CHENNAI: When K Sasidharan (17), who scored 70% in the Class 12 board exam this year, approached a private medical college on OMR to study medicine, the ‘donation’ quoted by the college was close to `80 lakh. A few other private medical colleges also quoted a similar amount. He says that this a reason why students prefer to study medicine abroad.
Despite knowing that the Medical Council of India’s (MCI) screening test to practice medicine in India is tough, Sasidharan would rather pursue MBBS abroad. He secured admission at Ashtrakhan State Medical University, a decade-old Russian institution without having to pay capitation or tuition fee. The annual fee is just `4-5 lakhs. He adds that Russians are friendly to Indian students and medical education there is more practical-oriented.
Dr B Sidharth Shankar (25), who finished his MD general physician course (equivalent to Indian MBBS) in Russia in 2014 and practices at a private hospital here, echoes the student’s thoughts. “I scored 1,125 marks in Class 12. When I approached private medical colleges, they charged me about `25 lakh as capitation fee. By the end of the course, I would have spent close to `70 lakh. But I got my degree in Russia for `23 lakh, inclusive of hostel stay, personal expenses etc. I got through the screening test in India in my first attempt,” he says, and adds that the screening test in India is beyond difficult. “Even a few Indian PG doctors I know found the question paper tough. But I worked hard, and that’s why I got through in my first attempt,” he says.
The objective-type screening test has 300 questions, and candidates who score at least 150 marks get the approval of the MCI to practice in the country. There are also allegations that the MCI takes a month to announce the results even though the screening test is now online.
Those who have passed the Class 12 board exam and secured at least 50% in physics, chemistry and biology are eligible to apply to medical colleges abroad and the standard of medical education is said to be as good as in Indian colleges. Many claim that the MCI makes the screening test difficult to regulate the number of Indian students who go abroad to study medicine.
“This is also done to ensure a high standard of doctors practicing in the country,” says Dr GR Ravindranath, general secretary, Doctor’s Association for Social Equality (DASE), who also agrees that most students prefer foreign destinations because of the exorbitant fees private colleges here charge. Students end up spending close to `1.50 crore to finish the course here.
Another reason for this is that there are not enough medical colleges here, say doctors. “Every year around 6 lakh Indian students want to study medicine. But there are only about 412 medical colleges in the country, in which only about 52,000 students can study. For the rest, medical education remains a dream,” Dr Ravindranath added. Dr K Senthil, president, Tamil Nadu Medical Council, says that some candidates haven’t been able to clear the screening test in India for about five years. The MCI is very strict about the screening test. There is also a belief that the standard of medical education in India is better than that abroad.
B Bhaskaran, proprietor of Safeway Edu Consultancy, which sends students to Russia to study medicine, says that the consultancy sent 36 students abroad last year, and this year 14 students have been selected so far. However Dr Sidharth does sound out a word of caution: “Students are often duped by consultancies. Many agencies collect college fee from students’ parents, which they don’t pay to the college. They also charge them exorbitant fees. I have also heard of students being expelled from college in Russia due to pending fees. Parents should be cautious before approaching consultancies,” he warns.
Every year around 6 lakh Indian students want to study medicine. But there are only about 412 medical colleges in the country, in which only about 52,000 can study
— Dr Ravindranath, DASE