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      The perception of the hidden curriculum on medical education: an exploratory study

      1 , , 1 , 1
      Asia Pacific Family Medicine
      BioMed Central

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          Major curriculum reform of undergraduate medical education occurred during the past decades in the United Kingdom (UK); however, the effects of the hidden curriculum, which influence the choice of primary care as a career, have not been sufficiently recognized. While Japan, where traditionally few institutions systematically foster primary care physicians and very few have truly embraced family medicine as their guiding discipline, has also experienced meaningful curriculum reform, the effect of the hidden curriculum is not well known. The aim of this study is to identify themes pertaining to the students' perceptions of the hidden curriculum affecting undergraduate medical education in bedside learning in Japan.


          Semi-structured interviews with thematic content analysis were implemented. Undergraduate year-5 students from a Japanese medical school at a Japanese teaching hospital were recruited. Interview were planned to last between 30 to 60 minutes each, over an 8-month period in 2007. The interviewees' perceptions concerning the quality of teaching in their bedside learning and related experiences were collected and analysed thematically.


          Twenty five medical students (18 males and 7 females, mean age 25 years old) consented to participate in the interviews, and seven main themes emerged: "the perception of education as having a low priority," "the prevalence of positive/negative role models," "the persistence of hierarchy and exclusivity," "the existence of gender issues," "an overburdened medical knowledge," "human relationships with colleagues and medical team members," and "first experience from the practical wards and their patients."


          Both similarities and differences were found when comparing the results to those of previous studies in the UK. Some effects of the hidden curriculum in medical education likely exist in common between the UK and Japan, despite the differences in their demographic backgrounds, cultures and philosophies.

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          The hidden curriculum in undergraduate medical education: qualitative study of medical students' perceptions of teaching.

          To study medical students' views about the quality of the teaching they receive during their undergraduate training, especially in terms of the hidden curriculum. Semistructured interviews with individual students. One medical school in the United Kingdom. 36 undergraduate medical students, across all stages of their training, selected by random and quota sampling, stratified by sex and ethnicity, with the whole medical school population as a sampling frame. Medical students' experiences and perceptions of the quality of teaching received during their undergraduate training. Students reported many examples of positive role models and effective, approachable teachers, with valued characteristics perceived according to traditional gendered stereotypes. They also described a hierarchical and competitive atmosphere in the medical school, in which haphazard instruction and teaching by humiliation occur, especially during the clinical training years. Following on from the recent reforms of the manifest curriculum, the hidden curriculum now needs attention to produce the necessary fundamental changes in the culture of undergraduate medical education.
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            Medical education in Japan.

            There are 79 medical schools in Japan--42 national, 8 prefectural (i.e., founded by a local government), and 29 private--representing approximately one school for every 1.6 million people. Undergraduate medical education is six years long, typically consisting of four years of preclinical education and then two years of clinical education. High school graduates are eligible to enter medical school. In 36 schools, college graduates are offered admission, but they account for fewer than 10% of the available positions. There were 46,800 medical students in 2006; 32.8% were women. Since 1990, Japanese medical education has undergone significant changes, with some medical schools implementing integrated curricula, problem-based learning tutorials, and clinical clerkships. A model core curriculum was proposed by the government in 2001 that outlined a core structure for undergraduate medical education, with 1,218 specific behavioral objectives. A nationwide common achievement test was instituted in 2005; students must pass this test to qualify for preclinical medical education. It is similar to the United States Medical Licensing Examination step 1, although the Japanese test is not a licensing examination. The National Examination for Physicians is a 500-item examination that is administered once a year. In 2006, 8,602 applicants took the examination, and 7,742 of them (90.0%) passed. A new law requires postgraduate training for two years after graduation. Residents are paid reasonably, and the work hours are limited to 40 hours a week. In 2004, a matching system was started; the match rate was 95.6% (46.2% for the university hospitals and 49.4% for other teaching hospitals). Sustained and meaningful change in Japanese medical education is continuing.
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              The current state of medical education in Japan: a system under reform.

              Not since just after World War II has there been as dramatic a change in the system of medical education in Japan as in the last several years. Medical school curricula are including more education that mimics clinical practice through problem-based learning, organ-based curricula and implementation of the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). In response to criticism and concerns, the Japanese government has also implemented 2 major changes in the system of postgraduate medical education. First, a 2-year structured internship has been required of all medical school graduates; the first cohort to undertake this completed it in April 2006. Second, an internship matching system was adopted and first implemented in 2003. These reforms are leading to significant shifts in clinical education in Japan. Increasing numbers of medical graduates are entering residency programmes outside specialised university hospitals and core rotations place an increased emphasis on primary care. These changes in the training of young doctors suggest that the general clinical competency of doctors in Japan will improve in the coming years.

                Author and article information

                Asia Pac Fam Med
                Asia Pacific Family Medicine
                BioMed Central
                15 December 2009
                : 8
                : 1
                : 9
                [1 ]Department of Healthcare Systems Research, Graduate School of Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
                Copyright ©2009 Murakami et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.




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