Affordable yet quality education offered by the country attracts foreigners who aspire to become doctors and serve people
Over the years Bangladesh has emerged as one of the preferred places for studying medicine owing to the quality education it provides at an affordable price.
This aspect draws thousands of international students, including many from neighbouring India, to Bangladesh every year when studying medicine is getting increasingly expensive in Europe, North America and other places in Asia.
Every year many students from India, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Russia and some African nations get admitted to both public and private medical colleges in Bangladesh, which offer high yet affordable standards of education.
As many as 200 seats are reserved for foreign candidates in the government medical colleges of Bangladesh, while 45% of seats in the private ones can be filled by non-native students.
Indians account for most of the international candidates, who come in droves to Bangladesh for its globally recognized medical degree, low tuition fees and better opportunities for internships at renowned medical and research centres of the world as compared to many other countries.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, several foreign students said the quality of medical studies in Bangladesh was similar to that of India — not only in terms of syllabi but also books, teaching methods and duration of the study.
Some of the Indian students said they were not in favour of going to the US or European countries to pursue a medical degree, being discouraged by the substantially higher tuition fees. Getting an MBBS degree in Bangladesh was much more affordable in comparison, they noted.
Not including the 2020-2021 academic session, some 5,000 Indians are currently studying at the 68 public and private medical colleges in Bangladesh, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
This year, around 700 Indian students were selected for enrolment in Bangladeshi medical colleges while almost 800 qualified for internships.
DGHS Director (Medical Education) Dr AKM Ahsan Habib said the Indian students got the opportunity to do their internships at the medical colleges concerned after obtaining permission from the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BMDC).
“Bangladeshi medical students also get the chance to do internships at Indian hospitals under a bilateral agreement between two countries," he added.
Why do Indians opt for studying medicine in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh attracts a large number of students from several Indian states, including West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Tripura and Manipur, and the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir each year.
Explaining why he chose to study in Bangladesh, a Maharashtra native studying at Dhaka Community Medical College Hospital said: “Bangladesh is geographically and culturally very similar to India.
“Moreover, my parents can easily contact me anytime they want, which is another advantage.”
Another Indian, who studies medicine at MH Samorita Hospital and Medical College, said: “One has to spend more than $100,000 for an MBBS degree in India, which is very expensive. We can get the same quality of education in Bangladesh and it only costs around $45,000-$50,000.”
Being a Muslim-majority country also makes Bangladesh popular among Kashmiri students, according to Munawar Abbas, who is pursuing his medical degree at Dhaka National Medical College.
Kashmiri students were quite familiar with the culture of Bangladesh because of the overlapping Islamic traditions, he said, adding: “The quality of education here is also up to the mark while being affordable for middle-class families.”
A native of Kolkata, Gita Joy Raj said Indian students trained in Bangladesh frequently did well in the entrance exam of the Medical Council of India (MCI), a test for Indians who completed their medical studies abroad.
“Many Indian students favour Bangladeshi medical colleges as they do not require a NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) score, which is compulsory in India because of the limited number of seats against the huge number of applicants,” she stated.
“Another factor is the tuition fee, which is much higher in India. Besides, Indian parents prefer Bangladesh for children’s higher studies as it is so close to home,” Gita noted.
Some Indian students currently doing their internship in Bangladesh said they had chosen to study in Bangladesh as the country’s MBBS degree and internship certificate were well-regarded by the MCI.
“The worth of an MBBS degree from Bangladesh is the same as one obtained in India. We still need to sit for the mandatory Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) screening test, but those who get their MBBS from Bangladeshi medical colleges usually clear it in one go,” one of them said.
However, despite being in demand, the medical colleges, private ones in particular, needed to upgrade their facilities to be more appealing to foreign students, DGHS Deputy Program Manager (Medical Education) Dr Khandoker Mynul Hasan opined.
Studies hampered, students frustrated
Hundreds of Indian students, who have yet to complete their medical studies in Bangladesh, are currently stuck in their home country due to the pandemic situation.
They said they desperately wanted to return to Bangladesh, mostly to finish their internships, but were unable to do so owing to the closure of the border and suspension of air travel between the two countries.
The Bangladesh government had yet to permit them to enter the country and the Indian embassy did not take any measures in this regard either, some of the students stuck at home told Dhaka Tribune.
“We have already lost a year or so [due to the pandemic] and the delay in our internships is only adding to our woes,” said one distressed student.