Three Bs, please: Don't despise excellence

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7567.552-a (Published 07 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:552
  1. Robin Ireland, consultant psychiatrist (RIreland{at}doctors.org.uk)
  1. Brookhaven Psychiatric Unit, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire B61 0BB

    EDITOR—Choosing medical students is more difficult than it might seem at first glance.1 Lowering entrance requirements for medical school is not the answer—medical school and subsequent medical practice require intellect and application. Equally, favouring mature students with a first degree or qualification in time may lead to a situation where a pre-med qualification becomes an advantage and may discriminate against school leavers.

    Perhaps the fairest way to level the playing field between state and private schools is to introduce a standardised national qualification for entry to medical school entry, in addition to A level results. In that way, problem solving skills, knowledge, and emotional intelligence could all be assessed, without fear of bias towards one group.

    In the meantime, to make excuses for the failure of the state school system to achieve good A level grades, by suggesting that the private schools are “puffed up,” is not helpful. Rather, ask why state schools achieve such low results, even with recent huge increases in funding? Private schools can be academically selective, tend to have smaller classes, be better disciplined, and have more motivated pupils and parents—but why attack a system that appears to be doing the job better?

    It may be socially rewarding for Spence to identify with what he sees as the underdog, but with such an important issue as this, perhaps it is time for all of us to put aside our outdated social prejudices and just try to get the best result.


    • Competing interests RI is privately (and competitively) educated.


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