Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that due steps are being taken to roll out the maiden National Exit Test (NExT) in the first half of 2023. Proposed as part of the National Medical Commission Act, which became law in 2020 and replaced the Medical Council of India (MCI) as the supervisory body for medical education in the country, the exam seeks to ensure a common threshold of aptitude for medical graduates in the country. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is NeXT?
While the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, or NEET (UG), is the common all India entrance test for students seeking to enter into an MBBS course, including dental (BDS) and AYUSH (BAMS, BUMS, BHMS, etc.) courses, at government and private institutions, NeXT is envisaged as a uniform exit test.
NeXT will count as the qualifying final for MBBS students, which they will have to clear to either obtain a licence to practice modern medicine in India or for obtaining merit-based allocation of PG seats for pursuing specialisation, which implies that NEET PG will be discontinued. Students who have received their medical degree abroad, too, will have to clear NeXT to practice in India.
What Has The Union Health Ministry Said?
In a statement on July 30, the Health Ministry said that while work is on as per the roadmap to hold NeXT in the first half of 2023, a “mock run” is also being planned for 2022 “to test the procedure and remove anxiety among medical students”.
It added that the importance of NExt “lies in the fact that it will be the same for everyone whether trained in India or any part of the world” and would thus solve the problem of foreign medical graduates (FMGs) and mutual recognition.
Why Has NeXT Been Mooted?
While the decision to do away with the MCI met with protests, the Centre has said that NMC was set up with a view to “creating quality medical education and transparent examination infrastructure and health services”.
Experts have reportedly said that NeXT can serve the purpose of standardising medical education in the country and also addresses several issues related to how doctors are trained and enter the service in India. One key issue that has been flagged is of students skipping internships as they prepare for NEET PG.
How Is NeXT To Be Held?
The National Medical Commission Act, 2019, says that NeXT is to be conducted “through such designated authority and in such manner as may be specified by regulations” and would become become operational “within three years from the date of commencement of this Act”.
The NMC is mandated to specify the manner of conducting common counselling for admission to PG seats with the process for all-India seats to be anchored by the designated authority of the Centre while the designated authority of the state government in question will conduct the common counselling for seats at the state level.
Why Was MCI Replaced?
MCI, which was set up in 1933 as the statutory body for regulating medical education, had over the years come to be plagued by allegations of corruption even as medical education across the states came to be seen as being beset with problems. The Centre has said that NMC was created “with the objective of improving access to quality and affordable medical education, ensuring adequate and high-quality medical professionals in all parts of India and to provide equitable and universal healthcare”.
NMC has been charged, among other things, with laying down policies for medical education and regulating medical institutions, medical research and medical professionals. It also “lays down policies and codes to ensure observance of professional ethics in the medical profession and promotes ethical conduct during the provision of care by medical practitioners”.