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A tussle between HRD and health ministries on medical courses at IIT will do damage....

Written by The Indian Express |
April 23, 2010 2:00:03 am

Philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey summed up thus: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” In the debate on what the Indian Institutes of Technology should teach,it can be claimed that an expansion of curricula will work to everybody’s benefit,provided accreditation,objectives and operations are taken care of.

IITs are India’s premier higher education institutes. Expanding their scope is part of the scheme to overhaul higher education. Therefore,it’s good news that the Union HRD ministry is set to amend the IIT Act so that IITs can offer medical courses,which three IITs are already considering. In fact,last August,IIT-Kharagpur signed an agreement with University of California,San Diego,for a state-of-the-art hospital and a medical college,whereby it would enrol graduate and post-graduate students along with researching medicine and bio-medical engineering. Given UC San Diego’s expertise in the field,this would bring the most advanced medical technology and science to our medical education. An IIT,additionally,would bring engineering and medicine under the same roof.

Social sciences and humanities had been introduced at some IITs,aiming to expand the intellectual horizon of students absorbed in a very rigorous and technical field. Since then,IITs have desired to emulate the “all-round excellence” of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and produce quality scholars in,say,linguistics,literature,political science,etc. Medicine is more than just a larger diversification. IITs will need the Medical Council of India’s accreditation,apart from the said amendment. But a tussle between the HRD ministry (responsible for higher education and the IITs) and the health ministry (responsible for medical education,which had asked IITs to stay off the MBBS) will do damage. That politics must be smoothed out,otherwise the project will suffer conflict of authority,confusion over accountability and deadlock in raising funds.

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