How to vernacularise medical education in India? 

News: Recently, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh declared their intention to provide the MBBS course in Hindi.  

Arguments in favour of using vernacular language in the medical education 

This will help counter the hegemony of English in professional education. Few countries such as Germany and China have long been doing so successfully. Therefore, the Indian government can also replicate this in India. 

One of the intentions of the move is to increase access to medical education beyond the English-knowing elite. 

Arguments in favour of using vernacular language in the medical education 

The measure would entail significant costs. The implementation would demand regulatory and administrative alterations. For example, translation of educational materials, training of trainers, etc. Further, the costs will depend on the scale of implementation and need not necessarily be a deterrent.  

An argument advanced by critics is that this measure is fuelled by misplaced nationalistic sentiments. 

This would erode the competitive advantage which Indian graduates have in the global scientific arena.  

In contrast to Germany and China where local languages are used, English is firmly entrenched in India. Therefore, there will be two-fold challenges. First, the measure could face considerable resistance in assimilating local language into the existing ecosystem. Second, it is unlikely to spur enough demand. For example, this has already been witnessed in the case of engineering courses. 

If MBBS is taught in the regional language, then postgraduate medical courses and other medical courses would also need to be conceived in regional languages.  

At present, the government wishes to expand the private sector’s scope in medical education. However, the private sector is unlikely to welcome the move in the field of medical education.  

There is no oblivious correlation between knowledge of English and socioeconomic status in Indian society. 

Today, a considerable proportion of medical graduates who have studied in English are employed in allied sectors (research, pharmaceuticals, administration etc.). There medium graduates in vernacular language are unlikely to be welcomed in these allied sectors.  

It would lead to development of an implicit hierarchy between non-English medium and English medium medical graduates. 

The diversity and multiplicity of languages across and within states thwarts tge vernacularisation of medical education.  

Medical doctors are highly mobile professionals. English medium medical graduates can find jobs across the country and the world.  

English is a mutually-intelligible option in technical as well as routine dealings and interactions. Therefore, numerous local languages based medical education can lead to chaos.  

Way Forward 

Going for a select few languages with a large following could be an optimum middle-path. However, this is unlikely to obviate the need for incorporating basic English skills in the curriculum. 

An incremental approach should be adopted in providing medical education in regional languages. For example, the government can start providing paramedical courses in the regional language. Such paramedical workers are often less mobile and function closer to the patients 

Further, vernacularisation is one of many reforms in medical education. Many other measures require political attention. 

Source: The post is based on an article “How to vernacularise medical education in India” published in the Indian Express on 03rd May 2022. 

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