“Digital Classes Cannot Make Doctors,” Indian Medical Students Enrolled in China Want Govt to Intervene

Dissections are important to medical learning and practice. But with the Chinese government barring entry of all foreign students including those from India as part of Covid-19 restrictions, thousands of Indian students who had enrolled with Chinese medical varsities are concerned if their degrees are turning into ‘online tutorials’.

With almost a year gone in virtual medical classes, Indian students left for China to become doctors. They preferred China because it costs lesser as compared to the fee structure in Indian private or deemed universities. With NEET scores accepted by Chinese universities, every year many Indian students leave for China to become doctors.

“Low fee, high stress”

Nandhita Ravikumar from Chennai wonders about dropping out from the medical programme she got herself enrolled in at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

“We have the online classes which sometimes get disturbed due to lack of connection or the outdated features of the app which has not been updated since the government ban on Chinese apps. There were talks of return and new visas decided but then the situation in India got worst and now we are stranded studying medical on digital mode,” she said.

Her concern is “what about the practical learning? I chose a Chinese university to study medicines because I am paying only Rs 8 lakhs here. In India, I would have paid over Rs 30 lakhs for the programme.”

The online classes are coupled with bad connections or apps not responding, especially DingTalk — communication app. Some students have found alternatives in other tools or prefer recorded lectures while family speculates in the background, “why don’t you drop this?”

“But medical education is nothing without lab lessons,” said another student Prachi Tomar who along with many other students submitted a letter to the government of India informing them about their situation.

“The only way to come out of this phase of uncertainty is government’s intervention, which is why some of the students wrote to MEA. The two governments have to talk as our online classes are of poor quality.”

She is in her second year and is looking forward to a time in practical classes. She too preferred China as her fee is Rs 4 lakhs per annum in Nanjing Medical University.

“I got acceptable based on my NEET score and class 12th marks. It was budget education for becoming a doctor, a dream come true for my family who cannot put in a lot of money for medical education in India, but now we need clarity.”

Live recording of exams and sudden site crashing is a normal phenomenon of her online education. “I am learning to be patient,” she said.

Soubik Maiti studying at Xiamen University had the same experience, “We neither here nor there, and our families are just as confused,” he said and further added, “Only the two governments can find a solution.”

‘How can digital learning bring out doctors?’

Online education is not working for Indian medical students enrolled in the medical universities in China, who are now stranded at home – India. They have been pleading with the authorities to allow them to return for in-person classes as clinical stream and laboratory work cannot be done virtually.

Multiple letters under the name of ‘International Students of India’ and ‘China International Students Union’ have been written to the government in India, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Chinese government, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Students have also raised the issue on social media. But so far there is no response that can comfort the medical students about their future.

MFA spokesperson Wang WengBin in an official statement has said that “students should return in a stepwise process using the same epidemic control measures in place for business and work visa holders.”

Students’ union, however, disagrees, “We believe spokesperson of MFA is missing our point which is online education is not working for us students and is doing more harm than good, as a result, urgent actions need to be taken.”

Another letter written to MEA on May 20, by a group of students under a loosely named organization said, “Prioritize, the return of students to China, who need to complete their hospital shifts and clinical rotations in order to graduate in September this year.”

China is different from other countries

Abhishek Kumar Mishra who is director with MBBS direct consultancy private limited said that the students they mentored are suffering due to the bar on entry and it is painful to see them waste their time in online classes for doctors and medical practitioners. “The students scored good marks in NEET and were admitted in world ranking medical universities in China. There are various reasons why Indian students go to China to study MBBS.”

The experience of students studying in China is slightly different from those studying in other countries, he said and added that there is opaqueness on information flow between universities and students.

He said, “Students who are getting into first year, had applied despite the border issues raging. The Chinese universities are not entitled to communicate much because of the government there. But the way things are right now border issues cannot be underplayed. “

For some clarity he appealed, “The Indian government must look into this issue of students because the experience of Indian students in China is different from those in other countries – lack of communication is an important issue.”

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