Indian medical education system; Reforms and the way forward

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict highlighted many problems with medical education in the country. According to central government data, around 90% of the 18,095 Indian students stranded in Ukraine are medical students and Operation Ganga succeeded in bringing back the majority of them.

A soul-searching is the need of the hour to find out why Indians seek medical education abroad, although the quality of medical education in our country is far superior to many countries that host Indian students.

Although the government has succeeded in increasing the number of places in medicine in our country, it is still the shortage of places and the high costs of medical training that push our young people abroad. In Ukraine, tuition fees were relatively low compared to what had to be paid for a private management seat in India. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has highlighted many issues related to medical education.

Current scenario

In the academic year (2021-2022), sixteen lakh applicants applied for 88,120 places and 15 lakh students attempted the NEET.

The National Medical Commission (NMC) Act 2019 provides for the regulation of fees and all other fees for 50% of seats in private medical schools and reputable universities.

Despite this, the average annual fee for a medical course in private colleges is Rs 10-15 lakh. In order to complete a course of four and a half years, on average, students will have to spend Rs 60-70 lakh in private institutes.

Government commitment to increase the number of medical seats

The number of UG seats increased from 51,348 before 2014 to 89,875 seats by March 29, 2022, an increase of 75%. The number of PG seats increased by 93%, from 31,185 seats before 2014 to 60,202 seats. The number of medical faculties which stood at 381 in 2014 increased to 596 medical faculties as of January 12, 2022.

The government has launched a centralized program for the establishment of new medical colleges by upgrading district/referral hospitals under which 157 new medical colleges have been approved and 71 are already functional. Of 157 sites, 40 are in ambitious neighborhoods. There is a center-sponsored program for upgrading existing state or central government medical colleges to increase the number of medical seats.

Another centrally-sponsored program aims to upgrade government medical schools through the construction of blocks of super specialties. A total of 75 projects have been approved and 55 have been completed. Under the central sector program for the establishment of new AIIMS, 22 AIIMS have been approved. Undergraduate courses have started in 19 AIIMS.

The Center has also relaxed the standards for establishing medical schools in terms of requirements for faculty, staff, number of beds and other infrastructure. In order to address the shortage of faculty, the Diplomat National Board (DNB) qualification was recognized for appointment as a faculty member.

The age limit for appointment or extension or re-employment in teaching, dean, principal or director positions in medical schools has been raised to 70 years. Russian-Ukrainian War: Students Returning From Ukraine Will Be Admitted To Karnataka Colleges.

High standards in medical education

A common entrance test – National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) was introduced in 2016 which allowed students from anywhere in India to study in any medical college in the country based on merit . This reform saved students time as they were not required to take multiple entrance tests and thus spared the resulting stress.

In order to measure the proficiency of students who pass the MBBS, a common exit exam called NEXT has been proposed under the NMC, which would serve as a license exam for practice and an entrance exam for admission to postgraduate courses.

The new standards set by the NMC for the opening of medical schools envisage a skills laboratory in each medical institution. It provides a facility where students can practice and improve their skills in a safe environment, mitigating the limitations of learning on live patients. These skills labs will recreate the clinical environment and provide greater opportunity for learning through manikins and computer simulations.

NMC has modified the curriculum, the previous edition being that of 1997. The new curriculum emphasizes the importance of ethics and communication skills. This change will be a landmark reform to steer medical education towards competency-based learning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged India’s private sector to strengthen the medical education system. The government had relaxed minimum land requirements while establishing medical colleges, making it easier for private players to enter the medical education industry.

India has a doctor:patient ratio (D:P) of 0.74:1000, as of December 2021 and in order to achieve the World Health Organization (WHO) prescribed ratio of 1:1000, the country needs to strengthen its medical education infrastructure to accommodate more students.

Although it has been made compulsory since 2019, to take the NEET-UG exam to pursue medical studies abroad, the number of students who have applied for compulsory eligibility certificates to study medical studies abroad foreign increased. This proves that it is not the fear of NEETs that drives our students abroad.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on April 04, 2022 at 6:10 PM IST. For more news and updates on Politics, World, Sports, Entertainment and Lifestyle , log in to our website latestly.com).