The Union Health Ministry’s recent proposal to implement a national level exit exam for medical students has generated a mixed response over the past few days.
The suggestion that comes as part of a draft bill makes it mandatory for aspiring medicos to take the National Exit Test (NEXT) to be eligible to practise.
This test will also double up as the common entrance test for post-graduate medical courses. Among other provisions, the bill proposes to have 50 percent reservation in PG courses for students who have served at least three years in remote and difficult areas.
Speaking to The News Minute, Janu, a 25-year-old house surgeon from Kochi in Kerala says: “Most students go on to practise medicine equipped with just an MBBS degree, as they don’t clear the PG entrance exam. Not everybody shares the same calibre. Maybe some of them are unable to handle a PG course, while others may opt for it by choice.”
Though she feels the exit test is likely to bring about a certain standardization to medical education that will serve to bring on par students coming from various government and private medical colleges, she does object to setting aside 50% reservation to medical officers who have done a three-year stint in remote areas.
“So does this mean everybody should work for the government? How is this any different from caste-based reservation? This again is not based on acquired knowledge or talent. This one is purely based on whether you work for the government or not,” she feels.
Medha Murali, a third-year medical student at a government college in Kerala believes that the exit exam, if made mandatory, would only serve to push students against the wall:
"We will have no other choice than to clear the exam in order to practice medicine, with all our other options -including setting up of a clinic on our own- going down the drain. Since we have already cleared the NEET exam, I don't see the point in having another filter at the end of the course.”
19-year old Sourav who appeared for NEET exam this year however feels that the exit exam will be a manifestation of the student's calibre:
"Students in many private colleges land a medical seat by dint of their buying capacity and not merit. This exam will serve as a filter for those who would otherwise end up as unethical doctors. I feel it will help churn out better doctors.”
An assistant professor at the Madras Medical College remarks:
"We already appear for four tough exams which take four and a half years plus one year of residency to complete. By then, we acquire complete know-how of all medicines and surgeries. They post us in around 19 departments.
Such a doctor will be able to manage all medical cases, and that is sufficient. Most of the doctors also opt for post-graduation, and then can even take up a super-specialty course.
In the end, a doctor spends at least 13 years -including preparation time- acquiring relevant knowledge. What else does the government need?
The government hospitals in Tamil Nadu are well-equipped with both medical investigation options and teaching faculty. We assure you that we are very well-qualified. We plan to hold a protest against this move on Wednesday near the Collectorate."
Dinesh -a student of the Tagore Medical College and Hospital in Tamil Nadu- who is currently doing his residency agrees:
"This will only add to the stress. Four years of exams, and then in the final year, we examine patients. We graduate only if we are good enough. The Ministry does not even have the prerogative to conduct such exams. It is the Medical Council which reserves the right to do so.”
Calling the move "unacceptable", Krish, a medical student from Hyderabad says:
"MBBS itself is such a long course, with each year more challenging than the previous. With this, medicos will have to work even harder to get the 'doctor' tag. It becomes an unending journey.
A mere MBBS will not ensure a decent salary, so a PG course becomes inevitable. We are already 30 by the time we actually start earning. This may even dissuade students from opting for medicine.”
(With inputs from Megha Varier, Pheba Mathew and Nitin Bhaskaran)