China's traditional medicine authorities on Wednesday legalized apprenticeships for training doctors as an alternative to medical schools.
"We are trying to follow tradition," said Xu Zhiren, director of the medical administration department of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM), at a pressconference.
For thousands of years, doctors of traditional Chinese medicine passed on their knowledge through apprentices, especially from father to son.
When China adopted a modern education system, medical schools supplanted the former system and the administration only recognized school graduates as candidates for practitioner licenses before the new regulation.
But many doctors prefer keeping effective and original prescriptions as "family secrets" and only tell them to people they trust.
"As traditional medicine is based very much on experience, apprenticeships will have advantages in training doctors that schooling won't have," Xu said. "We are trying to make it an alternative way of education."
It would also help to boost the number of talented doctors, he said.
According to the regulation, a high school graduate can train for three years under a veteran with a legal practitioner's license and 15 years of experience before applying to the provincial traditional Chinese medicine authority to sit a competency exam.
The exam will cover knowledge and skills in traditional Chinese medicine and test whether the student fully grasps the expertise of the tutor.
They can intern at a hospital for a year if they pass and apply to sit the practitioner exam with medical school graduates, if they receive a good performance assessment during the internship, the regulation said.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses a holistic understanding of the human body and the universe as described in Taoism to treat patients, mainly with herbal remedies. Doctors rarely perform surgery.
(Xinhua News Agency November 8, 2007)