MMA president Dr David Quek said the poor quality of students had nothing to do with their country of origin but if the entry admission criteria is low, one can expect less-than-stellar quality students to apply for such colleges.
“That is why there are concerns as to some of these so-called paper or diploma mills, which are notoriously driven by tuition fees and foreign exchange earnings.
“Some of these medical schools even have international student sections, conducted in English, for export only,” Dr Quek said.
Malay Mail had on Friday published an article quoting the vice-rector of Diponegoro University, Dr Muhammad Nur, that the varsity had stopped accepting Malaysian students because their standard was low.
Dr Muhammad said that the freeze on Malaysian students was not only for the 2009 – 2010 academic year but would stay until such a time when they could get better quality students from Malaysia. He said that over the years the university had noticed the decline in the quality of Malaysian students who go there for degree courses and the university cannot afford to lower its teaching standards.
At present, there are only four Malaysian students in that university — two sponsored by the Malaysian government.
Dr Quek refuted Dr Muhammad’s claims that Malaysia’s standard was lower. He said the educational standards was high enough that many qualified students have to compete for entry into top medical schools.
“Many are disappointed at being rejected despite full scores or 4.0 GPA results. Thus, many resort to overseas medical schools to pursue their dreams and ambitions to become doctors,” Dr Quek said,
“As for medical students, we are opposed to our students simply going abroad to just any country to obtain a medical degree, because of cheaper costs or easy or low entry criteria.”
Dr Quek said that students should only go to varsities recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), which provides governance on the required minimum standards of medical schools the world over, after careful periodic review of their curriculum, their teaching staff to student ratio and their clinical teaching programme.
“In fact, because of such quality concerns, the MMC recognises less than 10 medical colleges from Indonesia, and we have had concerns about their standards over time.
“It is therefore ridiculous to turn around and accuse us of poor standard medical students. If they are not good enough, then as is anywhere else in the world, don’t graduate them!
“There will be good students, exceptionally brilliant students and bad ones. The medical school must stick to its standards and pass only those which it thinks are fit to practice as doctors the world over.”
This is the benchmark all Malaysian medical colleges practice. Each medical school must ensure that it passes only sufficiently competent doctors, and fail those who are not up to the mark.
Asked to comment on whether the standard of our doctors was lower compared with Indonesians, Dr Quek said that it would be unfair to compare standards, as there was no criteria acceptable to all.
“Doctors are usually of acceptable standards the world over, but there are bound to be variations in quality and performance. I don’t think anyone has come up with any standard ranking for medical doctors.”
Malaysia has been ranked one of the top five medical tourism destinations around the world and if this is the case, he said, it was clear that our standards of healthcare cannot be that bad.
AFTER all the brouhaha over supposed poor quality Malaysian students complained about by Diponegoro University in Semarang, Indonesia, it turns out that the varsity is no longer on the approved list of Malaysian education authorities.
Speaking to Malay Mail, Higher Education Ministry director-general Prof Datuk Radin Umar said the Malaysian authorities in medical education — namely the ministry and the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) — had to drop Diponegoro after it failed to comply with the guidelines and requirements set by MMC.
“As far as I’m concerned, there is no issue at all in terms of the claims made by Diponegoro University that our medical students there are of low quality.
“Malaysian students who want to study medicine overseas have to obtain a ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) from the ministry first. This documentation would certify that a student has met the minimum requirements needed for him or her to enrol in a university that is recognised by the ministry to have good standards.”
Radin said the problem arises when students — who are unable to obtain a NOC from the ministry due to insufficient qualification — seek out agents and apply for entry into overseas varsities through them.
“We don’t have any jurisdiction over the agents because they are not our local agents. Education agents are people from a particular overseas university because they want to promote their institution to our students.”
Some of these universities or colleges were not recognised as being among the top educational institutions in
their country, and several are known to be driven more by tuition fees and foreign exchange earnings.
“It is through such agents that some overseas universities are able to get lower quality students from Malaysia. The onus is not on us, the onus is on the university for accepting such students, like in the case of Diponegoro University,” said Radin.
He said Diponegoro was dropped from the ministry’s partner university list because of some concerns involving their curriculum.
It is learnt that the MMC has specified three core requirements before the ministry could engage a particular overseas university as a partner for medical studies.
Firstly, the university needs to promote studentcentred learning. Secondly, the ministry needs to ensure that the university is able to conduct an integration of different teaching systems in their curriculum (eg. to educate students in such a way that they are able to understand and relate their learnings to real-life situations effectively).
The university must also conduct at least 120 hours of clinical practice for students.
“Despite the issues, Malaysia and Indonesia are maintaining good ties in the medical education industry. Many of our local doctors today were trained in Indonesia during the 1970s.
“Back then, their standard of medical education was undoubtedly higher, having been in the business longer. Although we may have surpassed them on some grounds such as infrastructure and facilities in our medical universities, they are still considered as our ‘Big Brother’ in medical education.
“It is crucial for the two countries to be respectful of each other.”
Last week, Malay Mail quoted Diponegoro University vice-rector Dr Muhammad Nur as stating that the varsity had stopped accepting Malaysian students because their standards were low.
MMA's Full Statement below:
28 August 2009
STANDARD OF MEDICAL STUDENTS
1. The Vice Rector of Indonesia’s Diponegoro University (UNDIP), Dr Muhammad Nur claimed that Malaysian medical students in the university are not up to the mark. He claimed that our student is of poor quality and they are no longer accepting our students until a time where they (Malaysian students) can show some improvement?
What does MMA have to say with regards to these allegations? The MMA has a category for student membership, and would like to seek your views on these claims.
I think his remarks are clearly gratuitous, provocative and uncalled for.
Poor quality students have nothing to do with the country of origin. If the entry admission criteria are low and easy, then one can expect less than stellar quality students who apply to join such colleges.
That is why there is concern as to some of these so-called paper or diploma mills, which are notoriously driven by tuition fees, foreign exchange earnings, etc. Some of these medical schools even have international student sections, being taught in English, for export only!
In Malaysia, we are very sure that our standards are so high that so many qualified students have to vie so competitively for entry into our top medical schools. Many are disappointed for their rejection despite full scores or 4.0 GPA results. Thus, many resort to overseas medical schools to pursue their dreams and ambitions to become doctors.
As for medical students, we are opposed to our students simply going abroad to just any country to obtain a medical degree, because of cheaper costs or easy or low entry criteria.
Every student must keep in mind that they only go to those which are recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council, which provides governance as to the required minimum standards of medical schools the world over, after careful periodic review of their curriculum, their teaching staff-student ratio and the clinical teaching programme. As such we do not simply recognise any medical school overseas.
In fact because of such quality concerns, the MMC recognises less than 10 medical colleges from Indonesia, and we have had concerns over their standards over time. It is therefore ridiculous to turn around and accuse us of poor standards of medical students—if they are not good enough, then clearly as is anywhere else in the world, don’t graduate them!
There will be good students, exceptionally brilliant students and bad ones, the medical school must stick to its standards and pass only those which it thinks fit to practices as doctors the world over. This is the benchmark where all Malaysian medical colleges practice.
Therefore, the final results of the medical graduate is the most important outcome—not all top students make the good doctors, and some would even fail to make the grade due to some reason or other.
However, each medical school must ensure that it passes only safe and sufficiently competent doctors, and fail those who are not up to the mark! Entry into medical school as is any other degree cannot be a guarantee for a diploma!. Thus, the MMA does not wish to enter into the debate as to who are better or otherwise.
2. How many student members does the MMA have presently? Are they mostly local or foreign university based students? By any changes are there any members from the above mentioned university (past or present)?
Currently we have about 2,533 student members in the MMA. The largest number of student members is from Kursk State Medical University followed by Melaka Manipal Medical College.
3. Generally are the standards of our doctors or even students (to your knowledge) vastly lower compared to the Indonesians? What is our ranking worldwide?
It would be unfair to compare standards, as there are no criteria which will be acceptable to all. Doctors are usually of acceptable standards the world over, but there is bound to be variation in quality and performance. I don’t think any one has made any standard ranking for medical doctors.
Malaysia has been ranked as one of the top 5 medical tourism destinations around the world. If this is the case, then clearly our standard of health care cannot be that bad.
Furthermore, most of our medical tourists are actually from Indonesia, which therefore, begs the question as to who some of these Indonesian patients trust more, their home country health system, or Malaysia’s. I think it is fair to say that not many Malaysians would opt to go to Indonesia for more expert health care treatment.
However, I have many good physician friends from Indonesia, who are excellent doctors with great quality and are truly experts in their own right, just as we have here in Malaysia or even Singapore. It is just that the consistency of healthcare in some of our neighbouring countries may be less than expected for all its citizens.
4. Are there certain standards set by the MMA with regards to (new) doctors when accepting them as members?
We have certain criteria for membership in our Association. Following are the categories of membership and its criteria.
All doctors in good standing with the Malaysian Medical Council will be accepted as members of the association when they apply to join and pay the necessary fees. We cannot discriminate about standards which are arbitrary and unnecessary.
The regulatory body which is the Malaysian Medical Council will be the authority which exercises this right to determine the standards and the quality of care and professionalism expected of every doctor who practice in the country.
The Association may confer Honorary Membership on those persons who, whether or not registered in the Medical Register, have done exceptional work in the fields of Medicine and allied sciences or have rendered meritorious event in the cause of Medicine and associated sciences or to this Association.
Life Membership of the Association shall be open to Ordinary Members who in place of annual subscriptions to the association, shall have contributed to the Capital of the MMA Special Savings (Life Investment) Fund established by the Association, an amount determined by the Annual General Meeting from time to time. The annual income, generated by investment of the Accumulated Capital contributions of each member to the Fund shall be irrevocably assigned in perpetuity by the contributor to the Council of the Association to disburse as it deems fit.
Ordinary membership shall be open to every medical practitioner whether registered or provisionally registered or conditionally registered in the Register kept by the Registrar of Medical Practitioner and those terms shall have the meaning assigned to them be the Medical Registration Ordinance currently in force.
Overseas Membership shall be open to a registered medical practitioner who is a Malaysian citizen and whose permanent residence is outside Malaysia.
Associate Membership shall be open to para Medical Personnel who being qualified in their respective profession legally practice in Malaysia.
Student Membership shall be open to registered medical student who are citizens of Malaysia and who are undergraduates in any medical schools, provided that no local Universities or Universities College student shall be admitted as a member without the prior written approval of the Vice – Chancellor concerned.
Exempt Membership shall be open to medical practitioners who have been Ordinary Members in good standing of at least 20 years and have attained the age of 65 years.
Dr David KL Quek, President, MMA