Medical students across India would need to engage in an hour of yoga 10 days a year and take a nationwide exit test to complete graduation under curriculum changes recommended by India’s regulatory body for undergraduate medical education.
The National Medical Commission (NMC) on Thursday released a revised MBBS curriculum that starts with the 2021-22 batch of students, admitted in February 2022, who will also be the first batch to take the National Exit Test in April 2026.
The National Exit Test is intended to be a common nationwide exam to grant students the MBBS degree, the licence to practise medicine and, depending on their scores, entry into postgraduate medical courses.
The curriculum changes will require all MBBS students to practise yoga during their orientation week, and “for a maximum of one hour every day during the 10-day period beginning from June 12 every year to be culminated on International Yoga Day, June 21”.
The NMC also said that medical students should be “introduced” to a “modified Charak Shapath”, a pledge attributed to Charak, an ancient Indian physician who lived before AD 100 and is viewed as one of the primary contributors to Ayurveda.
The revised curriculum does not say that the Charak Shapath should replace the Hippocratic oath, although the NMC’s undergraduate medical education board discussed this possibility in an online meeting with medical colleges earlier this year.
Some doctors who have seen the revised curriculum said the changes appeared superficial and the objectives of introducing the Charak Shapath remained unclear.
“This is just a new dish from an old recipe — there is nothing really new in the core structure of the curriculum,” said Rohan Krishnan, an orthopaedic surgeon and president of the Federation of All India Medical Associations, a body of resident doctors.
Some doctors said they were disappointed at the lack of any substantial changes in the curriculum. They emphasised longstanding concerns about the need to introduce greater emphasis on primary health care, medical research, and novel learning methodologies.
“The undergraduate board’s task is to reform undergraduate medical education. But instead of any major changes, they have just added yoga and tinkered with the title of the pledge that medical students take,” said K.V. Babu, an ophthalmologist in Kerala. “Will introducing the Charak Shapath make better doctors?”
The NMC undergraduate medical education board has said the commission would notify the details and guidelines for the National Exit Test. Then health minister Harsh Vardhan had in 2019 said there would be no cap on the number of times a student can take the exit test.