The social role of education: reflections on the mobilization of dentistry students at the University of Talca

Fuentes F. The social role of education: reflections on the mobilization of dentistry students at the University of Talca. Mouth. 2016;1(1):e15092016eng. DOI:
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Fernando Fuentes.
Dentistry Student, Universidad de Talca; Regional Director of America, International Association of Dental Students.
Correspondence to: ffuentesg10{at}

This personal reflection was written following the student protests which took place during the first semester of 2016 at the University of Talca [1], where like other universities in the country, the symptoms of an increasingly serious problem are being felt on a daily basis. Many students are experiencing a similar situation, as education in Chile is in a state of crisis [2][3], and dentistry is no exception [4].

The gradual precarization of undergraduate studies and the strengthening of market-led education at the expense of funding for state establishments is highly worrying. One example of this is the incomprehensible nature of current planning in universities, which is often driven by the profitability of providing certain courses [5][6].

Listing evidence of these phenomena in the context of dentistry is simple: postgraduates teaching subjects which were previously the responsibility of the general dentist, undergraduate courses with more hours dedicated to soft skills to the detriment of disciplinary modules, often with the aim of reducing training time and employers’ expenses [7]. Universities and the academic world are being silently instrumented for employability in an education market in which everything goes for both public and private universities when it comes to obtaining resources.

It is worth pondering what will happen in several years’ time when the profits to be gained from teaching dentistry are questioned, due to the high levels of investment in infrastructure and consumables required. Our population’s health is at stake and we must urgently raise this issue, as power groups are interfering with the strategic planning of universities, the launch of new courses and the determination of graduate profiles with startling ease, conditioning the professional training of an entire generation on the basis of a cleverly captured concept: skills-based education.

By way of a personal conclusion, people’s health cannot be seen as a business opportunity, and nor can education; the public dimension of the University is being lost, and within its walls, efforts to train full-fledged professionals who are critical of the context surrounding them are gradually being pushed aside by the zeal of a handful of people who seek only to train workers ready to enter the labor market.

This is a long story which is difficult to summarize; we know how it begins, but not how it ends. Today, we have an important task ahead of us: to consider the future well-being by taking responsibility for our present in a critical manner. If our universities wash their hands of continuous training, it must be we dentistry students who take the bull by the horns. Following the mobilizations of the first semester of 2016, we students are returning to class, but with work to be done and problems still to be resolved.


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