October 10, 2010

TN MGR Medical Univ's largesse to medical students: 10 to 45 grace marks each

In what could leave a serious dent on the quality of medical education and prove a gross violation of the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act, the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University has admitted that it granted as much as 45 marks as grace for students who appeared for a supplementary examination in February 2009. A university committee granted all students, who failed the first year exam, 35 grace marks for anatomy and biochemistry and 10 for physiology. The number of students who passed the exams after this shower of largesse rose from 81 to 161.

The MCI rules state that grace marks up to a maximum of five may be awarded at the discretion of the university to a student who has failed only in one subject (Percentage required for passing is 50). The rule is intended to make education rigorous and uphold quality in medical training, say senior doctors. But the university, in a reply to questions under the Right to Information Act, has admitted that in each of the exams it conducted for different batches of MBBS students between February 2007 and August 2009, it granted between 10 and 45 marks. As a result, the number of MBBS students who passed the exam per batch was between 20 and 540. In the same period, the university also granted between 8 and 25 marks to students who appeared for the BDS exams (Dental Council of India also does not permit universities to grant more than five grace marks), which helped up to 458 students per batch to pass.

For instance, in August 2009, first year MBBS students appearing for the first or second time got 20 grace marks. For those appearing for the third time, grace was increased to 30 marks in anatomy, 10 in physiology and 20 in bio-chemistry. Thus, the number of students who passed the test after revision rose from 1,386 to 1,926.

A senior university official sought to defend the concessions granted by saying, "There are no rules for awarding grace marks. It is decided year on year. For instance, if we find a greater number of students appearing for the examination for the second or third time, we may decide to award grace marks to ensure such students are cleared fast. A passing board committee decides on the grace marks."

Dr Meer Mustafa Hussain, who was the vice chancellor between 2007 and 2009 when such high grace marks were awarded, could not be contacted. But his successor, Dr Mayil Vahanan Natarajan, criticised the flaws in the system and said the varsity has now tightened its rules. "There was no transparency in the past. In fact, students could not even obtain photocopies of their own marksheets. This will not happen from this academic year. We have decided not to award grace marks henceforth. We are ready to give photocopies of answer sheets and allow re-evaluation instead of moderation," he said.

All 17 government medical colleges and eight private medical colleges are presently affiliated to the university. The state also has one government dental college in Chennai and 16 private colleges affiliated to it.

Senior professors, doctors' associations and former academicians have demanded an inquiry into the issue. "Besides discouraging meritorious students, such acts would degrade the quality of medical education. We normally get the cream of students for MBBS. There is no need to award them huge grace marks to help them pass. What we need to do is offer intensive and quality training," said Dr George Thomas, editor, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics.

Members of the Indian Medical Association said such acts would degrade the profession. "Anyone who doesn't have adequate training is a quack with or without the degree. If the university has been helping students pass, it has been producing quacks," said Dr TN Ravishankar, honorary secretary, IMA (TN).

Health department officials claimed they were not aware of the university's decisions to award high grace marks. "I am not aware that such things happen in the state's premier medical varsity. I don't know if they have the power to award such high grace marks using just an internal committee. We will initiate an enquiry. Action will be taken against anyone who dared to degrade medical education in the state," said health secretary VK Subburaj.

However, several colleges, including the government colleges, say part of the problem is the fact that currently many institutions do not have enough professors for courses like forensic medicine, pharmacology and anatomy. "If there are no teachers, how will the students pass?" asked a senior doctor.

Senior professor in surgical gasteroentrology at the Stanley Medical College Dr R Surendran agreed. "It is time we had quality training in medical education to ensure we have qualified doctors. Else it is a compromise on human lives," he said.

Link: Original Article

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