The SAITM issue has become a national issue. This has become an issue for politicking for various politically motivated groups. Various groups and individuals have raised their voices for and against SAITM creating much heat and less light.
The SAITM issue has brought out some important questions regarding state funded/private higher education in this country.SAITM assumes importance since it is an institution providing private medical degree. In this regard the following questions needs to be addressed:
1. Do we need private medical degree warding institutions?
2. Is it possible to provide adequate training for private medical students in the private sector?
3. What are the entry criteria for private medical colleges?
4. What are the important issues with SAITM
5. Will private medical colleges affect the state medical faculties?
Do we need private medical degree warding institutions?
The simple answer for this question is yes. We have private education from kindergarten to university level except for medical profession. There are two important factors that make private medical degree contentious issue compared to other professional courses:
1. Inadequate patient turnover in the private sector hospitals
2. Immediate government employment at completion of the degree course.
At present not a single private sector hospital in Sri Lanka could provide the number and the variety of patients needed for training medical graduates. This can only be resolved by giving private medical students access to government hospitals and other health care facilities for training purposes. This will benefit the private sector as well as the government sector in the long run.
Immediate government employment at the completion of the degree course is a privilege enjoyed by medical graduates in this country. State medical graduates and foreign medical graduates enjoy this benefit at present. This ensured state employment has given rise to the argument about the number of doctors produced vs number needed to serve the country. However, the number of graduates / professionals produced in the country and the need of the country has not been raised in any other profession. All the doctors produced in this country are not going to stay in this country and are not going to be confined to state sector alone. We need not assume that the kinetics/ dynamics will remain the same when there is high demand and when there is surplus production.
The popular argument against private medical education is that it will affect the free education. Is that applicable only for medical education? Is it acceptable to prevent a tax payer’s child obtaining a private medical degree in spite of the tax payer providing money for the ‘free education’ of a state medical faculty graduate? However those who have money are sending their children to other countries to obtain medical degree at a loss to the country’s foreign exchange.
What are the entry criteria for private medical colleges?
Medical students are admitted to the state medical faculties once a year depending on the National Advanced Level examination results. However, the SAITM and the Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) admits students more than once a year depending on National or London Advanced Level examination results.There are three important issues regarding student entry into private medical faculties:
1 Minimum results at the Advanced Level examination
2. Students entering at a younger age into private medical faculties
3 more than one batch being admitted per year
The minimum results required to enter the university in Sri Lanka has remained as simple pass in all subjects probably since the time the A/L examinations started. That was so when 4As were hard to find and it remains same when 3As are in abundance. This needs to be revised.
The students who are entering through London A/L have an undue advantage of being at least one year younger to their peers who enter state universities through the National A/L. The state university students will waste one more year to enter state medical faculties whereas the students entering the non-state institutions will be able to start their medical education soon after the A/L results are released. This anomaly will affect the career of medical graduates from state medical faculties as they will be older than their parallels from the private medical college. This will become one of the major disadvantages of being a medical student in a state medical faculty in the future.