Transnational Medical Education Subject of Award-Winning Research
School of Clinical Medicine staff member, Ms Buhle Donda, impressed adjudicators at the annual College of Health Sciences Research Symposium where she was awarded R15 000 towards attending a national conference of her choice.
Donda presented a case study exploring the correlation between study processes and academic performance in undergraduate Medical students; particularly those funded by the South African government to be trained as Medical doctors partly in Cuba and returning to complete the joint Medical degree programme at UKZN.
Following an agreement that was signed between Cuba and South Africa in 1995, this unique programme was founded on the premise of training young medical doctors from disadvantaged communities who would then be eligible to return and work in the rural communities of South Africa upon completing the remainder of their Medical degrees at local universities.
Donda explained that certain aspects of the Cuban model spoke to the South African aspirations of improving healthcare and prevention eradication of communicable disease as a developing country.
As a developing country, Cuba had impressive health index statistics that compared well with those in developed countries.
The study found that once enrolled in the MBChB programme, the single biggest predictor of success was the individual student’s motive of deep learning – learning with understanding. It was not enough to merely attempt learning the academic material off by heart in the hope that they would succeed.
‘Students with deep motivation performed better than the students with lower deep motive scores. Students with low deep motivation scores had psychosocial challenges that required them to consult the College support services. Challenges that affect student motivation are not always academic they include even the private social aspects of the students life,’ said Donda
The students had to adjust to a new social setting, institution and being taught in English after having learnt the medical curriculum in Spanish abroad.
‘Straddling between being taught in a programme that has a different role definition and professional culture from another is problematic. It is up to an individual student to negotiate meanings between the already acquired meaning, making mechanisms from Cuba work with the South African ones.’
Donda explained that a student who believes that learning involves understanding will always strive to comprehend. ‘On the other hand, assessments that promote rote learning will encourage students to become rote learners. Hence the interaction between the presage factors and the processes engaged by the student affects the type of learning or the outcome of the learning.’
She said she believed that learners were generally not taught how to learn. She believed there were huge prospects for learning specialists to match the research done in enhancing teaching in all disciplines and particularly medicine since it received students that were “cream of the crop”.
The Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Richard Hift, who supervised Donda, said the Cuban-trained Medical students had been coming back to UKZN for many years but there was no research that went into how well they integrated in the MBChB programme.
Hift said it was important to understand what determined success in transnational study. He said Donda was thoroughly motivated, committed to her work, related well with the students and had a strong background in education which made the study a success and a valuable contribution to medical education at UKZN.