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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 25-31

Pre-University education curriculum reform and the generic learning skills of medical school entrants: Lessons learned from South Africa

1 Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2 Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences, Division of Medical Biochemistry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
3 Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
4 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
5 Academic Unit of Medical Education, The Medical School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Geney Dalene Gunston
Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory, 7925, Cape Town
South Africa
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.239043

Background: Pre-university education curriculum changes may increase the skills and knowledge gap between secondary (high school) and tertiary (university) education that have been identified as having a major impact on the success of students from underresourced educational backgrounds. This study investigated the impact of extensive pre-university curriculum revision on the generic learning skills of entrants to South African medical schools, which admit students directly from high school. Methods: In this prospective study, students entering four medical schools during 2008–2011 were surveyed to determine their practice of and confidence in information handling, managing own learning, technical and numeracy skills, and computer, organizational, and presentation skills in the 12-month preceding entry. The 2008 entrants were the final cohort of the old secondary school curriculum. The mean levels of practice or confidence of entrants to the four medical schools, during 2008–2011, were compared using analysis of variance. The Bonferroni's test was used for further pair-wise comparison of cohorts of students either entering in different years or different institutions. Results: While entrants at the four medical schools did not demonstrate a consistent or sustained change in their practice of or confidence in each skill category over the period of study, there were some significant differences between entrants at the respective institutions. Furthermore, entrants to one medical school were consistently less confident of their skills, despite more practice. These findings are best accounted for by the long-standing history of inequitably resourced pre-university education in South Africa. Discussion: These findings highlight the need for close monitoring of the impact of pre-university education changes on the learning skill profiles of university entrants, in order to design effective university programs which enable students from diverse backgrounds to participate and adequately meet curricula demands.

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