Cuban socialism: training doctors for the world

10,500 students graduated from Cuba’s medical universities in July 2013. Just over half of them, 5,683, are Cubans and the remaining 4,843 are foreigners from 70 countries and regions. The largest groups of foreign graduates were from Bolivia (855), Ecuador (718), Mexico (444), Argentina (387) and El Salvador (386). They graduated on medical science courses comprising several branches, including medicine, dentistry, nursing, psychology and healthcare technology, which includes 21 different sub-specialties.

More than 124,700 students have graduated from Cuba’s medical schools since 1961 and there are currently 22,580 foreign students studying in Cuba, 19,125 of them enrolled in Cuban medical schools. The main beneficiaries have been from Latin America and the Caribbean. According to ICEF Monitor, 11% of Latin American scientists study for their PhD in Cuba. Meanwhile, five Cuban institutions are included in the 2013 QS Top University Rankings for Latin America, despite the impact of the US blockade in impeding access to resources, including internet access. UNICEF analysis shows that Cuban students attain the highest scores in Latin America in language and mathematics: ‘Differences in achievement for this country, in terms of gender and socio-cultural levels, are also reduced.’

In Cuba, over 13% of GDP is spent on education (compared to 4.5% in Britain prior to the massive cuts underway). There is a new push under way in Cuba to reduce the number of university students studying the humanities and increase the numbers studying agricultural and technical sciences, to contribute towards national development. University entrance exams will be made more difficult than they are already and more training is to be provided for technicians and skilled workers, as well as support for vocational fields that can have an immediate impact on the economy. These measures should also prevent a glut of professionals unable to find suitable employment in the planned economy.

Victoria Smith and Helen Yaffe

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013


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