The National Exit Test (NExT) should be brought in only after meticulous due diligence, keeping in mind the diverse background of medical colleges from which the first batch of NExT aspirants will come, The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare said in its report on the quality of medical education in India, which was presented in Parliament earlier this week.
The Committee, under the chairmanship of Bhubaneswar Kalita, explained that presently, it is medical colleges which conduct final-year MBBS examinations. At the same time, the responsibility for NEET PG and FMGE — which are licensing and qualifying examinations for those who have completed their undergraduate medical degrees — falls under the purview of the National Board of Examinations (NBE), overseen by the Director-General of Health Services within the Health Ministry.
To replace final MBBS exam
The National Medical Commission Act now provides for the NExT to enhance the competence of graduating MBBS students who obtain licenses to practice annually. This initiative addresses the current emphasis on clearing the NEET-PG, which is predominantly theoretical and necessitates rote memorisation.
“In June 2023, the National Medical Commission developed the NMC Exit Test Regulations 2023 (NEXT Regulations, 2023). The test was to replace the final MBBS examination, act as a licentiate exam for grant of registration to practice medicine, and provide a basis for entry to postgraduate courses instead of NEET PG. The NExT would be a medical licensing exam that is designed to assess the competency of medical graduates. However, in July 2023, NMC has vide notice stating that ‘the National Exit Test (NExT) examination is deferred on the advice of the Ministry till further directions’,” the parliamentary panel’s report said.
Moderate evaluation criteria
The Committee also recommended that the evaluation criteria should be moderate for the first round, stating that it was imperative to ensure that no group of graduates faces any undue advantage or disadvantage in the examination. Striking a fair and equitable balance in the evaluation process will be pivotal to ensure the success and fairness of the NExT exam.
“Moreover, the Committee believes in addition to standardised final assessment of graduates, there is an urgent need to universalise or standardise undergraduate and postgraduate education,” it added.
It noted that reputed institutes such as AIIMS impart a different quality of medical education in comparison to newly opened medical institutes. Keeping this in mind, the Committee recommended that the government divide India into zones, with reputed institutes such as AIIMS to function as mentor institutes for all the other medical colleges in that zone. Mentor institutes shall play a significant role in monitoring the standard of education and the classes in the newer medical colleges as well as private institutions.
The Committee further recommended that the government allocate ample time for thorough preparation, and provide an early release of the exam schedule, along with other relevant details regarding the examination. “This will enable the first batch of candidates to prepare adequately and smoothly transition to the new examination format,” it said.