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"New Medical Curricula in Singapore and Hong Kong"

Participants to the National University Hospital’s Third Annual Scientific Meeting held on the weekend of 28 and 29 August this year were given a review of the new curriculum for undergraduates.

Two university dons, Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, Dean of Medicine in the National University of Singapore and Prof Lau Yu Ling, from the Department of Paediatrics, Queen Mary Hospital in Hongkong spoke. Together, they gave a common road map of undergraduate medical education for the next decade.

The two Universities have new curricula that are very similar to one another and similar to the new direction of medical education sweeping round the world which has been triggered by a paper issued by the General Medical Council in the United Kingdom, titled Tomorrow’s Doctors.

The new NUS Undergraduate Curriculum

The new undergraduate curriculum in Singapore is into its second year. The educational objectives of the new curriculum have been defined in the Curriculum Bulletin issued by the Faculty of Medicine in March this year. There is an emphasis on:

  • Basic science foundation for clinical practice

  • Clinical competence

  • Communication

  • Appropriate attitudes

  • Professional development

In restructuring the new curriculum, attention had been paid to three important concepts:

  • Reduction of factual overload by a faculty- directed, rather than department-based programme; the definition of "core curriculum" and specific learning objectives and integrated examinations.

  • Building a solid basic science foundation for clinical practice and the provision of clinical context for basic science knowledge

  • Promotion of active learning modes and the habit for self-learning through problem based learning activities, opportunities for undergraduate participation in the Faculty’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and IT supported education.

The new Hongkong University Curriculum

A brochure issued by the Hongkong University on its new curriculum details clearly the direction the University has set for itself.

Why does the University introduce a new curriculum? In a nutshell, it wants to meet the changing demography and social economic status of the future patient as well as cope with the information explosion. People will live longer, are more educated and will demand more effective care. The information explosion will demand new skills to evaluate and apply this new knowledge, and medical advances will result in new and even complex economic and ethical challenges. The disease patterns will change and the continuing emergence of new and aggressive forms of infectious diseases is one example of the changing nature of diseases.

What sort of doctors will the new curriculum produce? The goal of the new curriculum is to produce doctors with demonstrated competence in the understanding and delivery of effective, humane, economic and ethical care together with a commitment to life-long learning, and who are ready to proceed to postgraduate training.

What are its key approaches? The key approaches of the Hongkong University curriculum are:

  • Student-centred learning

  • Integrated curriculum

  • Early clinical contact

  • Increased use of community resources

  • Use of information technology and

  • Core-plus-options approach

What areas will the curriculum emphasise?

Four themes will run as a constant thread throughout the entire curriculum:

  • Theme 1: Human biology in health and disease

  • Theme 2: Doctors and patients

  • Theme 3: Medicine and society

  • Theme 4: Becoming a doctor.

  • There is much in common in the two curricula in the two universities: a tale of two cities.