Education in Chile

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SANTIAGO, Chile — Education in Chile underwent significant reform in the 1980s that transferred authority and power over public school management from national to municipal levels, the country has been undergoing issues concerning inequalities in the education system.

When the Chilean government transferred responsibility to the municipalities, the financial upkeep for education in Chile also changed. Municipalities started receiving funding vouchers for the schools based on the number of students who attended. Therefore, the enrollment dictated and restricted their budget. Privately owned schools that did not charge tuition also received this type of funding. Tuition-charging private schools continued to operate, even without outside funding.

However, municipal schools are disadvantaged — they are required to follow particular guidelines that restrict their ability to effectively and efficiently educate students. While municipalities could not charge parents fees, they are required to accept all students who apply, and their power to fire low-performing teachers is restricted by labor laws. This is not the case for privately owned, subsidized schools.

Education in Chile forges policies that dictate the management of municipal schools, which has sparked a movement of students to private schools, further diminishing the funds available for the public schools’ budget. In 2015, only 37 percent of Chilean students were enrolled in public, voucher dependent schools. Private schools with state subsidies are the fastest growing schools, with 56 percent enrollment – two-thirds of which are for-profit private schools.

Most of the for-profit subsidized schools, because they are not required to accept all student who apply, typically accept students based on their socio-economic status, test, scores and performance. As a result, only students who can afford to attend these types of schools are accepted, and an astounding 44 percent of students, largely from lower income households, do not finish high school. Of those who remain in school, due to the lack of quality education in Chile, the students test below average.

Even Chilean universities are burdening students with extremely high tuition rates. Relative to per capita income, private universities in Chile are some of the most expensive in the world, and 80 percent of college students are enrolled in these private universities. Even those who are enrolled in public universities pay for tuition, which is highly unusual for Latin America.

The discrepancies that infiltrate education in Chile have been addressed with protests. In response to the Chilean student movement that attracted worldwide attention in 2011, President Michelle Bachelet has made it her mission to change the education system. The government has developed a program that will make for-profit education institutions change to nonprofit, and also accept students based on merit, rather than socio-economic status. Also, this reform is aiming to completely eradicate college tuition.

Many believe that this reform does not go far enough in the changes that need to be made; however, it is a step in the right direction. It is expected that by the end of the government’s term in 2018, 70 percent of students will have access to free education.

The Chilean government is in pursuit of reformation in which it is redefining parameters in harmony with its newly elicited democratic regime, enlightened by the Chilean student movement. However, further reforms are at hand with the help of persisting pressures on behalf of the student movement.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

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