Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Reassurance for would-be medical students over new health sciences subject

Some Middle Eastern universities have expressed confusion over the qualification, which has replaced biology in government schools

The Ministry of Education has said its health sciences subject is widely recognised by universities abroad. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The Ministry of Education has said its health sciences subject is widely recognised by universities abroad. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The Ministry of Education has assured pupils considering careers in medicine that the health sciences subject introduced to the curriculum last year is widely accepted by leading universities.

Prospective medical students have said a change in the way biology is taught has caused them to be rejected when applying for degree courses abroad.

Pupils applying to institutions in Egypt said the health sciences subject they studied had not been recognised. Universities in Palestine and Jordan are also said to prefer biology.

Health sciences is taught in the final three years of school, instead of standard biology, in government and private institutions that follow the UAE’s Ministry of Education curriculum.

The ministry told The National the switch last year was a “well thought-out plan” but that it had sought reassurance from university officials abroad to ensure it would be recognised.

Dr Hamad Al Yahyai, assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Education, said the subject taught in UAE schools is widely accepted among leading universities.

He said discussions with academic institutions and education officials in neighbouring countries would continue and would ensure pupils with the qualification were not unfairly overlooked.

“The outcomes of health sciences proved it fully prepared pupils to be accepted in some of the best 200 universities across the world,” Dr Al Yahyai said.

“The course also includes medical terminology and other health sciences-related matters, all of which fully prepare the student to study in medical colleges.

“We are talking about an education based on the outcomes, not on the title of the subject.

“Officials from Egypt had responded to the ministry, acknowledging that our students are qualified to enrol at any of their medical colleges,” he said.

“Students who meet all official requirements of universities in neighbouring countries will not face any problem.”

Health sciences packages biology with medical terminology and physiology to prepare pupils for medicine and related degrees, the ministry said.

But parents said the confusion has left their children without admission offers for September.

“My daughter Ayah has been crying ever since she was rejected from a university in Egypt because of this,” said Hosam Hilal, 56.

“One would think she failed school. It’s her dream to study medicine and, with this issue not being resolved, she will not be able to fulfil her dream.”

Mr Hilal, who lives in Sharjah, said he could not afford to send his children to university in the UAE but a medical degree in Egypt costs about half as much.

Mohammed Taha, who is also Egyptian, said his daughter Israa was one of the top pupils in her school but fears she may not be accepted to study medicine this year.

He has been trying to convince university admissions staff with the help of the education authority in his home country and the Egyptian consulate in the UAE.

“We were asked to provide an official letter from the UAE stating that health sciences is the same as biology,” said Mr Taha, who also lives in Sharjah.

“My daughter Israa graduated from the National Charity School in Sharjah and her dream has always been to study medicine,” Mr Taha said.

“It’s too expensive to send her to a university in the UAE but in Egypt a whole year costs close to Dh32,000, less than half of what it costs here.”

He said the issue had dominated conversation on a WhatsApp group used by thousands of Egyptian expatriates.

The curriculum of government schools has been the focus of much reform and investment in the past two years.

Greater emphasis is placed on science subjects, which are now taught in English.

The Ministry of Education has assured pupils considering careers in medicine that the health sciences subject introduced to the curriculum last year is widely accepted by leading universities.

Prospective medical students have said a change in the way biology is taught in the UAE has caused them to be rejected by universities abroad.

Pupils applying for degree courses in Egypt said the health sciences subject they studied is not recognised.

Universities in Palestine and Jordan are also said thought to prefer biology.

Health sciences is taught in the final three years of school instead of standard biology, in government and private schools that follow the UAE’s Ministry of Education curriculum.

The ministry told The National the switch from biology to health sciences last year was a “well thought-out plan” but that it had sought reassurance from university officials abroad to ensure it is recognised.

Dr Hamad Al Yahyai, assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Education, said the subject taught in UAE schools is widely accepted among leading universities. He said discussions with academic institutions universities and education officials in neighbouring countries were continuing and would ensure pupils with the qualification were not unfairly overlooked.

“The outcomes of health sciences proved it fully prepared pupils to be accepted in some of the best 200 universities across the world,” Dr Al Yahyai said.

“The course also includes medical terminology and other health sciences-related matters, all of which fully prepare the student to study in medical colleges.

“We are talking about an education based on the outcomes, not on the title of the subject.

“Officials from Egypt had responded to the ministry, acknowledging that our students are qualified to enrol at any of their medical colleges,” he said.

“Students who meet all official requirements of universities in neighbouring countries will not face any problem.”

Health sciences packages takes in biology with teaching medical terminology and physiology to prepare pupils for medicine and related degrees, the ministry said.

But parents said the confusion has left their children without admission offers firm places for September.

“My daughter Ayah has been crying ever since she was rejected from a university in Egypt because of this,” said Hosam Hilal, 56, who lives in Sharjah.

“One would think she failed school. It’s her dream to study medicine, and with this issue not being resolved, she will not be able to fulfil her dream.”

Mr Hilal, who lives in Sharjah, said he could not afford to send his children to university in the UAE but a medical degree in Egypt costs about half as much.

Mohammed Taha, who is also Egyptian, said his daughter Israa was one of the top pupils in her school but fears she may not be accepted to study medicine this year. He has been trying to convince university admissions staff with the help of the education authority in his home country and the Egyptian consulate in the UAE.

“We were asked to provide an official letter from the UAE stating that health sciences is the same as biology,” said Mr Taha, who also lives in Sharjah.

“My daughter Israa graduated from the National Charity School in Sharjah and her dream has always been to study medicine,” he said.

“It’s too expensive to send her to a university in the UAE but in Egypt a whole year costs close to Dh32,000, less than half of what it costs here.”

He said the issue has dominated conversation on a WhatsApp group used by thousands of Egyptian expatriates.

The curriculum of government schools has been the focus of much reform and investment in the past two years.

Greater emphasis is placed on science subjects, which are now also taught in English.

We are talking about an education based on the outcomes, not on the title of the subject

Dr Hamad Al Yahyai, Ministry of Education

Updated: July 21, 2019 06:06 PM

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