Medical education in country needs booster dose

That the Medical Council of India (MCI) is close to completing a comprehensive revision of India’s outdated medical education curriculum is great news. Medicine is among the fastest-growing industries, both in terms of new discoveries and technological advancements, yet the MCI has introduced very few course corrections since it was set up in 1956. The MCI’s expert committee finally has a working plan to overhaul the syllabi to include superspecialities and emerging disciplines to have textbooks out for students of medicine by 2016.

Among the plans is strengthening continuing medical education of general practitioners, who can be trained to become the first referral point for everyone with an ailment. Given that the MCI is in the business of training and equipping doctors with the best tools to save lives, the tardiness in revising the syllabi is shocking. But an outdated syllabus is just one of the problems plaguing medical education in India.

The biggest challenge before the MCI is getting experienced faculty to teach and train young minds. India has 291 recognised medical colleges, of which less than half (143) are run by the government. Of these, only 78 colleges offer post-graduate (PG) degrees, 61 PG diplomas, 51 super-speciality courses, 45 PhD, and 21 other courses. Yet there is an acute shortage of senior faculty to train the handful of specialists produced each year. With the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs giving its nod to new PG disciplines and increasing PG seats during the XI Plan period in 2010, an additional 5,000 seats have been added in pre- and para-clinical disciplines and clinical disciplines, the faculty shortfall is around 300,000.

It needs to be met before grand expansion plans are announced because while distance-learning tools such as video-conferencing and telemedicine can help introduce students to new techniques and technologies, all doctors need hands-on clinical work to hone classroom learning into skills that can help them heal.

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