Why is it that many doctors who have graduated from private medical colleges have difficulty passing the Nepal Medical Council exams?
Students of Chitwan Medical College have ended their protests after the administration agreed to return the extra fees charged from them. However, the agreement has come at a cost – weeks of disruption in the teaching-learning activities as well as medical services in the teaching hospital. According to the agreement, reached between the agitating students and college administrators during the extensive meeting held at the Chitwan District Administration Office on Saturday, the college has agreed to return the extra fees taken from the students within 30 working days or adjust the fee. Chitwan Medical College is not alone in charging the students extra fees, although the government had put a cap on the amount colleges could charge them. A Cabinet meeting last year had capped the fees for the MBBS undergraduate course at Rs 3.85 million in the Kathmandu Valley and Rs 4.24 million outside. However, colleges have been charging an extra Rs 0.5-2 million under different headings. In Chitwan’s case, students said they had already paid Rs 600,000 at the time of admission, against a demand of Rs 1.2-1.5 million, with the rest to be paid in installments. The students had taken to the streets nearly three weeks ago after they were told those who had not paid the extra dues would not be allowed to sit for the examinations.
Medical education costs a fortune in Nepal (as elsewhere) in the private colleges as it requires solid infrastructure, namely a well-equipped teaching hospital, to teach students. Just a little over two decades back, Nepali students relied on a handful of scholarships provided by foreign governments to study medicine. But in less than two decades, more than 20 medical colleges have sprouted across the country, most of them in the private sector. Today you see medical colleges opening up in the far west and as far away as remote Jumla in mid-west Nepal. As a result, Nepali students no longer have to go abroad for a medical education. Instead, foreign students are making a beeline to study here. But the fees are beyond the means of even the middle class families in Nepal, which means medical colleges are increasingly targeting the rich, although the government has made it mandatory for the colleges to allocate scholarships to be distributed by the government. That is why the government has put a limit on what a medical college can charge to crack down on the commercialisation of medical education.
When money dictates who can study medicine, the quality of aspiring doctors is compromised. Otherwise, why is it that many doctors who have graduated from private medical colleges have difficulty passing the Nepal Medical Council exams for the license to practise medicine in the country while the best results are shown by the handful of medical colleges run by the government? There have been grievances time and again by the students that colleges lack basic infrastructure, equipment and experienced teaching faculty. Thus, tuition fee apart, the related government body has the onus to see that the medical colleges meet the set standards to produce the best in health manpower. There can be no compromise in a sensitive field like medicine.
Of the 14 peaks above 8,000 metres in the world, Nepal boasts of having eight of them. Although small in size, Nepal is fortunate to have dozens of other mountains above 7,000 metres. This is the reason why so many foreigners visit Nepal from all over the world for adventure tourism and expeditions. However, the country lacks adequate skilled human resource to provide technical support to the expeditions.
In order to address this problem, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has prepared a draft bill for establishing a Tourism and Mountaineering Studies Academy. The academy will produce skilled human resources needed for the development and promotion of the tourism sector, which contributes around 3.5 per cent to the gross domestic production. The proposed new academy should not be like the existing Nepal Mountain Academy that also produces human resources related to mountaineering. The new academy should not only produce adequate skilled human resources in mountaineering, it should also produce other human resources required for the entire tourism sector, which has created jobs for thousands of people.
A version of this article appears in print on September 23, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.