Bitter pill: Time to address problem of demand outstripping supply of seats in public varsities

There are many students who scored straight As in the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) recently but did not gain admission to medical, dentistry or pharmacy schools in local varsities.

It is a known fact that such “high-demand and popular” seats are limited in our public institutions of higher learning.

However, if we continue producing straight-As students, they will surely outnumber the number of seats available for such courses.

STPM graduates also need to compete with matriculation students for these ‘hot spots’ in universities.

Prior to admission, these candidates will be shortlisted, interviewed, and their accumulated co-curriculum points taken into consideration. In some cases, they are also required to sit for an assessment test.

Thus, not all straight-A students will be successful in their pursuit of degrees in medicine, dentistry, or pharmacy.

The outcome of not obtaining the desired seat, obviously creates frustration, disappointment, and anger.

It is crucial for the government to address the issue of ‘demand and supply’ regarding these programmes. For years, we have been listening to excuses that such opportunities also exist in private universities. But there is a price to pay. While scholarships are offered by private institutions, the numbers are generally small.

While funding is crucial in expanding medical and dentistry programmes in public universities in the country, there are other issues that must also be addressed.

Firstly, there is a need to ensure that there are sufficient qualified and experienced medical faculty members at our local varsities. These centres must also be well equipped with adequate facilities and laboratories.

Secondly, regular assessments by external appraisers to ensure accreditation does not become an issue. There is also a need to facilitate the placement of students for practicums.

Adequate funding would also help address other matters, including the expansion of programmes, and for these programmes to be internationally recognised.

Medical programmes are very competitive and the problem of supply not meeting demand, if not addressed, will continue to persist.

Perhaps it is also time we created an environment that encourages young children to follow their interests and passion in choosing their educational path – and not because their families or relatives are pushing them into traditional desired disciplines.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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