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Undergraduate medicine in Prague

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 01 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:0607301
  1. Jonathan R Menon, third year medical student1
  1. 1Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Traditional didactic methods of teaching, like those still used in Prague, provide a solid foundation for the clinical years, thinks Jonathan Menon

Recently, I met up with friends from medical schools around the United Kingdom. A lively debate ensued about undergraduate medical education in the Czech Republic and the UK, both of which are members of the European Union.

I am a third year medical student at Charles University, Prague where medicine has been taught since 1348. The traditional six year course is made up of three years' preclinical sciences and three years' clinical subjects. My British friends were shocked that we studied basic sciences for a full three years before the clinical rotations. Anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, histology, embryology, genetics, and pathology are all covered in detail, and pharmacology is studied in years three and four. I was surprised that my friends in the UK had a much reduced exposure to basic sciences and that factual information was kept to a minimum to encourage the self directed learning process. Why this aversion to knowledge?

Does teacher know best?

In Prague, traditional courses adopt a didactic teaching approach that is frowned upon in the undergraduate curriculum in many, but not all, UK universities. This approach, however, provides a solid framework for the medical course in the formative years of the young undergraduate. Weekly seminars are held, which are interactive; students are encouraged to discuss problems, and learning opportunities are abundant. For seminars and practicals, attendance is mandatory and failure to attend may place you at a considerable disadvantage. Unsatisfactory attendance can lead to you being barred from taking exams. Self directed learning is encouraged and complements the traditional teaching methods. Anatomical dissections are a core part of the preclinical training and lectures are held in a grand amphitheatre, which epitomises the link between anatomy and …

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