The pre-medical college results announced on Monday by the Board of Intermediate Education, Karachi (BIEK), reasserted the alarming trend of growing gender disparity in the healthcare professions. This year, only 1,603 male students will be eligible to apply to medical colleges as compared to 9,203 females this year.
According to the results announced by the education board's examinations controller, Imran Khan Chishti, a total of 19,902 students sat for the pre-medical exams, of which nearly 75% were girls. Those who managed to pass the exams were 10,833, or 54%. However, this percentage was skewed in favour of the girls since 58% of them passed the exams as compared to merely 40% of the boys. Nearly seven per cent of all students got through with A-1 grades, 16% with As, 15% with Bs, 12% with Cs and four per cent with D grades.
BIEK chairperson Anwar Ahmed Zai, while talking to The Express Tribune, expressed his concerns over the increasing ratio of girls getting into pre-medical education as compared to boys. "This gender disparity persists even when these students join healthcare facilities after studying medicine from universities," said Prof Ahmed Zai. "The situation will pose serious issues for the country's healthcare system in the next few years."
Meanwhile, the statistics issued by the Pakistan Medical Association corroborate the concerns posed by Prof Ahmed Zai. Around three quarters of the female students of medicine abandon the field right after graduating or after marriage.
Prof Ahmed Zai hoped that the authorities, including the education board, will soon be able to devise a system for intermediate level admissions, which may help reduce this gender disparity.
Prof Ghulam Asghar Channa, the vice-chancellor at Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Medical University in Larkana, argued, however, that the trend simply cannot be reversed by increasing the quota for male students in medical colleges. "The compromise on merit will further deteriorate the quality of medical education and will also lead to gender bias," he added.
While explaining the reasons for the waning fascination of male students with the medical profession, Prof Channa said that a medical graduate with his one-year house job is kind of a 'double graduate'. "However, he has to compete in the market with the simple graduates of arts, science and commerce for the salary and allowances which are much little compared to his qualifications and time spent in education."
For the post-graduate qualification, added Prof Channa, the courses are expensive and span usually over six to eight years, during which the friends and acquaintances of the age-group are well-settled with relatively less efforts put.
Though the result-day was unquestionably a festive occasion for around 4,490 pre-medical students who managed to secure the highest 'A-1' or 'A' grades, they were quite aware of the tough competition looming ahead on the limited number of admission seats at the medical colleges.
Bhawna Bai of the Government College for Women, Sharae Liaquat shared the first position with Mehreen Umer Zubair of the Liaquat College of Management and Sciences by scoring 90.82% marks out of the total of 1,200. Syed Faizan Ali of Adamjee Government Science College closely followed them by securing the second position with a difference of one mark (90.73%).
The third position was also shared by Khushbakht Karrar of St Lawrence Government Girls Degree College and Sidra Muhammad Hussain of BAMM PECHS Government College for Women, both of whom scored 89.18% marks.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2014.