Collaborating to humanise education

17 Sep 2019 / 20:18 H.

AS the controversy on the “merger” of universities continues to brew, an equally significant but positive event took place last week in a campus in India. It relates to a bold decision taken some 10 years ago in a locale called Belgaum (Belagavi), near Bangalore (Bengaluru).

An iconic civil society was set up in Belgaum some 100 years ago thanks to a group of seven high-minded youth who came together to form the KLE (Karnataka Lingayat Education) Society. The noble aim was to provide a philanthropic platform for education in the region of Karnataka and Maharashtra. The society’s efforts cut across all man-made ‎boundaries and barriers.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) was approached to be part of a project to share its Integrated Medical Curriculum (adopted by USM in 1989) with KLE University.

Dr Prabhakar Kore, the chairman of KLE Society, had said USM was approached for “being the ‘best’ ‎university”. The Integrated Medical Curriculum was pioneered by USM and has enabled its doctors to be even more professional and community-oriented. This is now the global trend in which KLE and USM are poised to lead as global partners.

Fast forward to last week, when USM and KLE proudly celebrated their decade of enduring partnership, understanding and resilience. It is the first and (so far) only “off-shore” to be successfully offered by a Malaysian public tertiary institution in the area of healthcare. ‎

It coincided with KLE’s centennial celebrations and USM’s golden jubilee. It fit well with the 150th anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s death; a moment to reflect on his many words and deeds that inspired the world. In the healthcare sector, his quote: “The number of hospitals is not a sign of health but decay” has rung loudly in my ears since my USM days. It directs us to a deeper meaning of the word “health” and the role of hospitals as well as their practitioners and recipients in delivering the much needed quality of life. One that is liberating, shifting away from what is conventionally “articulated” and “developed” today – generally prohibitive and costly, unsustainable, yet the people have come (or made) to be dependent upon it almost unknowingly.

In other words, health has been shaped as a product for consumption, rather than as a way of life that gives value to healthy living. ‎After all, “health” is not just the absence of disease, especially in this emerging era of mental health, where the dis-ease is not readily discernable. But remains insidious and fatal. And that the “bottom billion” in the healthcare pyramid are being seriously compromised.

The‎ USM-KLE international medical programme offers a number of insights. Academically it merges the “best” of USM’s Pusat Pengajian Sains Perubatan and KLE University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in terms of clinical expertise and experience. It goes beyond culture and geopolitics.

As an integrated programme, it provides flexibility without sacrificing values and quality. The programme is recognised by the Malaysian Medical Council and the Medical Council of India. It attracts both Malaysians and foreigners alike.

Socio-culturally, it spans the Indo-Malaysia context in experiential terms from languages to community engagement (including cleaning the toilets), while remaining aligned to acceptable international standards.

Moreover, as average temperatures soar all over the world, the spread of more tropical-like health issues and epidemics will push the USM-KLE model to the fore. With the culturally relevant expertise and experience at hand, the outflow of contributions globally cannot be underestimated.

The use of cadavers in this sense is a distinct clinical advantage for humanity within the socio-cultural context of the region. This is a huge plus for the type of healthcare training that is scarce worldwide

The location of the campus near Bengaluru – purportedly among the best technological hubs – places USM-KLE as an emerging customised healthcare hub in the next phase of its expansion. By bringing appropriate and affordable technology to the common people, notably the bottom billion, what was envisaged by Gandhi can be realised sooner than we think.

The wisdom emanating from the collaborative mergers between USM and KLE points to a brighter vision over the horizon in humanising health education. If done well the benefits will be immense.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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