Even as the central government presses ahead with its decision to conduct a common final MBBS examination, National Exit Test (NEXT), opposition has been growing against the move. The test will also be used for enrolment and admission into postgraduate courses and to issue licenses to practice, both to Indian gradualtes and those of foreign universities.
The common examination was proposed in the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, which replaced the Medical Council of India Act. The bill was passed by the parliament in August 2019.
Reiterating the government stand, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health, recently stated in the parliament that the government is in the final stages of forming National Medical Commission and the process will be completed in a few weeks. He added that a common MBBS final year examination will be conducted for granting a license to practice and for PG admission.
Only theory exams?
But various stakeholders, including the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Medical Students Network (MSN) under the IMA, feel that the move has caused much confusion in the medical education sector in the country. They state that the decision is totally wrong because the MBBS final year examination, the licensing test and the PG admission test have entirely different formats.
At present, the MBBS final year examination is conducted by respective universities. But with National Medical Commission coming into existence, it will be made common across the country. At present, admission to PG courses across the country is being made through a single exam, NEET.
Dr R V Asokan, Secretary-General, IMA, said: “Under the NMC, the government has combined MBBS final year examination, licensing test and PG admission test. We are against it because all three examinations are different in format. The government has been trying to replace a good format of MBBS final year examination with one that involves only theory. In the existing format, the final year examination involves theory, clinical examination and oral examination. The oral and clinical examination is conducted by a panel involving four examiners, only one of them is an internal examiner and all the others are from outside the state. If the MBBS final year examination is made an all India examination, then it won’t be possible to conduct the clinical and oral examination by a panel consisting of external members.”
Stakeholders have also termed the decision to merge the PG admission test with the MBBS final year examination as a thoughtless move. “Both the final year examination and PG admission tests have entirely different formats and the government decision has caused lots of confusion among students. There is no clarity on whether marks of practical examinations will be considered for admission for PG courses. If it is considered, it will be highly beneficial to students of private medical colleges and students who are having a good relationship with the teachers. Such students are likely to get good marks and secure admission for PG courses,” said Mrityuanjay Gupta, out-going secretary, Medical Students Network.
The purpose of the MBBS final year examination and licensing test is not the same, IMA pointed out.
For the licensing test, a medical graduate needs to score the least common denomination. “Even as the NMC proposes to merge all the three examinations and make it one, the government has given permission for AIIMS and JIPMER to conduct their own entrance examinations,” said Dr R V Asokan.
Mrityuanjay Gupta alleged that the government is just trying to copy the US system. “Indian policies and healthcare systems are not as developed and are totally different from the US system. The government has not made any consultation with the student community before introducing such a provision,” he said.