The National Exit Test (NEXT) has created a stir in the field of academics with regard to medicine in IndiaRecently, amendments in the Indian Medical Council Act were drafted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. If the draft gets passed by the parliament, MBBS students will have to take NEXT instead of National Eligibility cum Entrance Examination for post-graduation (NEET- PG). 

Not only will NEXT replace NEET, but it will also be equivalent to three other examinations including the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE), National Licentiate Examination (NLE) and the examination held for Central Medical Services (CMS). The Director of Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), Maharashtra, Dr Pravin Shingare mentions, “Students who clear the NEXT will not need to appear for UPSC or MPSC examinations before applying for government jobs.” 

Arun Singhal, the Joint Secretary of Medical Education says, “The draft for amending the Act has been prepared in such a way that it will make functioning for the authorities on various levels easy along with also reducing the number of examinations to be taken by the students.” 

Students and doctors from across the country have expressed their displeasure about the introduction of the NEXT. On one hand, students argue that medical student appear for enough number of exams along with the year-long scrutinizing internship that should suffice as proof for their eligibility as doctors. Riddhi Gaikwad, an MBBS student from Mumbai says, “What about students who don’t want to specialize after MBBS and would rather practise? The added examination will slow down the process for MBBS degree holders which is not fair.” 

In order to address concerns like these, Singhal says, “Students who are confident about their proficiency should have no problem in preparing for just one more exam. The preparatory material will be the same as that for MBBS. We’re trying to improve the quality of doctors produced in the country. Yes, there is a need of doctors, but we need to have good doctors to make a difference.” 

While on one hand Singhal says that the NEXT will help upgrade the quality of doctors in the country, the draft of the Act also mentions a 50% reservation for medical officers. Medical officers those doctors who serve with the government in municipal hospitals, with the armed forces of These seats are meant to be available for medical officers who have served with the government in rural areas for a minimum of three years. However, chances are that these candidates will also have to serve with the government after the post-graduation course is completed.

Dr Shingare says, “There is a shortage of doctors in rural India. Most MBBS degree holders are not interested in working with the government in these rural regions because of the slowly evolving infrastructure. Not only is the reservation an incentive for students who work with the government but also a guarantee of jobs based on their merit and skill.”

In September 2016, the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Faggan Singh Kulaste, mentioned the government’s intentions of adding 10,000 seats in MBBS. However, there has been no mention about increasing intake in post graduate courses. Taking into account the reservation, students belonging to the general category are worried as this leaves an extremely small window for them to be accepted in good medical colleges for a specialisation.

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