory capture due to the malpractices of private medical and dental colleges. Since the year 2012, a number of amendments have been brought about in the law governing the council, and the interests of private medical colleges are being fortified through changes in the composition of the council.
The final result was that regulated private medical institutions became regulators themselves and captured PMDC. Unfortunately, the learned High Court did not notice these state of affairs, and the unashamed conflict of interest enjoyed by private medical colleges was also tacitly concealed,” it adds.
The PMDC states that there is dire need to improve medical and dental education standards in the private sector and to control the commercialisation of education. Most private colleges greatly lack standards in curricula, assessment and admission requirements, it adds. Most teaching at these colleges is done by part-time teachers in a methodological fashion, and lab work and dissection are rare.
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