The first year of the MBE program consists of four contact modules featuring national and international faculty, and a distance learning component between contact sessions. The contact sessions are taught at CBEC in which MBE and Postgraduate Diploma in Bioethics students attend the same courses, seated around the table. The duration of the first three modules is approximately 2 weeks, while the last module is generally shorter. For MBE students, onsite learning is interspaced with reading, research and assignments in the intervening months.
The Foundations Module is taught over 2 weeks. It introduces students to the philosophical background of human moral thought extending from the Greeks to modern ethics. Other sessions cover the basics of moral traditions in different religions including Islam, historical interactions between ethics and law using paradigm legal cases, the evolution of contemporary bioethics and its globalization, and the importance of humanities (art and literature) in reflecting and shaping indigenous values in a society.
- Research and Public Health Module
The second module is taught over 2 weeks. It is devoted to ethical issues involving human subject research and public health. Students are introduced to international guidelines for ethical research and the specific challenges of conducting ethical research within developing countries. Sessions are devoted to the functions of Institutional Review Boards/ Ethics Review Committees, and issues of conflicts of interest including those during interactions with the pharmaceutical industry.
The third module, taught over 2 weeks, focuses on clinical ethics and highlights complex dilemmas emerging with the advances in biomedical science and technology. Case scenarios and discussions are employed to help familiarize students with ethical questions related to reproduction, genetics, end of life issues, organ donation, modern healthcare and practice among others. Workshops focusing on the basics of hospital ethics services and communication skills also form a core component.
The fourth and last module, spread over 5-6 days, provides students with a broad overview of ethical and legal debates pertaining to gender rights and relationships within societies with special attention to laws relating to women in Pakistan. Sessions also highlight the role of religion, including Muslim jurisprudence, in defining gender roles and its tensions with the human rights paradigm.
Between modules, MBE students are required to contribute brief postings, commentaries or discussion points on the CBEC “Bioethics Blog” which is moderated by CBEC faculty. In addition, they are assigned extensive reading material for module coursework and MBE seminars. In the away period, MBE students also engage in in-depth research for written assignments related to courses taken and for MBE teaching sessions.
Adult learning methodologies are employed in all four modules, with an emphasis on discussion rather than didactic lectures. In addition to tools such as small group work and role play, movies and examples from art and literature are also included to highlight and discuss various ethical themes. MBE Seminars are sessions specifically conducted for MBE students in which course faculty joins students in examining issues in greater depth. In the last three modules, MBE students are also assigned topics to research and teach to the class.
Within modules, MBE students are graded on quizzes, end of module tests and teaching sessions led by MBE students on assigned topics. Students are also assessed based on their participation in class discussions based on which they are provided extensive feedback by the faculty.
Faculty evaluate and provide extensive critique on the arguments and analysis presented in Bioethics Blog postings and comments made by students. In addition, during the away periods, MBE students are required to submit mandatory ‘take home’ written papers connected to module courses which are graded by faculty. These assignments can include material covered during the previous module and critical review of new materials sent to the students, which may include articles, book chapters, books, etc.
The second year of the MBE program is devoted to conducting original research leading to a 15,000 to 18,000 worded thesis. The thesis, due no later than October of the second year, must be approved by the Thesis Review Committee in order for students to be awarded the MBE degree. Research conducted must be original in nature involving either one or a combination of qualitative, empirical, and quantitative methodologies. Comprehensive literature review and analysis of a suitable, ethics-related topic are also acceptable for the thesis. Students are provided with faculty supervisors to guide their research and thesis writing.