Medical Education Loses in the Battle Between Quality and Quantity
Deemed colleges in many parts of India have increased the fees exponentially after the ban on capitation fee.
Scrapping of capitation fee because of the the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) has resulted in huge hikes in the tuition fees in private medical colleges across India.
The cost of medical education in government colleges, however, remains the same.
The Quint spoke to a few experts in the field of medical education regarding the implications of SC’s decision.
We have tried to answer a few questions that might help people decide whether or not scrapping of capitation fees will mean a good thing for aspiring students.
Q. What does capitation fee consist of?
Any amount of money collected over the tuition fees (including library fee, laboratory fee, etc.). This money is usually collected without providing a receipt.
The Supreme Court’s judgement in a special writ petition from Andhra Pradesh said,
Capitation fees as it is practiced today violates the right to education under the Constitution… is wholly arbitrary; is unconstitutional according to Article 14… is evil, unreasonable, unfair and unfit…
It is known as “donation” to colleges’ hospitals or trusts they run. Even though the SC has banned collection of capitation fee, some colleges still continue the practice, as found in a report by The Times of India.
Q. Why Are the Fees in Deemed Universities So High?
Private colleges specially in the southern part of India have increased the fees exponentially after the ban on capitation fee.
Though the Supreme Court committee decided that the admissions will be based on the NEET ranks, but in its judgement, it only mentioned the private and the government colleges that will fall under this category. This has given the free hand to the deemed universities to decide their own fee structure and charge as much as they wish under various pretexts.
To have a control over the fee structure made by deemed universities, another writ petition needs to be filed and one has to undergo the whole process all over again.
Q. Does the Hiking in Tuition Fees Necessarily Mean Better Infrastructure and Facilities?
The money has always been available with the colleges. By changing the head under which the colleges collect money will not change the situation in colleges.
The commercialisation of medical education has contributed to a fall in qualitative standards by allowing money, power and political influences to affect results. This was found in a report by Community Health Cell.
“Admission into some private medical colleges depends on the ability of the student to pay rather than the merit of the student,” said Amit Sengupta, National Convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.
Q. How Will the Colleges Be Held Accountable?
The Medical Council of India keeps a regular check on the functioning and quality of medical education. Some colleges were blacklisted for not meeting the required standards.
But CNN News18 sting operation showed a number fake patients and doctors in medical colleges.
The state government in Tamil Nadu has formed a committee to check the collection of capitation fee and also check the quality of education in the colleges. The same needs to be started in other states as well.
Q. Will More Colleges Help in Reducing the Cost of Education?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) stipulates one doctor for every 1,000 people.
In India, however, the distribution of doctors is largely uneven. While around 30,000 doctors and 18,000 specialists are produced by India, annually, only a fraction of these doctors are willing to work in the rural areas.
This is indirectly linked to the high tuition fees as working in public sector isn’t as high paying as it is working for a private clinics.
India does need more doctors but the quality of education needs to be checked as well.
Q. Is Advancement in Technology Contributing to the Fee Hike?
Upon being asked about the high tuition fees, a deemed university in the south tried to validate it by claiming that the money is required to get new equipment and hire better faculty, in a report by The Times of India.
But it is not only technology that will help make better doctors, said Dr Ravi Narayan, community health adviser at the Centre for Public Health and Equity, Bengaluru. He stressed on the fact that the students needed to be taught the fundamental ways of looking at a problem rather than depending on the machines to give them the answers.
The focus needs to shift to providing better education than investing on machines.
Commercialising medical education is also another key concern. Narayan questions the commercialisation of medical education in India. He thinks that the main concern is that many of the newer institutions are set up with substantial political backing.
Capitation fee has degraded the standard of medical education in India. Though it has been banned now, but the extremely high tuition fees is not helping the case either.
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