The allure of a medical degree, limited places in government colleges and high fees in Indian private colleges compel students to seek admission into medical colleges not only in known destinations but even in lesser known smaller countries.
Data from the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) shows that medical students from 54 countries sat for the examination to acquire a license to practice in India. The list includes countries including St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Curacao, Belarus, Tanzania, and Belize, among others.
According to data from the National Board of Education, between 2015 and 2020, 1,26,064 Indian MBBS Abroad graduates from 54 countries attended the FMGE. Most students, on their return, must pass the FMGE to obtain a license to practice in India.
Between 2015 and 2020, of these, 422 appeared for FMGE from Saint Kitts and Nevis – a dual island nation located between the Atlantic Ocean, 299 were from
Saint Lucia – an island nation in the Eastern Caribbean and 461 of Belize. From Azerbaijan, 170 students came to the FMGE. In Belarus, which is one of the poorest countries in Europe, 683 showed up for the test to be carried out in India.
Many say that the actual number of students going to these destinations is much higher.
Compared to the medical schools in the league, most of the medical schools in the Caribbean countries are new and still developing their infrastructure. In addition, due to the limited population, the number of patients is less, which limits the clinical experience of students.
“Many medical schools do not have their own hospital, which hampers clinical practice. Then, if they pass the screening, they are swamped on an internship in understaffed public medical hospitals in India,” said a doctor from Pune.
Speaking to the Indian Express, Dr. A Najeerul Ameen, President, All India Foreign Medical Graduate Association (AIFMGA), Delhi, said the actual numbers of students studying in these regions are much higher. He blamed money agents for misleading students, especially those from rural backgrounds.
“Many students, without doing proper research, fall into the traps of agents who take Rs 1-3 lakh to get them admitted to smaller countries, which lack good educational infrastructure like Russia,” he said. he declares.
According to the AIFMGA, approximately 30,000 to 40,000 students go abroad each year to pursue MBBS studies. But their main problem starts when they return to India due to the low pass rate of FMGE. Students from across the country are flocking to Delhi for admission into coaching courses, which charge Rs 40,000 to Rs 65,000 for a six-month course, in order to pass the drug test.
“The idea that it is harder than NEET is wrong. Like most central exams like CA, where only 1% of candidates pass the test, the passing percentage here is also low,” said Dr Amarpreet Singh , who teaches in a coaching in Noida.
Several medical schools in Russia and China still teach in their regional languages. “It becomes a problem for them at the FMGE. But get through their second and third attempts,” he said.
Demographic and geographic differences also become a barrier to passing the exam. Citing an example, a doctor said that Mauritius was declared malaria-free in the 1970s. “So when MBBS students come from Mauritius, they often lack basic medical knowledge of malaria in screening tests because they didn’t practice in India where the mosquito-borne disease is quite prevalent,” he said.
Unavailability to obtain a license to practice in India costs students precious years. Some even disengage and divert to other streams. “Many hospitals need qualified doctors to handle the administrative parts. So they hire those doctors who have knowledge in medicine but cannot practice,” said Dr. Amar Dwivedi, Head of Department of Surgery at School of Ayurveda, DY Patil University in Navi Mumbai. Due to the delays, they often do not even go on to graduate school in medicine.
For students who have student loans to pay, it is more difficult. “I took out a Rs 20 lakh education loan by renting my father’s farmland. So if I fail this time (third attempt) in June, I will have to give up my dream of practicing medicine,” said Dr Harshvardhan Salve, who studied at Kazan Medical University in Russia. “I’ll do an MBA in hospital management if I can’t do it,” he added.
Ameen called the FMGE “non-transparent” because the national-level exam does not share questions or answers after the test. “The Indian government does not trust its own education system. Why should a student be judged on a single entrance exam rather than the results of their jury? ” He asked.
The lack of places in India makes studying medicine extremely difficult for students from the middle income group. Against the application of 14 lakh for NEET, India has 90,000 MBBS seats. An elite private medical course costs around Rs 25 lakh per year which will go up to more than Rs 1 crore in the case of the MBBS course. In contrast, such courses in countries like Russia, China and Ukraine cost only Rs 25 lakh-Rs 30 lakh.
Interestingly, a doctor from Maharashtra Medical Council said that many families send their children abroad to get a doctor’s label without focusing on giving more time to prepare for NEET. “The general public does not understand…they think that doing MBBS in European countries is a great achievement. And parents who are doctors force their children to follow in their footsteps. If they can’t get the NEET score, they are sent abroad,” the doctor said.
Over the past three years, 988 students have obtained licenses to practice in Maharashtra after graduating from FMGE.