Indian state becomes first to offer medical education in Hindi

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India’s second-largest state, Madhya Pradesh, has launched the country’s first medical textbooks in Hindi in a bid to make higher education more accessible to non-English speakers, but critics have warned the move could drive Indian doctors away of the global medical community. .

Madhya Pradesh has ordered its top medical schools to teach the basics in Hindi rather than English, but experts are divided over the unprecedented plan.

Anatomy, physiology and biochemistry courses will be offered in Hindi to new entrants in the 13 public medical colleges from the current session this year, while textbooks for seniors will be available from 2023.

The opt-in program was rolled out last weekend in Madhya Pradesh, where 90% of the 73 million people speak Hindi.


‘Hingish’

Critics have described the 3,410-page manuals, which continue to use English medical phrases but all written in Hindi script, as a lazy exercise in transliteration.

“It’s not a translation of the books but a transformation,” explained Satykant Trivedi, a member of the team who worked on the unique project.

“We wrote the books in Hindi script and we didn’t complicate things for the students by translating the terminologies,” he said.

“What is the problem? Doctors will write prescriptions in Hindi,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan said as his government also ordered all medical colleges to offer prayers in Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of health.

Earlier this week, Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, also announced plans to roll out Hindi textbooks to local medical schools next year.

Officials say the change in the language of instruction will bring higher education closer to 86 million deeply impoverished people in the two states, where English education is expensive and considered elitist.

Both states are governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP party, which took office in India largely with the support of Hindi-speaking voters.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the experience of Madhya Pradesh, where until 2016 only 5% of students in state-run village schools could read a full sentence in English.

“This debut in the field of medical education is going to bring a big positive change in the country,” Modi tweeted in Hindi.

“With these lakhs [tens of thousands] students will be able to study in their own language, many doors of opportunity will open for them as well.”

Global communications

But Rohan Krishnan, chairman of the Federation of All India Medical Associations (FAIMA), has called on politicians to revamp basic education instead of experimenting with medical education in India.

“Even after 75 years of independence, English in our basic school system is not taught properly,” he said.

“Rather than improving the system in the schools, you are actually deteriorating a very well-established and sacrosanct system.”

The doctors’ association also pointed out that the exclusive use of Hindi terminology would cut off Indian doctors from the international medical community.

“We need to see English as a means of communication rather than a colonial relic as some tend to do,” he said in a statement.


Pankaj Agarwal, a contributor to the project, argued that 43% of India’s 1.4 billion people use Hindi while a much smaller number communicate in English.

“Also, it is not compulsory but an option,” he told India Today TV.

Concerns about standards

Others have warned that medical universities which can enroll 90,000 students a year could be overwhelmed by aspiring Hindi-speaking doctors.

The Indian Medical Association, a union of 390,000 doctors, pointed out that existing medical schools only teach in English.

“If the course is to be launched in Hindi, the teachers will also have to be trained and translate the entire curriculum, which will be a tedious process,” said association leader Srinivasa Raju.

Opponents of the program fear that the newly developed textbooks do not meet international standards and could end up undermining the quality of medical education in India, said Karti P Chidabaram, a member of parliament from the southern state of Tamil. Nadu, who wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister opposing it.

Hindi is the third most spoken language in the world after English and Mandarin.

India is also home to the second largest population of English speakers in the world after the United States and their number is likely to quadruple in a decade from 135 million at present.

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