Prospective medical school students protest by blocking roads
Hundreds of students are protesting in Dhaka and around the country over a government decision to do away with admission tests for medical and dental colleges.
The protests began after authorities announced on Sunday that admissions would instead be based on students’ scores in two public examinations held after grades 10 and 12.
The new admission process is likely to start from next month, an official said.
Demanding reinstatement of admission tests, more than 500 students staged a rally and human chain in Dhaka on Monday, while similar protests were held in other cities including Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Sylhet.
Protesters said that the policy change was too hasty and that admission based on high school test schools would not guarantee the most deserving students were enrolled.
Protests ended on Tuesday but will restart after Eid on August 26, students said.
Abdul Alim who attended the protest in Dhaka said, “Last year I got a chance to enroll in a dental college but I wanted to get admitted into medical college and took preparations throughout the past year. Now it seems that my dream and toil will end in smoke.”
One of the parents who joined the protests, Kalpana Biswas, said her daughter was offered a position in a public university last year but didn’t enroll because she wanted to become a doctor.
“Her academic future is hanging by a thread,” Biswas said. “There is no guarantee in the new system that real merit students will be admitted.”
The new system is intended to ease the administrative burden for schools, reduce exam cheating and curb the highly profitable private coaching business, Health Minister Dr. AFM Ruhul Haque told journalists yesterday.
“There is nothing for admission seekers to be upset about,” he said. “It is simply the vested quarter behind the coaching businesses who encouraged students to take to the streets because they fear the new system will close down their schools.”
A number of students denied this, insisting their agitation was spontaneous, although some said they had studied at private coaching centers.
Coaching center administrations denied involvement in the protests, although on Monday several centers were closed.
“We have closed our center early for Eid, and there is no reason for us to agitate students,” said Dr. Bashir Ahmed, director of the Three Doctors coaching center.
On Tuesday a case was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the government decision. The High Court has given the Health Department and Education Board a month to answer the lawsuit.
In Bangladesh, there are 77 medical colleges with 7,056 enrollees. There are also nine public and private dental colleges serving 1,437 students. With nearly 40,000 students apply to medical or dental schools each year, competition for places is strong.
Education row leaves Dhaka students in limbo