The simple question then, is whether we are sacrificing too much of quality to boost quantity?
It was reported in the New Straits Times last week that there are now television advertisements promoting medical schools in Poland and Romania to Malaysian students and parents. Knowing how desperate that some of these students and parents are, irrespective of the students calibre, they might just rush headlong into signing up for these courses without knowing that they are not accredidated in Malaysia.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said medical colleges in Poland and Romania had not been registered. "The agents should not be airing the advertisements. They are misleading the public," he said.And now we hear that there are going to be even more medical schools, public and private in Malaysia despite that clear evidence that the country does not have the necessary capacity to sustain the required quality in medical education. There's the Cyberjaya University College of Medical Studies (CUCMS) "ready" for its first intake this year. Earlier this year, Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (Kuis), one of two institutions of higher learning set up by the Selangor Government, declared that they will offer medical degree courses from 2008 as part of its expansion. And at the end of last year, the Terengganu government has requested for a medical faculty at the new Darul Iman University. Are we just getting from bad to worse?
Yes, the resultant impact of these expansionary programmes both by the Government as well as by parents attracted to misleading advertisements is that we will indeed accelerate the quantity of doctors in this country. However, at what cost?
Let's do a simple comparison between ourselves and our neighbour down south. We all know that Singapore has one of the best medical faculties in National University of Singapore (NUS), which is recognised as among the top 20 in the world. More interestingly, the Government of Singapore recognises some 120 medical degrees in the world, not exactly a small number.
So, how many degrees does the Malaysian Government recognise? A whopping more than 320 degrees from various institutions around the world. While our Singaporean friends recognise only 2 medical colleges in India, All-India Institute of Medical Sciences and Christian Medical College, Vellore, we recognise a whopping excess of 80 colleges.
Less shockingly, but equally significant is that while Singapore recognises some 30 American institutions, Malaysia recognises medical degrees almost 90 universities and colleges from the United States. At the same time, only 11 medical degrees from Asia and Africa, excluding the NUS, is recognised by our neighbours (less than 10% of total) while we recognised some 160 qualifications (50% of total) from the region. For example 6 from Burma, 6 from Bangladesh, 11 from Indonesia, 14 from Pakistan, 4 from Iraq and even 1 from Uganda.
On top of that, there is of course coming to 20 medical schools in Malaysia (serving a population of 25 million) compared to 1 in Singapore (serving 5 million). Of course, absolutely none of the Malaysian medical colleges have received recognition in Singapore. I've asked earlier - is there no cure for our medical schools?
Are we certain that we are not giving recognition to doctors who may not be sufficiently competent? Recognising more than 80 medical colleges from India, for example, sounds just too excessive for me to believe that all of them meet the necessary minimum international standards, acceptable to Malaysians. In short, is our Government short-changing and risking our well-being by giving recognition to qualification from less than reputable institutions?
Correspondingly, I would strongly suggest that students seeking to pursue medical studies select schools which are recognised by our neighbour down south in order to ensure that you receive the best medical education as well as your global prospects. If you can't get into these institutions, you might just want to consider alternative careers.