Doctors and academics in the medical fraternity, however, have their reservations on the issue. “Students are expected to work across the country due to the All India quota (involving 50% seats) in NEET PG, so a student from the north may work in Tamil Nadu’s wards and converse with the patients in the local language. This itself provides a national outlook,” says a senior faculty from VMMC Safdar Jung Hospital, New Delhi. The MBBS curriculum should not be regionalised, he emphasises, as it would limit the options of students seeking overseas medical education in the US and UK where exams such as USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) are conducted in English.
Instead of changing the language of the MBBS curriculum, the existing MBBS curriculum has a 2-month Foundation Course for MBBS freshers, where they are taught to get used to the medical college environment. “Students from the rural belt or the reserved category learn to overcome their initial cultural shock, and with a 10:1 mentor-student ratio, are taught to work upon their interpersonal relationships. There is a whole process at work to set the students at ease and create a level playing field. Language is not the only issue that can make them feel underconfident and inadequate,” he says. Step backward
Explaining that even though NEET is now conducted in 11 languages, confining students to just their own native tongue will be detrimental in the long run. These students may find it difficult to fare well in the Combined Medical Services exam conducted by the UPSC, he adds.
Dr Anita Mathew, consultant- General Physician & Infectious diseases at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, holds similar views. “The basic education of MBBS has been in English across the globe barring in certain parts of Eastern European nations and China. The medical terms and terminologies have always been in English and their translation into Hindi or other regional languages, will not be that simple. MBBS degree from the majority of medical institutions in India is not recognised in the Western world and any move to indigenise the medium of education will be another step backward in our efforts to be at par with the other Western counterparts.”
Writing and presenting papers and research in indexed journals and international conferences will need the doctors to be well versed in English. “Almost all peer-reviewed journals are in English and this move for education in regional languages will be a setback. The authorities should try and improve the basic education in school and introduce bridge courses for regional language/Hindi medium students for better understanding of English,” she says.
Dr Z Zayapragassarazan, professor & head, Department of Medical Education, JIPMER, Puducherry, however, welcomes the move, if the motive is to develop science in the local language. “Care should be taken to ensure credibility of the subject in course of translation so that it does not get diluted. While the terminologies can be in English, the explanations in the medical texts can be in regional languages, for that is what is happening in most state medical colleges,” he says.