The New MBBS Curriculum: A Modern Solution against Rote Learning


One of the most drastic changes in the Indian healthcare calendar is the new MBBS curriculum, which includes a promising course on strengthening doctor-patient relationship, and more. HE guides you through the most significant disruption in the sector, that is likely to be implemented next year.


Modern medicine is a massive development in the history of mankind. Go back a century, the chances of succumbing to a deadly disease increase massively. And today, there are many more new diseases, and an important question is how equipped are our doctors to handle these conditions. Studies even indicate that students lose some of the empathy that drew them into the healing profession in the first place at medical schools. And MCI, the country’s medical education regulator, is revising the syllabus for the bachelor’s degree programme in medicine, to address all these issues.

Education systems have seen a significant change in the last century, and they are often far from perfect. It is right about medical education. The undergraduate medical syllabus was last revised in 1997. It was heavy on theory, especially in anatomy, pathology and physiology. Students acquired clinical experience at hospitals from the third year. The new curriculum will have students observing treatment at hospitals from their first year.

Epic Measures

“The new MBBS curriculum has a course called Attitude, Ethics and Communication (AETCOM) which will run across years. Students will be assessed for how they communicate with patients; how they counsel people for organ donations or other challenging procedures; how sensitively do they offer care and obtain consent. All these things will count along with competencies and skills,” Dr VK Paul, chairman of the Board of Governors, MCI, told The Tribune.

Today, health universities are like any other business— competing for money from a teenage demographic and focusing on experience rather than the content. “The focus of educational institutions, these days have shifted from educational excellence to which one offers the best food in their cafeteria to luxurious dorm rooms, says *Arathy, a parent.

However, universities abroad had adopted several such initiatives to teach empathy in medical students. At the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, six medical students were offered ageing suits involving a weighted vest, soft collar, special shoes, glasses with distorted lenses, and earplugs. Researchers asked the students to carry out tasks such as reading medication information and hearing another person speak to re-create an elderly patient’s experience with the healthcare system.


“Over the years, medical colleges have been adding new subjects to their customised curriculum. However, now the MCI had essentially standardised these subjects under one umbrella. The new undergraduate curriculum regulations are more learner-centric, patient-centric, gender-sensitive, outcome-oriented, and environment appropriate. The result is an outcome-driven curriculum, which conforms to global medical trends. The new syllabus will mark a fundamental shift from the past when rote and classroom learning was the norm in MBBS training. The new approach will lead to new batches of medical students who will emphasise maintaining accurate and clear records of patients. With the advent of new medical technology and complex diseases resulting from lifestyle changes, the new syllabus will address the need for more concentration on mental health and public health. The changes are welcome and the need of the hour. There have been huge advancements in skills and techniques that need to be taught. The current syllabus has many old techniques for which the healthcare equipment is already outdated and unavailable at colleges. The outcome of the revised curriculum comprising a separate programme on ethics, attitude and soft skills will make an enormous impact on the quality of the doctors we have,” says Dr Azad Moopen, Aster DM Healthcare.

According to news reports, the new MBBS syllabus will come into effect from the 2019-20 academic session. Information on new diseases has been included while irrelevant chapters not needed in general practice have been removed. MCI has also started training teachers across India to teach the new syllabus from next year. In fact, over the last six months or so, it trained close to 40,000 teachers identified by the respective medical education departments of medical colleges.

How it will change medical education for the better

There has been a considerable delay in finalising the new syllabus. The revision process started in 2013, but the Union health ministry approved the new course content only in December last year.

It’s not just new topics relevant to the current scenarios, that the new curriculum is bringing to the table. It also promises to delete old topics, given the increase in knowledge and skills. Several countries have long deployed, practical knowledge and the integration of knowledge systems, for their medical courses. For example, if students are being taught about the upper limbs, then all systems— anatomy, physiology, surgery and orthopaedics— are taught simultaneously rather than separately in different years, which often leads to repetition.

The underlying message is simple: clinical success and exposure to new skills and knowledge are two sides of the same shiny coin. If that sounds exhausting to you, you are not alone. Consider some of the significant changes that look like this: students will receive clinical exposure in their first year instead of the second. In a bid to help students better cope with learning the complexities of medicine, overcome the language barrier and ensure they can handle the workload, the new curriculum will include a foundation course in the first year. This will assist students in their bid to transition better. Now students can pick up subjects of choice and dedicated time has been allotted for self-directed learning and co-curricular activities. Aside from using human cadavers for learning purposes, the use of medical mannequins and models will also be introduced for prospective doctors.

That said, here’s the fact that no one likes. The Centre is dissolving the MCI and replacing it with a Board of Governors in the wake of corruption charges. There is no guarantee whether the new curriculum will stand once the new National Medical Commission takes over MCI.