Pune: Thousands of students pursuing Bachelors of Science (BS) in Philippines are in a fix after the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) recently announced that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) will be mandatory even for students aspiring to go overseas for medical education.
Studying BS is treated as pre-medical education in Philippines, after which students are allowed to pursue a Doctors in Medicine (MD), which is equivalent to MBBS in India. Indian students studying there were left bewildered by the Ministry's decision, as they are unable to comprehend if they are eligible to take NEET now.
Meanwhile, a circular released by MoHFW said that the Ministry has received grievances of students already pursuing medical education abroad, requesting it to exempt them from the requirement of qualifying NEET. "In this context, it is informed that the regulations prescribe that the Indian citizens/overseas citizens of India intending to obtain primary medical qualification from any medical institution outside India, on or after May 2018, have to mandatorily qualify NEET for admission to MBBS courses abroad. The decision will be implemented prospectively from May 2018. Thus, students, who have already taken admission under current regulations to pursue primary medical courses by taking an eligibility certificate from the Medical Council of India, are exempted from qualifying for NEET," it read.
In most foreign countries, students directly get enrolled for MBBS/MD immediately after reaching there. In Philippines, the law is different, where medical education starts with BS, which is a pre-medical course for one year. After successful completion of BS, they will be enrolled for MD, which is equivalent to MBBS.
"Although this circular does not mention names of any foreign country, but it has mentioned only about primary medical education, which is MBBS in a foreign country and not about pre-medical education, which is followed mainly in USA and Germany. Students already pursuing BS are in a fix as when they come back to India to practise medicine, non-qualification in NEET will pronounce them as unqualified. The Central government must consider them under the exemption category like others, who have been exempted by MCI," said Dr Tushar Deoras, International career counsellor.
Speaking to Sakal Times, Advocate Sachindra Jadhav, whose daughter Priya Jadhav is currently pursuing last year in BS from Philippines and will be completing her course by May 2018, said, "My daughter had qualified NEET to take admission in Indian medical colleges in 2016. However, due to reservation system, she was unable to take admission in the preferred colleges, while deemed universities demanded high amount of donation. Under these circumstances, we were forced to admit her in a foreign college where the quality of education is good and not as expensive as in India. Moreover, we had sought admission at MCI approved and Indian embassy recommended colleges for medical education in Philippines. MCI had then said that they will provide eligibility certificate once the BS course is completed, which will be getting over this year in May."
"However, the criteria to qualify NEET has created confusion. The Central government has not given clear instructions regarding the new provision, which has made students tense there, as the last date to fill forms for NEET 2018 is March 9. It is not possible for those students to return to India and attempt NEET as their BS exams are due in April. There will also be syllabus differences. Therefore, whether they will have to attempt NEET again or else how will they receive eligibility certificate from Indian government is unclear," said Jadhav.
There are several other parents who have reported similar conditions. In a letter to Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Member of Parliament (MP) in Lok Sabha from Akola Sanjay Dhotre has requested to reconsider the decision to make NEET compulsory and conveyed the uncertainty and confusion prevailing among students and parents.
"There are about 3,000 students, who had taken admission in previous academic year and joined BS after full payment of fees. The BS exams are due in the month of April. As the decision of MoHFW has come in February, in such a short time it will be difficult for students to appear for NEET. At least three-four months for preparation should have been given to them. Due to lack of clarity from the authority, students who have joined medical colleges in Philippines are on the verge of losing the hard earned money of their parents and cancellation of admissions," reads the letter.