MBBS in Bangladesh: Breaking the Stereotypes

At present, there are a total of 112 recognized medical colleges in Bangladesh, 36 of which are public, and 70 private. Apart from these, there are six medical colleges that are run by the Bangladesh Armed Forces and are under the Ministry of Defense. Out of all private colleges, 30 alone are in Dhaka making it an educational hub for foreign medical students.

The majority of students residing in Bangladesh come from India. Here is why:

Out of 42,565 government seats available, 15.97 lakh students appeared in an annual entrance exam of 2020, that is only 2.66% of students will finally get admitted to government medical colleges. That leaves private colleges, including deemed universities, with around 35,500 seats available. It is almost impossible for an average middle-class family to bear the hefty cost that it entails. Hence students are left with no option but to go abroad. At present, an ordinary medical student pays a fee of Rs 25 lakh annually in Maharashtra and Delhi. While in Bangladesh an entire course can be summed up in less than Rs 50 lakh. This huge difference in expenditure attracts students to consider their further studies in this country.

While several Indian students move mountains to get a medical degree from foreign countries, most of them fail to get through the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam (FMGE) —a screening test that offers the license to practice in India. From 2015–2018, the total pass percentage of the exam was 14.22%, with only 8,731 out of 61,418 candidates who appeared in the past four years managed to pass the exam. Despite such tough scrutiny, students from Bangladesh happen to have the highest pass percentage amongst all other countries — with a percentage of 27.11%.

Standard quality of education and lower financial burden are the two main reasons, why most students prefer Bangladesh for medical education.

Breaking the stereotype about incompetence

Medical Colleges in Bangladesh produce incompetent graduates, may be, but every medical graduate produced in Bangladesh is incompetent, is a vicious lie based on a biased stereotype.

The standard percentile cutoff for NEET PG set by the National Board of Examinations (NBE) is 50th percentile for the unreserved category candidate. It means you need more marks than what 50% of the population has scored. For example, last year for the general category, of all the people who took this exam, 50% of people had a score below 366/1200. Then the passing percentile was further reduced to 30th, making a revised cut off score of 275. So anyone who had scored above 275 cleared NEET PG. Calculating the percentage of marks, anyone who scored more than 22.9% passed the exam.

Now compare this with Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) where the criteria for passing is percentage, not percentile. Students who score below 50 % don’t make it (same passing marks for NEET PG is 22.9%). Here cut off score is already decided — students have to score 150 or above out of 300, otherwise, they won’t pass.

According to an estimate, around 50,000 MBBS students pass out of medical colleges every year in India. Only about 50 percent of these qualify for postgraduate MD seats.

I have no intention of demeaning native graduates but this stereotype of foreign incompetent doctors,  should end. Neither a graduate scoring below 275 in NEET PG nor below 150 in FMGE should be judged as incompetent. Hundreds of students fail by the margin of a single question or a mark every year and how dumb are those who scale their entire degree on such a trivial (yet a crucial) mistake.

Studying Medicine in Bangladesh is not Easy; instead, it is Harder

Medicine is not easy, not for anyone. A study of medical students from 70 institutions across India had revealed that nearly 50% of MBBS students wanted to opt-out midway. Despite all the comforts, one can get at home, medicine can make you miserable.

While as in a foreign country it is even harder. For the study, a learning environment is essential, and believe me, studying at home is a privilege. A country with a different language and people, it is very hard to cope up psychologically. One can argue — What does food have to do with the study? The answer is — a lot. A healthy state of mind and body is pivotal in extracting every bit of your potential. Despite feeling homesick FMGs manage to catch up.

A hard rigorous daily schedule with hundreds of exams every year, passing out without a backlog is a big deal.

It is Okay to get admitted to a College on Donation

People usually freak out, every time they hear about someone getting admitted on donation. Probably because it is in our psych to dislike privileged people out there. It is a fact, sometimes higher education is predominantly the prerogative of the rich. The total 2020–2021 cost of attending Harvard College without financial aid is $49,653( i.e Rs 36.5 lakh) for tuition and $72,391 (i.e. Rs 53.25 lakh) for tuition, room, board, and fees combined. It would be lame to shame anyone for acquiring education. Even if someone needs to loan it from a bank like the majority of students do it in the developed countries. So those who feel irritated, should calm down and introspect. It’s only books that students want to read. They will ultimately benefit no one but the people in general. So many deserving foreign candidates after qualifying FMGE and NEET PG joined the workforce and are serving day and night. They at least deserve respect.

Samiullah Bhat is 4th-year MBBS student at International Medical College Dhaka