Pass marks for foreign graduates’ skills exam won’t be reduced

Islamabad The regulator for medical and dental education has refused to reduce pass marks for the skills exam taken by foreign graduates for mandatory registration, insisting that accepting a request for the purpose is tantamount to denying patients treatment by ‘safe’ doctors.
“The National Medical and Dental Academic Board declared in a meeting that the National Licensing Examination skills exam represents the basic skills that are mandatory for patient handling and management in the absence of which patients will be at severe risk. Accordingly, it is imperative that graduates are able to show at least 70 per cent of fundamental basic skills and competencies to ensure patient safety. Lowering the standard will be depriving patients of their fundamental right to be treated by a safe doctor,” an official of the Pakistan Medical Commission said in a meeting here.

The foreign medical graduates had demanded a reduction in the NLE-II pass marks from the current 70 per cent to 50 per cent and even protested outside the PMC’s premises.

According to the official, the board members opined that the majority of foreign graduates receive education in countries, where English was not the spoken language, so there were serious concerns about the clinical training they underwent in the absence of being able to communicate in the local language with doctors, medical staff at hospitals and patients or being aware of the medical terms ordinarily referred to in the local language.

They decided that an absence of clinical training and book education was a serious concern and therefore, the NLE exam, especially the skills exam (NLE-II), was essential to ensure and certify that foreign graduates have the necessary competency and skills to be safe doctors.

The board members examined pass marks for international licensing exams held in different countries and found them to be above 70 per cent before announcing that there is no justification to lower the NLE-II pass percentage from 70.

They insisted that the whole purpose of the NLE was to test the competency, knowledge, and skills of a graduate to ensure that they were safe doctors as they would be granted a license to treat patients independently.

The board also decided to carry out an additional analysis of the matter to see if there is any justification to reduce the NLE pass marks in the future.