Here’s why foreign medical degrees are no longer fancy
The FMGE was introduced in 2002. Before that, like Indian medical graduates, foreign graduates too only had to complete a year of compulsory internship in India before getting their permanent registration numbers from the MCI. Rajesh Sharma, director of Delhi Institute For Advanced Medical Studies (DIAMS), which was opened in 2003 to coach foreign graduates for the FMGE, believes that the screening test was required at the time. “Back then, Indian medical students were mainly going to Russia or other central Asian countries like Ukraine. At the time, the quality of education there was not up to the mark,” says Sharma. “Today, 60 per cent of my students are from China. Philippines is also fast gaining popularity and offers quality education,” he adds. Students, FMGE coaching centres and agents who help place Indian medical aspirants in foreign universities point out the several advantages of studying in China instead of Russia. “For one, internship in China is recognised by the MCI, unlike that done in Russia. So one can start practising sooner on return,” says Sharma. Until recently, China was also cheaper. “In 2010, it was possible to complete one’s education there for Rs 5 to 7 lakhs less than in Russia. But since then, the Rouble has weakened and China has developed faster so it has become more expensive. Also, most Chinese universities have now put a restriction on the number of Indian students they are allowing every year,” says Sharma.
Students insist that, with an eye on the FMGE and to ensure a steady flow of Indian students, universities abroad have evolved an improved pattern of education. “The curriculum in India and these countries is similar. Indians and other foreign students such as those from Pakistan or Bangladesh are not taught in the same class as domestic students. We study Indian books and Indian doctors and professors come down as visiting faculty members,” says Rohit Singh, a medical graduate from China, who has been in New Delhi for a year now trying to clear the FMGE. Some universities have tied-up with coaching centres in India. Delhi-based surgeon Vineet Gupta, who opened the Medical Institute for Screening Test (MIST) in 2012, has tied up with three Central Asian universities. “When I was a senior resident physician, many of the graduates from Russia didn’t even know how to apply a catheter. That is not the case now. Most hospitals in India have foreign medical graduates working for them,” he says. He admits, however, that a small section of Indian doctors are still prejudiced against foreign medical graduates and prefer to work with those trained in India.
FACT OF THE MATTER
While mindsets may change with time, it is less easy to ignore the NBE records. In the past five years, the percentage of foreign medical graduates who have cleared the FMGE has varied between 13.09 to 26.9 per cent. “The suboptimal performance by foreign medical graduates in the screening test is related to the deficient level of training and teaching at institutes from where these graduates are obtaining their primary medical qualification. Besides variance in course curriculum and syllabus in foreign medical colleges vis-a-vis the curriculum notified by the MCI in Graduate Medical Regulations, there is less clinical exposure for foreign medical graduates, which is one of the most important reasons for poor performance in subjects like community medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics,” says a source in the NBE. “The absence of entrance tests in foreign medical institutes is also a key factor”. The NBE says that, between 2005 and 2013, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare sent delegations to countries like China and Russia to analyse the quality of medical education there. They found the result to be far from satisfactory. It is ironical then that the MCI, on its website, puts up a list of available colleges in China every year.
A PRACTICAL PROBLEM
Most foreign medical graduates admit that their practical knowledge and clinical exposure is less than what is given at Indian institutes - government and public. Language is a challenge. “While most Chinese institutes have English medium classes for Indian students, in Russia the course includes a year’s training in the local language. That is not enough to give the students a good enough grip to study in the language. Even when classes are held in English, Indian students, who have studied in vernacular medium schools find it difficult to keep up,” says Sharma. The alien language is especially a hurdle when it comes to practical study or clinical duties. “Most patients, whether in China, Russia or Ukraine, speak the local language,” says Dia (25), who is preparing for her second shot at the FMGE.