India needs medical education policy for students returning from abroad

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Indian students from Sumy University depart on a special train from Lviv station to Poland. Photo: Twitter/@IndianUkraine


  • According to Foreign Ministry data, some 18,000 Indian students were studying in Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion; most of them were medical students.
  • Although the Indian government has brought them all back, there is considerable uncertainty about their careers.
  • The government must develop policy, on an ad hoc basis, to ensure that these students are able to continue their studies in a predictable and reliable way.

It has been four months since the Ukraine-Russia conflict began. Uncertainty took center stage – not only in war-stricken Ukraine, but also in the lives of many Indian students who traveled to the Eastern European country to pursue medical training. .

According to data from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, some 18,000 Indian students were studying in Ukraine at the time of the Russian invasion; most of them were medical students. Although the Indian government has brought them all back, there is considerable uncertainty about their careers. The government must therefore develop a policy, on the basis ad hoc foundation, to ensure that these students are able to continue their studies on a predictable and reliable path.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that if the medical policies of previous governments had been right, Indian students would not have had to migrate in small countries to study medicine. It’s true: we need a new policy that can educate and accommodate more medical professionals, but at the same time, not neglect the government’s responsibility to help its citizens in distress in such extraordinary situations.

Specifically, Foreign Medically Graduated (FMG) returnees need a concrete policy response from States and the Union Government – ​​either to be absorbed into medical colleges in India or to facilitate their return to India. abroad to continue their studies.

In the absence of such a policy, their future naturally remains bleak – especially after they have made significant investments.

One of the main reasons why Indian students go abroad to pursue medical studies is the high competition for the limited number of seats available in India. The country is struggling to recognize its demographic dividend in terms of a younger population eager to study more and more.

With India’s fertility rate approaching full replacement, more and more parents want to invest their life savings in their children’s higher education. This is one of the reasons why Indian students go abroad for higher education – not just for medical studies. Among the countries of the world, India is only second to China in terms of international students.

To study medicine in 2021, 15.44 lakh students from all over India participated in the NEET undergraduate exam, to compete for 88,120 places. Only students who have achieved grades above the cut-off (high) grades get places in highly sought-after government medical schools. The rest are forced either to enroll in private medical schools in India, where the cost of education is very high, or to move to countries such as China, Ukraine and Russia, where the costs are low and admissions processes are less demanding.

Most students then return home to practice medicine, often due to language and institutional barriers in their country of study. In India, they must then pass the FMG exam and complete a one-year internship to become fully qualified doctors eligible to practice medicine in India.

On average, about 20% of students pass the GMF exam – that is to say that a majority of FMGs are once again struggling to fulfill their aspirations to become a doctor or, again, migrating to other countries where their qualifications are recognised.

Under these circumstances, a war has only added to the woes of Indian FMGs in Ukraine. When the international press covered the reality of these students, it was not easy for the Indian government to track them down – as it did not have a centralized database. This is strange considering the number of foreign students from India.

According Ministry of Foreign Affairs According to the data, Indian medical students repatriated from Ukraine came from almost all states in the country and union territories, but especially more than a thousand from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

As the war continues, the chances of them returning to Ukraine to continue their studies seem very unlikely. This prompted the chief ministers of several states for writing Prime Minister Modi to take action to help these medical students continue their studies at the appropriate levels in the country itself.

The social and economic costs incurred by these students and their families have also led them to form groups and associations to fight for the allocation of medical places.

That said, Union and state governments, as well as some medical associations, expressed apprehension about hosting FMGs from Ukraine, setting a difficult precedent. While this may be the case, wars are both unexpected and have devastating effects on mental and material health, so governments must make an exception in at least this regard.

As a first step, the Union government must reframe medical education policies and National Medical Commission regulations.

Finally, he proposed solving the problem of limited resources, including financial ones, in medical education through a public-private partnership model. This idea needs to be reconsidered in light of recent events, especially since private medical education in India is currently very expensive. The government must stipulate regulations that make education affordable and accessible to all.

S. Irudaya Rajan is the President of the International Institute of Migration and Development, Kerala. H. Arokkiaraj is Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Rajiv Gandhi National Institute for Youth Development, Tamil Nadu.


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