I wrote the following letter as a letter to the editor, in the decan herald. i do not think that it will be published. since publishing on the blog is in my hands, posted it here for whatever it is worth.
Few days back I saw an announcement in the news papers. Being a dentist who loves the profession and feels proud about it, I felt very sad to see that announcement. It was from the CET cell of Karnataka. It stated that the students who are desirous of obtaining admission to BDS, need not take the CET (common entrance test for professional courses). They may straightaway approach the individual colleges and get the admission. I was expecting it. For the last few years I have been observing that the BDS seats in Karnataka have no takers. The daily declaration of availability of vacant seats made by the CET in the newspapers, during the admission time, always showed BDS seats available. Students with minimum of 50% in the qualifying exam (eligibility to appear for CET) could just walk in to the dental colleges, whatever the CET ranking be. But those seats remained vacant even after the admission process was over. (In the middle of this muddle, the Karnataka government decided to start another dental college in Bellary, where I learn that not even 50% of the seats are filled). Since there are no takers in the group who were eligible to write CET, now the seats are being offered to anyone who has the minimum qualification. I do not know if those who have just passed PUC with 35% are also eligible. The college managements want the seats filled up somehow or the other so that their losses are minimised. And the Karnataka government is always eager to help. The dental council, which has given permissions left, right and center, in spite of knowing that the colleges do not have the requisite faculty or number of patients, necessary for imparting quality training, will obviously remain silent. I am sure that there will be a number of students who have passed the PUC but not eligible/not interested to take the CET, will be tempted to take up these easily available seats in dental colleges and have a glamorous prefix ‘doctor’ in front of their names. My intention in writing this letter is to inform them that the quality of dental education, (in the country in general and Karnataka in particular) and consequently the quality of the dentists coming out, has been very bad and so is the prospects of the profession. That is the reason for the seats being vacant. I believe there are any number of BDS graduates who are forced to decide upon pursuing avenues other than dental practice. I have been meaning to write a letter regarding this situation for the past few years but held myself back as I felt that it is none of my business to offer suggestions when not asked for. The announcement by the CET forced me to write this. I have based my letter on the observations, some of which a layman may not appreciate but anyone who has a faint idea what dentistry and dental education is, surely will.
Let us take the three things, which I consider are important for imparting dental education. (Assuming the student is interested in learning). The teacher, the equipment for training and treatment and most impartant, patients- from whom we actually learn and whom we treat.
I can safely say, even without authentic statistics in my possession, that most of the dental colleges score only on equipment.
Most of the qualified and experienced teachers, if available, are ‘visiting’-varying from two days in a month to once a week or few hours a day. Patients, mostly are missing. With a college in every street, how many patients can a college hope to get? I have seen colleges with various departments equipped with 30-40 dental chairs in impressive rows, 8-10 undergraduate students, 4-6 interns and 2-3 postgraduates waiting for patients. So, two factors out of three are gone.
Students train on plastic teeth because extracted teeth are not available, and start on few available patients in the clinics.
Because of lack of patients students have very little chance of practicing all the treatment procedures and so, training and examination standards have been suitably altered (reduced). Most of the graduates who pass out and start practicing, will not even have got the minimum training and depend up on visiting consultants to attend to even simple cases. The consultants with post graduate qualification will have learnt during MDS, what they should have learnt during their undergraduate BDS course.
I may be forcing the wrath of the profession and criticism from many quarters on myself for writing this ‘baseless’ letter but I felt compelled and having got it off my chest, I feel I have done my bit.
2 weeks ago