A sensational revelation of Ghost Teachers in private medical colleges of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh has recently been made by the Punjab Medical Council and a staggering figure of 400 such teachers has been reported. Here is a fact which has been known to all the stakeholders but conveniently ignored for vested interests. Also the menace of faculty shortage is not only limited to private medical colleges (as reported) but also exists in government colleges as well as in various dental colleges of the whole country.
According to confirmed sources, the two government dental colleges in Punjab have a deficiency of teaching faculty at different levels to the tune of 40 per cent. Unfortunately, the apex bodies regulating the teaching of medicine and dentistry have been doing piecemeal efforts to plug the loopholes but have not been able to address the problem in an effective manner. The optimistic solution of using modern technology to physically track and monitor the teachers in the institutions may appear very attractive but would only be treating the symptoms and not the disease.
The Dental Council of India has already been using this technology for the last few years but with not much success. The fact is that these medical and dental colleges have been started in the country with the pretext of producing medical and dental doctors to fill the gap between the need and availability. However, the very purpose of producing these doctors is getting defeated as the quality of doctors being produced is usually very poor.
In the current situation, most of these colleges (private and government) have shortage of required teachers, a fact well known to all. It is sad that the regulating government departments, universities and councils turn a blind eye to the facts and on paper these deficiencies are smartly covered through ghost teachers. Majority of them are visiting on the days of inspections and at best for few days in a month. At times teachers demand a hefty fee for joining the college in the event of an impending inspection and the same managements conveniently relieve the teachers after the inspections are over. Such a situation is reciprocal exploitation existing in many of the colleges.
Since medical and dental education primarily involves learning clinical skills by examining and working on patients, the students have to be exposed to real clinical material and not theory alone. When teachers in these institutions are not there on a regular basis to conduct clinical training, the students are not able to get the required skills of diagnosis and treatment. As a result they pass out as poor doctors putting the health and life of their patients at risk. This has been going on for the last so many years and it is time that all concerned authorities should seriously address the issue.
Having served in PGI as a teacher for nearly 40 years and also exposed to the system of dental and medical education in various capacities viz. teacher, council and university inspector, examiner and administrator, it has been my firm belief that teachers in medical and dental colleges must be categorized as full time; part time and visiting. Heads of the departments and of the institutes must be full time teachers and must refrain from private practice and may do so within the institution (called intramural practice).
In order to make use of the skills and teaching aptitude of successful private practitioners, they could be appointed as part time teachers with limited hours of working specified for the week. Similarly visiting teachers would be very useful for imparting special skills and knowledge by their commitment for specific days of the month. Depending on the input of such teachers, they could be counted and paid without any guilt.
The practice of visiting and part time teachers is followed at most of the universities in advanced countries. Once such a decision is implemented, the modern computer technology could then be used for calculation of time and clinical input of the teachers. Currently the numerical value of teaching faculty is considered adequate without any check/audit of their teaching and clinical contribution. Once the teachers actually perform clinical skills and students observe them, there would be role models for the students to emulate, a fact which is pathetically missing in the current scenario of medical and dental education.
The provision of visiting and part time teachers would take care of shortage of teachers in remote areas where many of the senior teachers may not find it practical to reside continuously.
It is my strong belief that using technology to track human beings, especially teachers, would tantamount to violating their human rights. However, let there be clearly defined hours of work and an audit in place to ensure that the chances of faking or ghosting are eliminated. This is where the web and computer technology could be used to plug the loopholes rather than radio-tracking the teachers.
Dr Ashok Utreja
Ex-Professor and Chair, Unit of Orthodontics
Ex-Head, Oral Health Sciences Centre
Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh
Past-President, Indian Orthodontic Society
Past-President, Indian Society of Cleft Lip, Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies