Philippines, like Ukraine, China and some other eastern European countries, has been one of the ‘noiseless’ hot destinations for students from India interested in pursuing medical education for years before Ukraine-Russia war, made it noticeable with the emergency evacuation rescue operation ‘Ganga’ from Ukraine. Covid 19 pandemic had already got this severely impacted huge student population in the spotlight. National Medical Council (NMC), the national regulator of medical education in India, naturally got engaged with the representations and PILs. So, while dealing with the representations and information about foreign education and their equivalence in India, NMC, rather got cagey about graduates returning from medical schools in Philippines.
A large number of Indian students, some estimates put it at more than 30,000, are currently at various levels pursuing medical studies in Philippines. As per the practice before NMC’s Public Notice of March 25, 2022, the graduates who after ‘qualifying’ NEET in India and having completed Bachelor of Science (BS) in Philippines, a pre-medical course of 1.5 years and then successfully qualifying 4-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) again in Philippines, were considered equivalent to MBBS in India and allowed to write FMGE. Now, that equivalence stands ‘cancelled’ as per NMC regulation. “BS and MD course are two separate degrees in Philippines. BS cannot be equated/included in MBBS course. Therefore, after the publication of the Gazette notification dated 18.11.2021, i.e., NMC’s FMGL Regulations 2021, the students who have already taken admission in any foreign medical qualification/course, which is not equivalent to the MBBS course in India, cannot be treated as eligible qualification for registration to practice medicine in India. Whereas the students who have taken admission in MD (Doctor of Medicine) course prior to FMGL Regulations 2021 can be considered subject to fulfilling other prevailing eligibility criteria for registration.” NMC in its notification contended that the BS course in the Philippines is like 11th and 12th classes in India and cannot be counted as part of medical degree program.
So effectively the students who have taken admissions from 2019-2021 batches have been rendered ineligible for registration for practice back home and the issue has been building up for the past one year. Now parents of these ‘ill-fated’ students have decided to hit the streets and demand ‘justice’ for their children. On October 5, 2023, dozens of such parents held a protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi demanding recognition of Philippines degrees to save career of the students.
“We the parents and students of 2020 & 2021 BS + MD Philippines batch humbly request the authorities concerned to kindly GIVE ONE TIME EXEMPTION and withdraw 25th March 2022 NMC Public Notice & keep the students of these batches away from purview of 18th Nov 2021 Gazette and be protected under Rule 5(1),” they pleaded.
“MD (Doctor of Medicine) is recognized widely around the world including USA and for the past couple of decades Indian Foreign Medical MD Graduates have been successfully practicing in after successful completion of MD Curriculum and clearing FMGE (Foreign Medical Graduate Exams) in India. So how is it now the degree has become substandard?” questioned the parents.
What has made the matter worse is the false assurances from the officials of NMC and others. “Parents and students made several calls and visits to NMC office after the 18th of November 2021 Gazette and where students doing BS or Pre-Medical told or AB Course or Undergoing MD are exempted from the Gazette norms. Therefore, the students continued their BS Course or Joined MD in Philippines,” allege the agitating parents. Further, Indian Embassy in Philippines vide its Advisory dated 4th January 2022 conveyed that the students currently pursuing Pre Med ( BS / AB ) course and will commence Medical Degree (MD) only after 18th Nov 2021 Gazette would require Special Relaxation from NMC. And then the March 25, 2022, shocked all the students of 2020 & 2021 batches of BS + MD who were not granted exemption from the regulations. Additionally, those exempted have to produce a certificate of authenticity from a government agency in Philippines.
“For students, it means additional 2.5 years of Career besides an additional burden of over Rs 20 lakhs for the extended duration as per Gazette to the students from Middle Class families with many having taken Educational Loans,” they said.