Support the overseas dentists’ in Australia (OSDIA)
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Please support the overseas dentists’ in Australia (OSDIA) who are trapped and completely unsupported by the Australian dental Council (ADC) and its reactive policy making when it comes to getting our overseas dental qualifications recognised in Australia. The ADC has been appointed by the Dental Board of Australia (DBA) as the designated independent accreditation authority for the Australian dental professions. The ADC needs a drastic overhaul of its policies, procedures and our recommendations as direct consumers of the ADC need to be heard and implemented. Unfortunately, most if not all candidates find it absolutely impossible to surmount the vicious cycle set up by these policies and to eventually successfully register their overseas qualifications in Australia remains an unfulfilled dream. This is despite spending thousands of dollars, investing precious years of their lives, putting all other career opportunities on hold, incurring monumental bills in childcare costs, setting up a home set up to practice, buying the relevant dental materials and equipment which are quite expensive and attending preparatory courses – most of which are run by private organisations, not registered with any training body. The owners of these training organisations have become extremely rich and powerful – at times taking advantage of the candidates’ vulnerability becoming a one stop shop of dental supplies from overseas and charging the candidates through the nose for items that may be available for less than half the price in the country of origin. During this time the family life is drastically affected, the stress levels are dramatically increased due to financial constraints and the stress of the exam.
OSDIA, request the ADC to support us and implement the changes recommended in the petition as we would like nothing more than a streamlined process for being able to register our overseas qualifications in Australia and to serve the community in our adopted homeland.
Getting our overseas qualifications recognised is an expensive and long-drawn process requiring thousands of dollars of investment and nerves of steel not because the exam is tough. Rather, it is the detrimental and reactive policies made by the ADC relating to the examination and assessment process that are made to work against the OSDIA.
The practical exam which is the determining step in whether or not we can register as dentists in Australia is only conducted twice a year with limited number of seats (250-270) in Australia. While the written exam, which qualifies one to take the practical exam, is conducted in 30 locations overseas in addition to all over Australia, and ironically there i s no limit to the number of participants taking the written exam or a cap on the number of attempts they may take to pass the written exam. Over 200 participants appeared in the March 2015 written exam in Melbourne alone!
As a result, there is a massive backlog of candidates for the practical exam, as far too many participants are put through the written exams who in turn apply for the practical exam. Getting the opportunity to take the practical exam is no longer a given. Rather, it is a privilege. Obviously, due to imbalance between the extensive numbers of candidates passing the written exams and not having enough venues, seats and exams for the practical exams, a massive backlog is created.
Three year validity rule for part 1 exam:
The ADC written exam is only valid for three years, unlike the Australian medical council exam which is valid for life. It is not the candidates’ fault and misfortune that due to the large number of students waiting to take the part 2 practical exam, many candidates only get a maximum of 2 attempts (provided they are lucky) before the validity for part 1 expires.
Also, unlike the Australian medical council exam, for which the practical exams are conducted a lot more frequently, the ADC practical exams are conducted only twice a year with limited number of vacancies and a massive backlog to clear.
Thus, half the time, the three years validity period is wasted in yearning for an elusive opportunity to take the practical exam and by the time a practical exam is taken, most candidates three years’ are up! And if they are not lucky enough to pass the practical exam, they are back to square one i.e to begin with the written exam all over again!
Thus, it is strongly recommended and the ADC implored, to remove the three year validity period of the written exam.
Number of candidates appearing in part 1 exam:
Perhaps until such a time, that ADC can clear the backlog of candidates awaiting the privilege to take the practical exams, only to be advised that they have to take the part 1 exam again as their written exam is no longer valid due to the 3 years being up, ADC should cap the number of seats available for the written exam.
On the other hand, ADC can also tackle this situation by conducting a lot more frequent practical exams and removing the validity condition from the part 1 exam so that candidates are not disadvantaged while waiting to take the part 2 (practical exam).
Results of the practical exams:
ADC charges a fairly decent fee ($4500) for conducting the practical exam and more often than not, the venues are allocated randomly. Thus, candidates in Sydney may have to travel to Cairns to take the exam and vice- versa. This is an additional expense of a $1000 or more considering air fare costs and adding the cost of staying there.
However, for each task in the exam, the only result that is provided is a grade from A to D, A being the ideal elusive grade and D being the dreaded fail grade. Unfortunately, no feedback is provided as a a candidate scored a particular grade in an allocated task. What were the stregnths or weaknesses in that task and how to improve in future? This is rather an arrogant and unhelpful approach as it remains an unresolved issue with the candidates why they scored a particular grade (especially if its below what they were expecting) and how to improve in the future. As a result, the candidate ruminates and continues to second guess as to why they failed a task or what mistake they may have made that landed them in borderline or fail category.
By refraining from giving us any information, ADC is failing in its moral duty to help provide feedback to candidates (all that is needed is highlighting the relevant task criteria sheet).
Sadly, I have personally experienced this and seen and heard from many candidates that they don’t know why they failed a particular task as apparently it was the best restoration or crown prep they ever did!
I am sure that all students enrolled in the dental universities in Australia get feedback along with a grade, then why are we denied this opportunity? There is little point in conducting an exam, when no feedback is provided to a student. Getting a “C” or a “D” grade is not enough as it lacks the ability to translate to the candidate where they need to improve. Without this feedback, the candidate is left in the dark with no closure.
Issues with previous booking system where ADC portal crashed:
There have been massive issues with their booking system for the practical exam. Previously booking for a spot for the practical exam was done through an online portal and without fail, everytime the portal was available for booking a seat in the exam, the ADC website/ booking portal would crash and leave hundreds of candidates feeling stranded, helpless and frustrated. In 2015 June, a similar incident happened where the portal crashed and all seats booked for the practical exam in November 2015 in matters of less than 60 seconds were cancelled by the ADC followed by which the paper application method started. As a result, numerous candidates who had secured a seat after staying up all night and setting up a vigil by their computers and laptops missed out despite securing a seat through the online booking. While of these candidates were allocated seats in November 2015, others were not so lucky and were ‘made’ to wait until July 2016 to take the exam as no vacancies were available. Again a waste of the candidates’ precious time, money and resources and a massive disappointment to say the least!
The ADC should:
- The frequency of the practical exams (in line with Australian medical council exam frequency) should be increased considerably and more venues / and seats made available for the practical exam.
- Remove the 3 year validity of the written exam (in line with Australian medical council exam). This is an extremely important recommendation for the ADC to consider as a candidate who passes the written exam is then stuck in a rat race against time and other candidates for the very precious and elusive chance to take the practical exam. This may have been a valid consideration if the candidates were able to make numerous attempts at taking the practical exams in the upcoming 3 years after passing the written exam. However, given the backlog created due to the imbalance between candidates passing part 1 written exam, versus seats available for part 2 practical exam, there is very limited opportunity and privilege to take the practical exam more than once. Before we know, our three years are up and we are unfairly kicked out of the race and no longer eligible for realising our dreams of registering with the ADC as a dentist. Unless, we are willing to invest another 3 years of our lives and thousands of dollars into the gamble of registering with the ADC, we are forced to give up and seek alternative career options.
- Withhold taking any further part 1 written exams/ or cap the number of candidates who can appear in the written exams until the back log of candidates waiting to take part 2 practical exam is cleared.
- Provide feedback for the grades provided in the practical exam and outline the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses in the tasks completed as opposed to only providing a grade.
- Ideally, there should be another pathway in addition to the ADC exams for registering as a dentist in Australia. This includes but is not limited to: enrolling in a university bridging course or working under supervision for ‘X’ number of years before qualifying for registration in Australia. This would be similar to the Australian Medical Council exams, where a candidate is eligible to work after passing the part 1 exam.
- Lastly, in the last 5 years, the pass percentage for the ADC practical exam has dramatically decreased to the point where it is almost shocking and depressing. This is in direct relation to the oversupply of dentists in Australia and is in no way a reflection of the skills of the candidates taking the exam. In the words of a highly qualified and skilled professor who teaches at Melbourne University and is the Head of the Department in a specialist faculty (who chose to remain anonymous), ‘I would highly doubt that the local dentists’ practicing in Australia would pass the ADC exam under the current criteria and the present circumstances’. As a result, the OSDIA, implore the ADC to be fair in its marking and to consider the emotional and financial costs related to this exam.
- Candidates with theory expiring in April/Sept 2018 should be allowed the privilege to take at least one more exam before then. The November 2017 exam is fully booked and the March 2018 exam is only open to candidates who did not appear in 2017 or have passed the written exam in Februray 2017. Candidates with theory expiring in April/Sept 2018 should be allowed to have at least one more attempt at the practical exam as soon as possible.
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