Foreign med students had shorter exam time

02 July 2019 | Education

Experts called to evaluate and compare the contested 2018 Health Professions Councils of Namibia (HPCNA) pre-internship exams for medical graduates from foreign medical schools to the exams local students take in their final year, have found the papers are similar but that University of Namibia (Unam) students are given more time to complete the test.

The team of experts was appointed to an independent examination evaluation panel tasked to report their findings to an appeals committee.

Apart from the time discrepancy, the experts highlighted that the papers are similar in structure and difficulty, but are not necessarily based on the Namibian context.

The appeals committee is set to decide on the grievances lodged by more than 100 graduates who qualified at foreign medical schools in Eastern Europe and Asia, most of whom failed to pass the six modules of the pre-internship evaluations in November last year.

Only two out of 207 of the graduates passed all six modules of the evaluation, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula told parliament in March, while 62 did not pass any module.

Dr Laimi Ashipala, a neutral expert appointed by mutual agreement by all parties, concludes in her report, seen by Namibian Sun that “the examinations are of the same quality with discrepancy in the time allocation”.

She noted that the time allocated for final-year Unam exams is longer than the time allocated for the HPCNA exams.

Dr Shonag Mackenzie, who was appointed for the appellants, concluded that the HPCNA candidates have “over an hour less than the Unam candidates to answer the same or equivalent questions”.

Mackenzie further concludes that “there being no known standardisation of the answers of the HPCNA papers, that the HPCNA November 2018 examination is not equivalent to the Unam final-year exams”.

Her review of the papers also questions the accuracy of the answers in some sections and she states “this is a serious cause for concern as if the candidates gave the correct answer; they would have been given no marks”.

Out of context

On the content of both papers, Ashipala cautions that “most of the questions of both examinations are not at a level of a graduate”.

She underlined the papers were mostly similar in content, structure and the same level of difficulty.

She added that the content of both papers is mostly of general medicine knowledge and “not common cases that graduates will encounter during practice”.

Ashipala notes that most of the questions are taken from the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) website, which helps to assess a physician's ability to apply knowledge, concepts and principles and demonstrate fundamental patient-centred skills that are important in health and disease.

She concludes that these questions constitute the “basis of safe and effective patient care in an American context and not necessarily in the Namibian context”.

A report submitted by Dr Rod Lichtman, an expert appointed to the panel by the respondents, notes that the two sets of papers are similar both in content and difficulty.

Lichtman adds that he regards many of the questions in the papers as “too difficult and also inappropriate for a final-year medical student planning to practice as a GP in Namibia”.

He concludes that “it appears the majority of questions are cut and paste questions that come off the internet and do not represent medical practice and clinical situations in Namibia”.

A ruling by the appeals committee is expected in late August.

Questions emailed to the HPCNA yesterday remained unanswered at the time of going to print.


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