According to the Ministry of Higher Education website, highlighting the Egyptian sustainable development plans till 2030; the strategic objectives are totally directed towards improvement of the educational systems to simulate the international standards. This will increase competitiveness in educational institutions that can ensure best educational outcomes (14). To achieve such objectives, reform of the medical curriculum in Egypt was done in 2017 for all medical schools. However, this curriculum is not displayed on websites, just announcing only bit by bit to students on yearly basis serving the educational context. No transparent presentation of the curriculum is available to encourage feedback from the public or to stimulate the healthy competitiveness between medical schools as aspired by the ministry’s objectives.
Since transparency is considered as an announcement of the accountability of medical schools towards the community they serve, boosting transparency of the educational process and outcomes of higher education institutions is becoming a central goal of the higher education authority all over the world (15).
The major component of the public includes the patients approaching these schools’ hospitals for proper healthcare service. The community is considered as the institutions’ main stakeholders. Transparency also reports for the communicability between these schools and their students as well as other medical schools either locally or globally. Announcing clear curricular data of teaching and assessment is crucial for continuous monitoring, reviewing and evaluation (16). Teaching and assessment data will facilitate easy transfer of students among the different medical schools in one country or even globally.
Applying transparency should provide all information about accreditation practices and judgment. This should be more abundantly revealed and more readily accessible to all stakeholders thus committing everybody to the shared responsibility concept (17). This way might drive medical schools towards Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) and engaging with the public to enhance better healthcare service.
If transparency is missing, trust follows too. Medical schools should aspire being trustable enough among their students, faculty, staff, other schools and most importantly their community. Transparency increases awareness of the society towards the quality of medical schools’ educational program. Recent advances in assessment and curriculum development have emphasized the importance of involving the human population in health professions education (18). If we want the civil society to peer review the medical college and become involved in training medical students as well as in curriculum development, then transparent information should be promoted by medical institutions to increase public accountability (15).
The NAQAAE mission statement affirms that quality assurance of any educational institution, and its program must be in accordance to the institution acknowledged mission statements and declared goals. A mission sensitive program helps gaining confidence of the community towards its graduates. In addition; accreditation of an institution should meet several criteria, among which comes the fact that the institution should possess an internal audit system working on supplying annual reports of the institutional development and improvement (4); which in turn reflects how important disclosing information is.
The concept of openness to judgment ought to be accepted within Egyptian medical schools’ culture aiming that it can drive these schools towards working on improvements and detecting their weaknesses and curricular pitfalls in a highly collaborative environment. Such change in the mindset will enhance intra-institutional learning as well as focusing on the development of the healthcare services and enriching human health.
Egyptian medical schools frequently celebrate their improved World University Ranking. The World University Ranking is based mainly on scholarships to internationally published research. This process is unfair to evaluate successfulness of a medical school as regards undergraduate medical education. On the other hand, although these rankings could misrepresent the mission of medical schools, they still have influence over the public. Embracing transparency in both medical schools and their accrediting bodies can enhance a paradigm shift in public perception through freely available accreditation reports that will better reflect the medical schools’ mission, performance, resources, extents of improvement and exclusive features instead of relying solely over these rankings (19).
An important aspect that can be added to the transparency criteria is the presence or absence of a university hospital affiliated to the medical school. WFME has made it clear that resources should be enough and suitable for medical students to acquire their sufficient learning and training (7). These resources include human, physical, technical, and financial resources.
Having outlined all criteria for transparency and their advantages; some leadership may reject the idea of being totally transparent as it increases the possibility of public interference within decision making inside medical schools. Such interference may negatively influence students’ application to certain institutions. It can also lead to perception of this institutional staff as being inferior to others in different medical schools. Another concern may be that announcing transparent weak points that a certain institution is working to improve, can enhance negative financial effect thus minimizing the institutional ability to employ good staff. This can be overcome by shifting the competitive attitude between educational institutions to a more collaborative apprehension of working as a whole not as parts (15). However, trying to shape public opinion can be the drive for medical schools to be more transparent aiming to gain trust and acknowledgement to the importance of the medical schools’ work.
Unfortunately, due to cultural beliefs in the middle east, some of our medical schools conceive transparency as the concept of “airing one’s dirty laundry” adhering that it should be avoided. However, having freedom in providing information and openness to criticism might spare the institution financial burdens by learning from experiences of other schools who have faced similar challenges and how they were able to overcome them (20).