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Vietnam universities lower bar for medical students, cause concern

Thursday, September 19, 2013, 15:14 GMT+7

Many low-tier and private Vietnamese universities have recruited students via a lax selection process, raising concerns over the quality of future doctors and pharmacists, Tuoi Tre has learned.Tra Vinh University, a former community college located in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, admitted applicants who had scored 17.5 out of the total 30 points on national standardized tests to its medicine program this academic year, while top-tier medical schools require candidates to earn at least 75 percent of the aggregate number.Enrollees who had gained 13-14 points on the tests also made it into the public health major at Tra Vinh, a low-tier public higher education institution. The school gave the green light to applicants to other medical courses using the same standards. Other universities that granted admission to medical programs to candidates who scored 13 to 17 points include many private schools, which offer lower-quality education compared to public institutions. Some of them are Vo Truong Toan University in Hau Giang Province, Lac Hong University in Dong Nai Province, Hong Bang University in Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Tat Thanh University in the same city, and Nam Can Tho (Southern Can Tho) University in Can Tho City. In a surprise move, Tay Do University in Can Tho City even enrolled those who scored below the so-called ‘pass threshold’ set by the Vietnamese education ministry. A university can consider admitting a candidate only after that candidate has notched a certain minimum score calculated by the Ministry of Education and Training, which annually gives the standardized tests, according to national higher education admission regulations. One university official argued that his school has to ‘open the door’ to survive. “We will have to close down if we cannot recruit as many students as we plan to, for we are financially independent of the government,” Dr Phan Van Thom, Tay Do acting president, said. Another explained that compromising on pass grades is a way to help train healthcare workers for the locality where his school is situated. “We have no choice but to lower the bar as we’re a provincial school that is assigned to provide training first and foremost to local students, who are not as high-performing as their peers in other regions,” said Nguyen Tien Dung, vice president of Tra Vinh University.

Medical courses for high-performing students only

Many educators have expressed their worry over the qualifications of those would-be doctors and pharmacists, saying only highly-qualified students should be allowed to enroll in healthcare science programs. Top-tier medical schools in Vietnam just recruit high-achieving students since only intellectual learners can follow what is taught in medicine and pharmacy disciplines, according to Dr Nguyen Duc Nghia, deputy director of the Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City. “That’s why medical schools tend to admit applicants who perform extremely well on the standardized tests,” Dr Nghia said. “Medical science deals with the diagnosis and treatment of patients so students must have a sound knowledge and be really good at practical skills. In that manner, medical schools are for the elite only.” A lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University, one of the best of its kind in Vietnam, said that it will be very hard for average-performing students to study such majors as medicine and pharmacy. The same condition applies to nursing, medical technology, among others, the lecturer said. One of the schools that accepted low-performing students into their medical programs admitted that these students have struggled to catch up with their classmates. “Lecturers have to explain a particular point to them many times,” Dr Tran Ai Cam, vice president of Nguyen Tan Thanh University, complained. Only two of 29 enrollees in one of the school’s medical programs managed to graduate recently, Dr Cam revealed. In Vietnam universities enroll new students from July to September each year.

A typical academic year starts in early September and ends in early June.

Tuoi Tre


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