Indians flock to Philippines for medical degrees
By Santosh Digal
Manila: The Philippines, a Southeastern Asian nation, has become a much sought after destination for Indians seeking medical degrees.
According to the Indian embassy, more than 8,000 Indians study science and medicine in the Philippines this year. Among them, the maximum, around 4,500, are in Davao Medical School Foundation (DMSF), Davao, southern Philippines. Davao is the native city of the Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte where he was the mayor for 20 years.
On July 24, Indian Ambassador (Designate) Jaideep Mazumdar to the Philippines interacted with Indian students in DMSF. Presently, about 4,500 students are enrolled in the DMSF studying BS and medical course. DMSF followed by Perpetual Dalta in Las Pinas which has about 1,800 Indian students.
Indian students are also in National Capital Region of Manila, Vigan (Northern Philippines), Cebu (Southern Philippines) and Bicol (or known as God’s little paradise), which is the friendly heart of the Visayas region and one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the country.
The ambassador was taken around the DMSF to see the infrastructure facilities. During his interaction with the students, he asked the Indian students to register with the embassy and be in close touch with the it.
The number of Indian students studying in government and private-run medical colleges in the Philippines is on the rise over the years.
The Philippines has turned a favorite place after China cut intake by almost half and sanctions have been imposed on Russia universities.
The Philippines offers low-cost of education and has a large English-speaking community, besides the expanding presence of Indian businesses and growing domestic tourist inflows.
Also, driving the interest among the Indian students is the extensive efforts being made by the local education consultants, predominantly in the south, to popularize the country as the ideal low-cost destination.
Education consultants in India say the Philippines was being increasingly preferred due to the “cost factor” and the air travel time of 8-12 hours from major metros.
Medical schools in the Philippines follow American system of medical education and the Primary Medical qualification is MD (Doctor in Medline) degree. This qualification is globally recognized including the Medical Council of India (MCI).
The MD program of Philippines is a unique opportunity to students who have passed twelfth grade or equivalent examinations to pursue medical education of International standards. The period of medical study in Philippines is five years four months, inclusive of one year of premedical study.
On average, in a class of 100 overseas students, Indians numbered up to 90 in most of the 20-22 universities in the Philippines. Each of its universities is making available a class of 150 students, says Subhashish Bhaumik, an official of Omkar Medicom, a leading education consultancy based in India.
He said the country had a good mix of government and private-run medical universities, with the fee in state universities starting from 1.2 million rupees for the five-and-a-half year MBBS course, and the private sector varsities charging in the range 1.5 to 3 million rupees.
The fee includes student accommodation expenses during the course duration. The eligibility criteria are a minimum 50 percent score in the related science subjects and 50 per cent in English. However, these students will have to sit for the MCI conducted conversion exam to get recognition.
The trend is expected to continue for coming years, as China, the other destinations have initiated steps to reduce the intake of overseas students in its varsities with an aim to achieve healthy balance in student intake from India and other Asian countries.
As against 6,020 seats placed under overseas admissions in 52 universities during 2013-2014, China had reduced it significantly to 3,470 seats for 2015-2016, as per the MCI website.
On the Chinese move to check the inflow of Indian students in its universities, Paul Chellakumar, chairman of career consultant Campus Abroad, said China doesn’t want to take risk as it was aiming to become an important destination in the lucrative global education services market. Regulating the flow of students from a single country was part of its well-devised strategy. China allows students from 33 countries to access its universities.
Chinese might have decided not to risk their global standing in case the Indian students fail to meet the standards set by the group of developed nations for practicing medicine.
Even Canada had started tightening admission process for Indian students on similar grounds.
He added Russian universities had a bitter experience a few years ago as Indian students passing out from their universities fared poor on performance standards set by the UK and the US. However, Russia did not resort to Chinese-like steps restricting the intake. But the sanctions imposed by the US and European countries could discourage Indians to study in Russia, according to sources.
The average yearly tuition fees for MBBS courses in China is 225,000 to 360,000 rupees, and the MBBS students from China who appear for MCI screening test have a record of more success when compared with those from other countries.
International students do not need to learn the Chinese language, Mandarin, for understanding their course but can opt for courses which are taught in English. Students completing their medical courses are eligible for appearing to the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), MCI screening as well as Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board of the UK.
However, Ukraine, the largest country in Europe, is creating favorable conditions for foreign students to study in its universities. The country admits a significant number of Indian students. Though the actual figures are not available, domestic consultants estimate it could be 600-1,000 every year.
Why do Indian students prefer Philippines for their medical education? Here are some possible reasons: Philippines comprises one of the world’s largest diaspora. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout. It enjoys good affinity and kinship with the western world. Most of the Indian parents believe that Philippines is the right destination for their children to study as it offers numerous valid and good reasons along with quality education.
Philippines is the world third largest English speaking country, the medium of learning in English, follow up and ensuring admission from the university in due course and English is the mode of instruction in all levels of education and widely used language for business, education, communication and trade.
As English is an official language of Philippines, along with Filipino, the medium of teaching is English in a lot of reputed universities and medical schools. English is used everywhere in the country. All road signs and advertising is done in English. It has an environment where one is forced to speak in English and one gets to learn English language very fast at an extremely low price. Therefore, it encourages foreign students to pursue their studies in Philippines.
Since Philippines boasts a tropical climate, the Indian students adapt well and quick and feel more at home and ease.
The health conditions of the patients of Philippines and their medical concerns, match that of the Indians. Hence, Indian students need not hesitate to put their medical knowledge and practice gained in Philippines into use in India. Low cost of living is 50%-60% less compared to Australia or any country of that standard.
Filipinos are great hosts. They are friendly and understanding. The Philippines enjoys diverse races of people from different region. The country is extremely safe, even for foreigners, women and children. Living and travel expenses in Philippines are extremely affordable and affordable overseas education and tuition fees and quick and easy availability of student visa and low IELTS (International English Language Testing System) which is the world’s most popular English language test of listening, reading, writing and speaking, which is often a perquisite for language proficiency.
The health conditions of the patients of Philippines and their medical concerns, match that of the Indians. Hence, Indian students need not hesitate to put their medical knowledge and practice gained in Philippines into use in India.
Medical degrees offered by Philippines are often recognized by WHO, ECFMG (Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates), USMLE (United State Medical Licensing Examination) and FAIMER (Foundation for Advancement of International Education. Passing the test will help the candidate to practice in US and a candidate eligible to join PhD courses directly after MD.
Indian students on successful completion of the medical course and award of MD degree are required to appear for a screening test / foreign medical graduate examination by National Board of Examinations for registration with Medical Council of India.
However, the Indian Embassy in the Philippines has issued a caution for for Indian students wishing to pursue medical education in the Philippines.
“The Philippines continues to be an attractive destination for Indian students wishing to pursue medical education. However, before getting admission to a medical college, a few pointers in the form of FAQ’s listed below would be useful for Indian students. Kindly note that the FAQ’s are purely advisory and students are advised to exercise due diligence by checking the latest updates/rule position from Commission of Higher Education (www.ched.gov.ph),” says an advisory issued by the Indian Embassy.
Some time ago, the Indian Embassy in Manila issued a press release on the list of medical institutions in the Philippines recognized by their own nodal agency which is CHED medical schools in the Philippines where Indian students might seek admission for their medical education, and not to fall prey to fraudulent means of some medical consultants (either in the home country or overseas) who might falsely promise prospective Indian students for their medical education aspirations.
On the other hand, there some educational consultants based in India who is a bit of apprehensive with regards to Indian students going to the Philippines for higher education.
One of them is Shahina Khan who has more than 23 years of experience in higher education consultancy. She is recipient of multiple awards and renowned expert for international education, visa and culture. Ms. Khan continually explores new study destinations for Indian and South Asian students, and works on promotional strategies with a number of trusted institutions of higher education in various countries.
In 2011, Khan was approached by many students, who wanted to go to Philippines for study abroad. She was also approached by many Philippines educational institutes, who offered suitable courses for aspiring students from India and other subcontinent countries.
“Since Philippines does not offer many opportunities after studies and it has been perceived to be an unsafe place so we never suggested it to our students. However there have been many good success stories now so we decided to find out whether Philippines is actually a good study and career destination for Indian and Nepalese students,” Khan says.
In 2011, she was in Philippines and visited many places and university/college campuses, met university staff and interacted with existing students there. And now I can say that with confidence that Philippines has certain great unimaginable options available for Indian students leading them to great career and study options abroad.
According to her, “Many areas in Philippines are considered unsafe and there are extremely limited career prospects for international students as local’s job requirements are very high. There is unavailability of part time jobs and most importantly, as compared to countries like Australia, UK or Canada, it does not offer high quality education. Philippines is generally not a good option for average students for their higher studies,” Khan observed.
However Philippines offers very good options for specific student communities – especially for English courses and courses as pathway to Australia, Pilot training and MBBS/ MD/ Medical related courses.
Is Philippines good destination for studies? “Not for usual courses but for few selected programs, Philippines is one of the best destinations,” she added.