To raise professional standards, perhaps law and medicine should be postgraduate courses
I WANT to thank Mr George Lim Heng Chye for highlighting the importance of professionals adopting high ethical standards and values in the discharge of their duties ('Vital that we reinforce good industry practices to uphold our clean image'; ST Online Forum, June 6).
The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) has a clear Ethical Code that 'represents the fundamental tenets of conduct and behaviour expected of doctors practising in Singapore. The Ethical Guidelines elaborate on the application of the Code and are intended as a guide to all practitioners as to what SMC regards as the minimum standards required of all practitioners in discharge of their professional duties and responsibilities in the context of practice in Singapore'.
Since the days of the old Raffles College and King Edward VII College (a forerunner of the National University of Singapore) in the 1920s, the then college accepted Upper Sixth graduates and later GCE A-level holders in its medical school to pursue a medical course. Likewise the Law Faculty accepted Higher School Certificate (HSC) and now A-level holders in its law school.
Perhaps the admission committee and selection board of our local universities need to make a paradigm shift in admission criteria from their erstwhile and present policy of admitting young A-level holders and polytechnic graduates to law and medical schools in view of the rogue lawyers and wayward doctors who have surfaced recently.
In this regard, it would be good to study the criteria United States universities have adopted in admitting students to their law and medical schools. To be considered for admission to study for the Juris Doctor degree, an applicant must have a bachelor's degree awarded by a regionally accredited US college or university or equivalent degree from a recognised non-US institution. He must also have taken the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) within the past three years.
Most Ivy League universities require candidates to be well versed in a wide range of subjects, such as English, philosophy, mathematics, government, history, economics, literature, sociology, psychology, natural sciences and the classics. This is because these non-law subjects are all believed to provide exposure to intellectual tasks encountered in the study of law.
Competition to get into law school is intense as each year there are more applicants than places. Law schools usually look for specific courses in the applicant's transcript (political science, philosophy, sociology and history). However, they are more interested in the well-rounded individual than the young specialist. Some law schools also look for applicants with quantitative courses such as economics, business, mathematics and finance. The thinking is that once out of law school, the graduate will deal with the business world daily and will need to understand it thoroughly.
US medical schools usually look for applicants who have clearly demonstrated an aptitude in the biological and physical sciences but not to the exclusion of the humanities and social sciences. Applicants need good passes in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, expository writing (writing skills are deemed important for the study and practice of medicine) and statistics.
Harvard Medical School states specifically that candidates must have 'completed at least 16 hours in literature, languages, the arts, humanities and the social sciences and become familiar with computers'. Most medical schools require applicants to be good in English (grade B or better) and 'English As a Second Language' is not acceptable.
Perhaps our local universities should make law and medicine a postgraduate course and only those with a first degree (including those from seminaries) need apply to these prestigious schools. Hopefully, a more stringent selection process and interview will reduce the number of unscrupulous professionals churned out by the universities in recent years.
Heng Cho Choon
I agree, to a certain extent, with what this writer has suggested about making medicine a postgraduate course. (Not being a lawyer, my comments refer only to Medicine). Not so much because I think it would "reduce the number of unscrupulous professionals churned out by the universities in recent years", but because I think that the tender age of 18 is too young for the average teen to make a firm decision about what he/she wants to do with the rest of his/her life.
I can almost hear the collective groans of doctors-to-be at the thought of an additional 4 years of undergraduate study before med school + residency +/- fellowship. I know there will be added cost, & with the so-called shortage of doctors in Singapore, it would take a longer time to train a fully qualified doctor.
However, I think that the additional pre-requisites of the humanities & social sciences would not only make for more well-rounded doctors, but the extra years of study would also add much needed maturity to potential doctors, & perhaps give them the chance to make the right decision with regards to their career path. At 18, many are still not emotionally mature; with the added years of studying something else in addition to the sciences, it could make the difference & produce doctors who can truly regard their profession as a calling.