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Debate continues over extending 4 year BDS to 5 year DDS program

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DN Report

KARACHI – Pakistan’s Pioneering National Seminar on Dental Education was organized by Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences at the Governors House Karachi. It comprised of a debate over extending the 4 year BDS programme to a 5 year DDS programme.

The proceedings started with a welcome address by Prof Nousahd A Shaikh VC Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences.  This was followed by a presentation by Prof Shahjahan Katpar about the proposed changes in the Dental Curriculum and making it 5 years instead of 4 years. He also proposed to re-name BDS as DDS to bring it at par with international standards.

If the programme recommendations are accepted, then from the next academic year onwards, the prospective students of dentistry will have to complete a five years study  programme, to earn their graduate degree in dentistry with a new title DDS.

It seemed that the focus of the proposed changes was to make the dental graduates accepted world-wide at par with other developed countries.  Prof Katpar envisioned that our graduates will be able to go to US and Europe to practice without taking any exams by the year 2025 if the proposed changes were incorporated, which is not true as all countries of the world have equivalency exams for doctors and dentists.

In his presentation Dr Shahjehan Katpar focused on training the dental graduates to be able to practice globally and gave the impression that only a few subjects and one additional year is the only hindrance. After his presentation the floor was opened for questions and answer where majority of the audience completely disagreed with his perception.

The President Pakistan Dental Association Prof Saqib Rashid disagreed with the presentation and said that; About the 7 new subjects, most of them are already being taught in BDS. Dr Navid Rashid opined that making the programme 5 years long will not serve any purpose and proposed that the changes be made to the present curriculum while keeping it for 4 years. He also shared the information that in India there are colleges who give choice to the students to opt for 4 or 5 years programmes. The programme includes 4 years of teaching and one year internship.

Both Prof Saqib and Prof Naveed were of the opinion that our graduates are already accepted world-wide and this additional years, without having the faculty, will serve no purpose at all. Prof Saqib proposed that if it were to become a 5 years programme then the students must get a stipend in the 5th year rather than paying additional one year fee.

Prof Tasleem Hosein urged the need to have trained teachers first before embarking on such an adventure. She said that improving teacher training is the key to improving dental education in Pakistan. Prof Mervyn suggested that the curriculum be revised and upgraded rather than adding an additional year and pointed out that the utilities of the subjects like Pak studies and Islamiyat may be reconsidered in BDS as they are the same as in year 12.

At the end of the first session, Prof Noushad concluded by saying that it has been agreed that the curriculum will be 5 years and the programme will be re-named as DDS. Responding to this, Dr Saqib stood up and reminded him that no such consensus has been reached.  Prof Noushad, however was determined to ensure that his proposal be accepted and said that one association’s remarks do not reflect the opinion of the majority and continued with his concluding remarks.  The majority of the dentists, while talking to Dental News, showed their disapproval of the way a false consensus was being forced upon them.

The interesting aspect in the first session was the absence of most of the VCs, HEC Chairman and PMDC President, who were all busy in their meeting elsewhere. They joined the seminar in the second session. The second session started with the arrival of chief Guest Dr Ishrat ul Ebad , the Governor of Sindh and Prof Noushad presented the resolution of the seminar which had already been prepared despite huge opposition from the dental fraternity.

The Director Academics at HEC – Fida Hussain who was representing the chairman HEC spoke about the HEC’s initiatives and its desire to upgrade the curriculum. The president Pakistan Medical & dental Council -Prof Masood Hameed also favored the 5 year programme in his speech, while the Chairman HEC Sindh, Dr Asim Hussain gave a very realistic count of the current scenario. In his address he said that that adding years will not guarantee quality whereas making the curriculum more update is the solution. He said that we may be looking at reducing the MBBS programme to 4 years as in the USA. He urged the need to do away with subjects which no longer have any relevance and upgrade the curriculum rather than focus on increasing the number of years. He pointed out that the dearth of teachers because of which there is a moratorium on starting new colleges is a proof that we have severe faculty shortage and by increasing another year this shortage will further increase.

Dr Ishratul Ebad in his address supported the views of Dr Asim Hussain and said that we should be very cautious in implementing the changes which should start from the public sector and then extended to private sector universities.  He also pointed out that there is a dearth of teachers and we must make all possible efforts to overcome this shortage first and all changes should be done keeping this in mind.

According to recent media reports; The above decision was taken during a recent meeting, attended by all the vice-chancellors of the medical universities in Pakistan, along with the representatives of the Sindh Higher Education Commission (SHEC) and the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC).

The modification in the four-year Bachelor’s of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree, will also reflect in its name, as the new five-year programme will be referred to as the ‘Doctor of Dental Surgery’ (DDS). This was stated by Dr SM Tariq Rafi – the VC of Jinnah Sindh Medical University.

“The resolution, with the final approval of the PMDC and the federal HEC, will be implemented to meet international standards in dental education,” said Dr Rafi. He added that; Pakistani dentistry graduates, at present, face issues in acquiring equivalence to practice in other countries, because they fail to meet the required number of credit hours.

Prof Dr Noshad Ahmed Shaikh, Vice-Chancellor at the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, said that; “The additional year of study will comprise of courses that are deemed compulsory in American dental schools”.

“The step will, however, result in extra financial burden for  the parents of dentistry students”, said the Head of dental section at a public-sector dental college, while requesting anonymity. “The step will only be beneficial for students, who wish to pursue further studies or practice the profession abroad,” said the official. “We should see whether this modification is substantial in order to meet the needs of the country’s dental healthcare, which already comes with an exorbitant price-tag.

March 27, 2015

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