A Yale in India? Good idea, but…

The recently announced NEP 2020 is progressive enough to write home about, especially for the policy elasticity. The coming generations of students would now have the flexibility to choose, enter and exit courses without harming their academic careers with the stamp of incompletion. But then, it’s not a cinch. Your archetypal college canteen will not turn into a Barista or a Café Coffee Day overnight. Until then, you can begin to celebrate the new beginnings NEP 2020 strives to make.

The policy envisions sweeping changes in the Indian education system. The gender fund for girl students, the continuous evaluation in place of a few hackneyed examinations, replacement of the 10+2 structure by a 5+3+3+4 set-up (which will include 12 years of schooling and three years of Anganwadi and pre-schooling), the mother tongue as medium of teaching up to class five, the academic bank of credit and multiple entry and exit points in higher education, and the extension of the Right to Education up to 18 years of age are among the striking changes the new policy aims to bring in. Globalising our education system is the current mantra.

But wait! Not all is hunky dory! The new policy aims at allowing foreign universities to set up shop in India. Now, let’s take a look at what it means for the entire students’ community across India. Frankly, studying in a foreign university on home soil might be a long shot if we consider the cost of higher and special education an India student has to incur even in Indian colleges and universities. Take the case of Amity University. The university charges Rs. 2,02000 per semester, making it the most expensive in India. You might have the latest Royal Enfield to flag your stud value but you would probably need a Harley Davidson to be first among equals on the Amity campus. Or for that matter Symbiosis (Rs. 2,25,000 per year), SRM University (Rs. 4,50,000) and Bits Pilani (Rs. 1,15,600 excluding hostel fees) – all off-limits to a majority of Indian students.

If this is the case, then foreign universities in India might be a tough barrier to overcome, financially and academically as well because the standards of education they would import into the country would be for a certain cost, decidedly higher than that of Amity. In the final count, a Yale, a Harvard or a Princeton in India aren’t going to be your pizza takeaway on the phone. Though the government’s move in this direction is absolutely commendable, it has to impress upon the foreign universities that, as and when they come in, they have to customize their outlook in keeping with the Indians students’ demography.

A small pie, too many takers

Foreign shores beckon

The rush for foreign medical colleges over the years has been triggered by a dearth of MBBS seats in India as well as the relatively low cost of medical education abroad. This has long been common knowledge among the Indian students’ community. Not just the low cost or availability of seats in foreign MCI-recognized universities, those who make the cut abroad have set up careers as rewarding as their peers who were lucky to get an MBBS seat at home.

What possibly bypasses collective wisdom is the need for having more doctors in India. A recent survey done in the U.S.A says India has a shortage of nearly 6 lakh doctors. Compounding this scenario is India’s current doctor-patient ratio which stands at an abysmally low 1:1456 against the WHO mandated 1:1000, which is still low but not unwieldly. The Government of India does have ambitious plans to bring in medical education reforms but to date, no perceptible change to the prevailing situation has been noticed.

Or else, why would there be more than 21 candidates competing for just one MBBS seat in the upcoming NEET? This figure has been reached following a report shared by the NTA which said that a whopping 15,93,452 candidates are set to appear for NEET 20202. And a section of the media has reported that henceforth, “NEET will be the single entrance exam for MBBS admissions in all medical colleges of the country, including AIIMS and JIPMER.”

More and more students are aspiring to be doctors, as evidenced in the number of registered candidates for NEET 2020 increasing by almost 15%. In 2019, 15 lakh candidates had registered for the exam, which makes NEET one of the toughest exams in the world to crack.

Of course, it goes without saying that this stiff tussle for one MBBS seat can be somewhat eased by increasing the number of medical seats. But that seems to be a long shot.

“In 2014 the government had announced to add 10,000 MBBS seats by 2020-2021. This decision was taken in 2014 after the government had considered the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s proposal relating to the Centre-sponsored scheme for upgradation of government medical colleges and increasing the number of MBBS seats. Under this scheme the funding pattern is 70:30 ratio between the central government and the state government, with an exception for the north eastern and special category states where the funding pattern is 90:10.

However, an RTI reply, issued in February 2019, gave shocking reports of addition of only 920 MBBS seats against the promised 10,000 seats in the last five years,” an online report by NDTV says.

Even if the number of seats is increased, would the fees for studying MBBS be within the reach of all aspirants? This is a question that needs to be addressed at this juncture. And so, foreign medical schools, where the admission process is not so cumbersome and where medical education is as good as anywhere else in the world for fees lower than India’s, will justifiably continue to be a coveted destination for Indian students.