Why the Draft Education Policy is Unlikely to be Implemented
The draft of the National Education Policy was recently submitted to the Honorable Minister of HRD for review which after the discussions will be finally converted into a National policy
The Committee chaired by Dr. Kasturirangan has done a phenomenal job in looking at all aspects of education and its impact on every Indian irrespective of economic, social, and cultural backgrounds. The draft policy document tried to capture the vision of a new education system for India and has recommended a complete revamp of the existing education framework to prepare India for the 21st century and beyond.
As part of revamping healthcare education, the committee's recommendations focus on improving quality, accessibility, expansion and deregulation. In our opinion, all of what the committee has recommended, especially with regards to medical education, is valid and overdue.
Let’s go over some of the key recommendations, and reasons why they are likely to get diluted.
Ensuring Superior Quality of the MBBS Degree - In the current system surgical and emergency, skills are only taught as part of separate postgraduate programs and not as a part of the undergraduate program. To emphasise and elevate the standards of the coming age medical fraternity, the committee is focusing on ensuring every MBBS graduates with necessary medical, diagnostic, surgical and emergency skills. The biggest challenge to scaling this up is going to be the lack of sufficiently qualified faculty in surgery and emergency medicine. The underlying scenarios such as low pay scale in medical colleges, lack of focus on fundamental research and rigid structure for promoting faculty (professors, lecturers, etc) will still be the discouraging factors holding practitioners from entering the teaching field. To revise such situations and promote healthy management in medical industries, colleges and institutions should be encouraged to partner with private organisations to access relevant expertise and technology tools to provide a stable ground to efficiently scale up their score.
Pluralistic Healthcare Education and Delivery - We are critically short of medical professionals. By standardising the first two years of education across MBBS, BDS, Nursing, and other specialisations, a common foundation is created for all medical professionals. This focus on core courses will strengthen the radical knowledge and promote lateral entry of other medical disciplines into the MBBS fold. The biggest hurdle to this shift is the perceived social ranking of professionals from each of these distinct medical fields in India. With experienced nurses continuing to be subservient to fresh doctors (stated or expected), a nurse from a bridge course will have to battle social resistance more than professional competence. Significant investment needs to be made in educating and changing the mindset of medical professionals to derive profound outcomes in the overall healthcare sector.
Increasing the Intake of Students in Healthcare Education - On the surface, this is an indisputable fact. We need to increase the number of undergraduate and postgraduate seats if we want to see any substantial bearing on healthcare. The risk in upgrading the 600+ district hospitals to teaching hospitals will result in a severe shortage of qualified teaching faculty and lack of patients across specific specialisation areas depending on the location of the hospital. Most specialists in hospitals are stretched between patient care and administrative duties and are unable to commit time to train the next generation of doctors. The policy needs to address the skill and huge gap in medical faculty first before looking at the expansion of the student base. The government will need to structure incentives (grants, tax rebates, subsidies) to attract the best minds in India and globally to get engaged in teaching. A significant increase in the quality of teaching will have a reciprocal impact on the number of students who continue to learn and grow.
This draft education policy is a critical step in the right direction. It attempts to take a bold approach towards solving the colonial legacy of India’s education system and therefore will need to battle 73 years of entrenched mindset. The first step in correcting our education system is addressing the gravity that is holding us back.