Medical Students, Gov’t Tussle Over New Exam

About half of the University of Health Science’s class of 2014 risks not graduating this year, having refused to register for a new compulsory final exam.

Some 70 of 140 students set to complete their eight-year course this month boycotted the April 18 registration deadline, complaining that the Ministry of Health had only announced on April 7 that the April 26 exam would take place.

Previously, medical students were evaluated based on their years of schoolwork and awarded government jobs in the health sector accordingly. Now, they will be required to pass an additional exam.

A 2007 sub-decree states that a national-level examination for medical students would be implemented from that academic year onwards. But that sub-decree is only now being enforced by the Ministry of Health, according to students.

Officials at the Ministry of Health could not be reached for comment.

On April 11, the Ministry of Health wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that students had accepted the new examination. A group of students responded by protesting outside the university and drafting a petition stating that they hadn’t signed on to the change, which they submitted to the Council of Ministers.

In response, the Council of Ministers on Friday released a statement that said: “Students of the University of Health Sciences must attend the national exam as instructed by the Ministry of Health. If they do not pass the national exam, they cannot apply for a full-time job with the government and their qualifications will not be complete.”

Khun Sophen, 27, a medical student who initially protested the announcement and refused to register, said Sunday that he would sit the exam after all, as he has nearly reached the age of 30, the maximum age for applicants to get jobs as civil servants.

“If I fail the national exam, it means I will lose the opportunity to work as a doctor for the government,” he said, adding that students are being charged $125 to register for the exam.

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