|Year : 2014 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 199-203
Attitudes and perceptions of dental students in Tamil Nadu state toward their curriculum and profession
Sharath Asokan, Baby John, PR Geetha Priya, N Bharathi
Department of Pediatric Dentistry, KSR Institute of Dental Science and Research, Tiruchengode, Tamil Nadu, India
|Date of Web Publication||15-Nov-2014|
Department of Pediatric Dentistry, KSR Institute of Dental Science and Research, Tiruchengode 637 215, Tamil Nadu
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background: Medicine and engineering still seems to be the most chosen career and the decision in the choice is largely influenced by the parents. Right attitude toward the chosen profession and the perceptions about the existing curriculum are important for any student to be successful in the college as well as in the career. Materials and Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study was carried out among 466 undergraduate (bachelor of dental surgery) students from randomly chosen dental colleges in Tamil Nadu to assess their attitude and perception toward their curriculum and profession. A validated closed ended questionnaire with 18 questions was used in this study. The information obtained were: Reason to opt for the dental course, the most-hated part of the curriculum, adequacy of lecture and clinical hours, number and duration of lecture classes and clinical hours preferred, reason for not liking a particular subject, and the most important factor to be considered to rate a teacher. The proportion of the response was calculated to assess the overall attitude and perceptions of the students. Results: Forty-two percent of the students opted for the dental course because they did not get admission to the medical course. Written assignments (52%) were the most hated part of their curriculum. -42% of the students believed that the ideal attendance percentage should be 75%. Knowledge and teaching skills (79%) was the most important factor that was considered to rate a teacher. Conclusion: Majority of the students developed passion toward their profession. There was no serious complains about the existing curriculum, but a newer education model that can enhance the problem solving, and critical evaluation skills of the student is warranted.
Keywords: Attitude, dental students, perceptions
|How to cite this article:|
Asokan S, John B, Geetha Priya P R, Bharathi N. Attitudes and perceptions of dental students in Tamil Nadu state toward their curriculum and profession. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2014;12:199-203
|How to cite this URL:|
Asokan S, John B, Geetha Priya P R, Bharathi N. Attitudes and perceptions of dental students in Tamil Nadu state toward their curriculum and profession. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2014 [cited 2019 Nov 20];12:199-203. Available from: http://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2014/12/3/199/144798
| Introduction|| |
Though career guidance has evolved well in developing countries like India, medicine and engineering still seems to be the most chosen career. The decision made by the students on their career is majorly influenced by their parents.  Sruthi and Koizumi carried out a study among South Indian higher secondary school students regarding their academic/career plans and their perceptions of business compared with science. Business was comparable with, but not superior to, science and engineering. Parents played a vital role in the decision made by the engineering students while business students chose it for salary and career prospects. 
In Tamil Nadu state, South India, there are totally 28 dental colleges: One government dental college and the remaining are either self-financing private institutions affiliated to the state university or the ones belonging to autonomous deemed universities. Most of the students in these colleges join dentistry for many other reasons apart from their interest in this field. They may or can develop a liking or passion after they join the course. In any field, students with positive attitude and perceptions are generally proficient learners. There exists a complex relationship between attitude, perception and learning. There are two categories of attitudes and perceptions that affect learning: (a) About the learning climate (b) about the routine classroom tasks. Psychologists have started to focus on the classroom climate as the function of the attitudes and perceptions of the learner rather than the other external factors like the quality and quantity of resources available.  Good attitudes and perceptions toward the routine tasks can help in creating a conducive environment for learning. Hence, this study was planned with the aim to evaluate the attitudes and perceptions of the dental students of Tamil Nadu toward their curriculum and profession.
| Materials and Methods|| |
This cross-sectional study was conducted by the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, KSR Institute of Dental Science and Research, Tiruchengode, India. The study proposal was approved by the Institutional Review Board and Ethical Committee clearance was obtained. The students from dental colleges in and around Erode and Salem city participated in this study. Prior to the study, a letter of consent was obtained from the concerned Deans of the dental colleges. Since the study was on the attitude of the students on their curriculum and profession, only students who had started working with patients and have been exposed to all the branches of dentistry were included. Students with a minimum of 1-year of clinical experience were approached in the classroom and explained about the study. Convenience sampling was used, and a total of 466 dental students consented willingly. Hence, the final sample included 283 final year students and 183 interns from four different colleges.
A focus group discussion was conducted with 6 faculty members to frame the questions to be included in the questionnaire. A pilot study was carried out with 30 interns of KSR Institute of Dental Science to ensure the validity of the initial survey questionnaire (25 questions). With the results of the pilot study, focus group discussion was organized, and the questions were reduced to 18. The final validated closed-ended questionnaire was used for the present study. The questionnaire was handed over to participants and was collected immediately on completion. The proportion of the response for each question was tabulated.
The population studied was almost of the same age, same clinical experience and all of them belonged to private dental institutions of two adjoining districts. Hence, no attempt was made to check any statistical difference in the attitude of the students based on their gender, age, institution, year of study or any other demographic factors.
| Results|| |
There were 253 girls and 213 boys in this study. Among the students, 328 were inmates of the college hostel, and 138 students were day scholars. All the 18 questions with the proportion of the choices given have been shown in [Table 1]. It was found that 42% of the students opted for the dental course because they did not get admission to the medical course, and 18% of them joined dentistry out of parent's compulsion. Three hundred and ninety-nine students (85%) developed passion toward the course after joining it.
|Table 1: Student's attitude and perception toward their curriculum and profession |
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About 77% and -64% of the students felt they had adequate lecture classes and clinical hours respectively. 60% preferred two lecture classes a day. The preferred duration of the lecture was 45 min for 59% of the sample. Morning session lectures was the choice for 84% of the students. Power Point slide presentation was the preferred mode for the lecture by 72% of the students and 28% still preferred the conventional blackboard teaching. The preferred number of clinical hours/day, the number of working hours/day and days/week were 3 h, 6 h and 5 days respectively.
The ideal attendance percentage preferred was 75% by 44 of the students and 70% by 34% of the students. -62% of them had bunked a lecture/clinical hour, and 52% hated the written assignments the most. Not understanding the topic (54%) seemed to be the most common reason for not liking a particular subject. The overall rating for their teachers was good in 50% of the sample. Knowledge and teaching skills (79%) was the most important factor considered in rating a teacher. -44% of the students planned to pursue postgraduation and 25% of them intended to start their private clinic immediately after their course.
| Discussion|| |
The scope of this study was to assess the attitudes and perceptions of the dental students of Tamil Nadu. This study was carried out in the strong belief that the behavior of a person is strongly shaped by his/her attitude. The role of parents and Dental Council of India (DCI) has been briefed below to understand the need for the study better.
Role of parents
Unlike in most western countries, in India, the parents not only choose the career/college for their adolescent children but also take care of the entire cost for the course. In the existing situation, the eligibility criterion for a seat in most of the private dental colleges in India is a 50% aggregate in the board exam conducted by the government. Social inequities also play a major role, and only parents who can afford to pay the fees structure set by the institution can get an admission for their children in a dental college.  In the opening day of the first academic year, all the students along with their parents are explained the professional ethics and consequences associated with unethical behavior.  In some colleges, a group of students are allotted to a teacher, as wards. The parents of these wards can approach the respective teachers to follow the student's academic progress. Teachers usually inform the parents about any misconduct of the students before taking any serious action. This study was planned since most dental students join the course based on the decisions made by their parents.
Role of Dental Council of India
The DCI, the accrediting body, prescribes the curriculum, details of lectures and clinical hours for the dental courses offered in India. They set and revise the syllabus, the academic and clinical work to be completed for bachelors and masters degree during the course in dentistry. The recognition for the institutions is also granted by the DCI. They conduct periodic inspections to maintain the education standards in the dental colleges throughout the country. The current norms include 75% attendance percentage and 1160 working hours. In the present study, questions regarding lectures and clinical hours were asked and compared with the gold standard set by the DCI.
A validated questionnaire with 18 closed-ended questions was used. The choices for the questions were discussed among the focus group members and framed based on the existing situation in India. It was found that most of the students opted for the course because they did not manage to get admission to a medical college. 18% of them joined dentistry because their parents wanted them to do so. About 35% of them chose dentistry as their career because they were interested in it, and most of them developed an interest after they joined the course.
According to the DCI's revised bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) course regulations (2007), the total number of working hours is 1160 h; 280 lecture hours and 880 clinical hours. The students work for almost 260-280 days/year on average. In the present study, most of the students felt they had adequate clinical hours and lecture classes. Power Point slide presentation lecture was the preferred over conventional blackboard teaching. There is more of didactic teaching in Indian dental colleges.  Treatment planning sessions, case discussions, critical evaluations of the existing literature and development of logical reasoning skills is absent. For the lecture classes, morning sessions and 45 min duration were preferred. Randler and Frech have shown that the time of day preference can be attributed to genetics, social and environmental factors. They showed that females are more morning oriented than males. They found that a shift toward "eveningness" began around the age of 12.  But, in the present study, 84% of students preferred a morning session lecture class. Most of the students (76%) preferred to work 5 days a week which was against the existing scenario where they work 6 days a week. The minimum attendance percentage preferred was in accordance with the norms set by the DCI: 44% of the students preferred the 75% minimal attendance.
Absenteeism is a common finding especially because of the transition from school to college. Written assignments which makeup a considerable work for the dental students was the most hated part of the course. Students did not like a particular subject mainly because did not understand the topics (54%). It was a perfect tie in the overall rating of the teachers between the good on one side and fair and poor together on the other side. Myers has shown that the dental students accepted that the effective instructors took their teaching responsibilities seriously. They were technically competent and behaved in a professional manner during their discussions and interactions with students and patients.  In this study, the students rated the teacher's knowledge/teaching skills were more important than their personality/language skills and seniority/teaching experience. Murphy et al. concluded that dental students prefer to learn by attending lectures and prefer instructors who use detailed visuals to augment their verbal presentations and facilitate students' note-writing during class with guided lecture notes and handouts.  The last question was included to know if the students had a career plan for their future. It was again an expected finding that 25% were yet to decide, while some wanted to start clinical practice, and some had decided to pursue a postgraduate course. Colleges offering postgraduate courses are very less compared to the undergraduate institutions.  As per the DCI, the average number of BDS graduates from India is about 30,570/year and about 2800 postgraduate students enroll every year.  Again, the decisions are influenced strongly by the student's family and his/her economical situation.
Limitations and future plans
It has become an evident fact that the attitudes of the dental students have an impact on the quality of care provided by them. Future research should focus on the effect of the students' attitudes and perceptions on their academic and clinical performances. Though the names of the participants were not collected, the fear of potential disclosure could have caused some impact on answering the questions.
The authors feel that the educational system in India is unlike those in the western countries. A newer education model to enhance the problem solving and critical evaluation skills of the student is warranted. Clinical seminars, case presentations, journal discussions, inter departmental activities and comprehensive treatment planning sessions have to be included into the undergraduate curriculum. Analytical and logical reasoning skills should take the front seat in the dental course in India. The students will not only be benefitted, but their attitude toward dentistry and health care is sure to change.
| Conclusion|| |
The present study showed that most of the student's attitudes, perceptions and likes were understandable, acceptable and were within the norms set by the DCI. It was also evident that the parents play an important role in the decision made by the students to join a dentistry. The authors also feel the need in the change of the curricular activities of the dental students in India.
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