Massacre in the first year of medical school

The first year of medical school has always been a massacre. According to the Interuniversity Committee of Medical Students (CIUM), only two students out of ten (18.3%) passed their exams.

This average is based on results informally gathered by the committee in four of the five university medical schools. They are the University of Mons (Umons), Namur, UCL and ULB. The results from the University of Liège (ULg) will not be available until Monday.


At Umons, the success rate was 30% (118 students out of 383 passed). That is less than its previous rate (34%).


At Namur, the success rate was 24.5% (192 students out of 784). That is stable compared to previous years, says CIUM.


At UCL, the success rate was 13/14% (123 students out of 961). That is slightly less than its previous rate.


At ULB, the success rate was 10% (61 students passed). That is lower than its previous rate (18%).


Why this slaughter?


“The averages remain close and the training is faulty,” says Amandine Henry, co-president of CIUM. “But let’s say that’s the backdrop.”


Beginning this year, medical studies are done over 6 to 7 years. The first year is the worst of all.


For the most part, basic sciences, which previously were taught in one year, are now taught during the first four months of the 1st BAC. “The instructors were told to lighten up the courses,” continues Jérôme Lechien, secretary general of CIUM. “But many didn’t do that. In general, they just have to speak twice as fast!”


What is new is that the January exams are from now on true exams (before, they were optional), which has the effect of shortening the time available for classes. “We do two years in one,” says Amandine Henry. “What’s more, the time available for classes is shrinking while the material is not.”


Another reason given: “Viewed over 6 or 7 years, the first-year student takes classes that used to be taught in the 2nd year, but he isn’t mature enough for those classes,” continues Amandine Henry. “As for the instructors, they haven’t adapted their practices and forget that they are teaching first-year students instead of second-year ones.”


In some universities, given the weight of the material added onto the first year since the changeover to 6 years, the study period has been reduced to nothing (to…4 to 5 days, in some cases).


The reduction from 7 to 6 years and the creation of exams in January are not the only reforms affecting medical school. It should be remembered that those who begin their studies next year will be required to take an aptitude test, which is supposed to inform the student of his or her level (students may take this test July 3 or September 2). The FEF is fighting it, seeing it as the forerunner to an entrance exam. CIUM is not against it, as long as it remains non-restrictive.



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