Ensuring quality education, not Next, is the best solution

The NMC bill has a one-stop solution for all these problems.

More than 60,000 students pass out of more than 400 medical colleges in the country every year. All of them would have appeared for various examinations during their course spanning four-and-a-half years conducted by their respective universities.

It's true that there is no uniformity in assessing the standards of these graduates at present. At times even a below average student manages to get a license to treat patients depending on the college and university. It's the post-graduate entrance examination that sieves them away from higher studies. But they are still able to practice with their basic degree. Some of them do manage to get into specialisation courses through payment seats as well.

The NMC bill has a one-stop solution for all these problems. As per the bill, a common final year undergraduate medical examination, known as the National Exit Test (NEXT) shall be held for granting license to practice medicine and the same will be the basis for admission to the postgraduate medical education.

An inadequately staffed college can never do justice to a student. The student may be able to overcome the shortcomings of lectures by putting in extra effort to gain knowledge from the textbooks. But that is of no use as long as it cannot be applied on a patient. That's why it's important to ensure the standards of the attached hospitals. Although a student spends four-and-a-half years to complete the course, it's the following year of house surgency that moulds the future doctor.

The NEXT is a single exam to assess all the doctors across the country. In order to negate the subjective variations and to accommodate the large numbers of aspirants, it is presumed that the examination will be MCQ-based. The problem with such an exam is that the clinical skill of a doctor, which is the cornerstone of this profession, is not assessed. The student with a less busy internship may clear the exam in flying colours and a better doctor who had to work hard during that period may be left behind. Even if they manage to gain the license to practice, they may have to reappear for the exam to place a foot on the specialty of their choice.

It is more important to ensure the standard of the colleges, the attached hospitals and the medical education in total than to assess the unlucky students. Hope NMC set its priorities right.

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