Are all medical students and government officials against the implementation of NEXT?

The National Exit Test (NEXT) is a suggested amendment in the Indian Medical Council Act drafted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). In the last couple of weeks, several points of arguments have been raised by students and authorities of the Medical Council of India and the MoHFW. While the exam will replace four tests [Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE), National Licentiate Examination (NLE) and the examination held for Central Medical Services (CMS)], not everyone is convinced by how beneficial it really is.

The drafted changes in the Act caused a stir among students and doctors across the nation. So much so that, the Telangana Chapter of the Indian Medical Association decided to shut colleges across the state on February 1, in order to protest against the NEXT. V Sri Hari Rao, the Assistant Director of the Directorate of Medical Education (DME) of Telangana says, “What’s the point of burdening already pressurized medical students? The five year long training itself should suffice to produce competent doctors across the country.”

However, Arun Singhal, the Joint Secretary of the MoHFW mentions how the examination will add value to medical students. “If students have been through five years of scrutiny, one more exam to prove their calibre shouldn’t be a matter of concern.”

To this, Rao from the DME of Telangana says, “Instead of pushing thousands of students for five years, increase the difficulty level at the entrance level itself. A person who has completed five years of MBBS may fail in a test one or two times, but willl eventually pass it. How will that improve the quality of doctrs produced in the country?”

On the other hand, students are bothered by the lack of uniformity of the process. In the last five years, the process of enrolling to MBBS and PG courses has changed multiple times jeopardizing preparation for students. Anjali Narayan, a student of Post-Graduation in Physiotherapy says, “It’s always the students who end up suffering. From state entrance tests to national entrance tests, increasing the number of reserved seats and number of years of internship. Authorities keep coming up with newer amendments and rules that make it difficult for us to cope with them.”

Dhara Varma, another medical student from Mumbai says, “Graduating as a doctor is probably one of the most time-consuming courses. We spend five and a half years in completing a degree followed by two years in an MD or MS and another couple of years on DM/MCh. Increasing the number of years we spend as interns and residents will mean, doctors will start earning enough to support themselves in their late twenty’s or early thirty’s. We’ll be starting our careers when most others of our age are already settled.”

However, on January 10, results for Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) were announced. As little as 6.3 per cent students who appeared for the examination managed to pass. Over the last two years, there have been several debates about the transparency of the test. Students have tried everything from signing online campaigns to petitions to the government and nothing has worked in their favor. Some students are now looking forward to the implementation of the NEXT, hoping that the exam will be fair to all Foreign Medical Graduates.

On most occasions, it’s government officials on one side of the argument and students on the other. But in this case, not only is there a disparity between the opinions of government officials, but there isn’t a unanimous choice by students and graduates across the nation either.