Chile has experienced considerable educational expansion over the past few decades. Political influence has greatly affected the quality of education and who has authority over its care. Teacher training and curricula content are main staples in reform in the schools of the nation. Government policies have changed to create a complex education system with several departments that help fund and organize the nation’s school system.
This paper also explores how the actions of different educational initiatives and institutions are structured and sustained. Close inspection of the data on changes in the contents of instruments of curriculum policy reform in Chile uncovers a number of findings that illuminate the character reforms in school mathematics and science. Though there are several improvements in education there are also some inequalities surrounding the privatization of schools in Chile.
The education structure in Chile includes public and private institutions. Preschool (educación parvularia) is attended by children less than 6 years old. Primary/Elementary school (educación básica), consists of eight grades. Secondary/High school (educación media), consists of four grades and offers students a choice of two types of diplomas (the general science-liberal arts diploma, or the vocational-technical diploma (which combines the general studies program with preparation for a trade).
Higher education (educación superior), is received at universities, professional institutes, or technical centers. Teachers for preschool and elementary and high schools receive their training at the universities or professional institutes.
Surrounding a diversity of public and private schools and institutions, the Chilean education is run through a combined system, in which the government has a conducting role; there is a decentralized public education; and a strong private participation in the school system. The government sustains normative, evaluative, and supervisory functions, as well as technical and financial support. The Ministry of Education approves the plans and programs for national obligatory study. In 1990, however, the new Education Law (Ley Orgánica Constitucional de Educación) recognized the ability of educational centers to plan and apply their own curriculum (“curricular decentralization”). (Delannoy, 1998)
The direct administration of educational centers is decentralized. In the case of primary and secondary schools, it is at the level of municipal governments or private entities. The private education has “official recognition” if it fulfills curriculum norms set by the government and certain minimum legal requirements. Private institutions account for 43% of the elementary and high school students and 50% of the higher education students.
Private preschools, elementary and high schools are divided in two categories: those financed by private tuition and those which receive financial support from the government (educación particular subvencionada).The government has a subsidy system in place for free private education that has also applied to municipal schools since 1980. Currently, 92% of elementary and high school students attend public municipal schools or private centers that receive some form of government aid.
In addition, the government contributes to the decentralized education with technical and material support, such as free text books and supplies for classroom libraries for all students in primary schools, benefits or services for low-income students, free continuing education for teachers, programs for improving educational quality, and technical assistance. These services are equally available to municipal and subsidized schools.
Institutions of higher education are the autonomous state universities and the private universities, professional institutes, and technical centers. The government provides various types of support to higher education, which is paid by the students. The public universities and private universities founded before 1980 have the right to receive state aid. In addition, there is also support available for loans and scholarships for lower-income students and funds for institutional development and scientific and technological research.
In Chile the inequality between private and public schools is extreme. For example, in the SIMCE test, which measures the quality of education, the breach between state and private teaching showed itself grossly. In 2004, for example, 70% of the high schools that take lower class students maintained their low test results from previous years. 12% got worse results. In terms of investment the inequality is evident.
Given that the country spends 140,000 pesos monthly on private school students – on average – in contrast the investment in a municipal school student is less than 30,000 pesos monthly. Keeping mind that the private schools only educate 8.2% of Chilean students. What becomes clear is that an enormous majority of students (more than 90%) receive an sub-standard education. Inequality isn’t the only problem. There’s a problem with quality too, according to the international TIMSS test in 2003, which tested basic areas. Chile is at the same level as countries like the Philippines, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, and South Africa, all extremely deprived countries. (Torche, 2005).
Simply said, the educational structure in Chile is in crisis, and this can be explained by the right’s subordination of the right to education to the search for profit. Possibly a look back at where educational reform started can shed light on why education today is in need of a thorough revamping.
At the beginning of the 1990s, a transcendental educational reform, the largest in the history of Chile, started, in which equality and quality have been the main objectives. Students now study a new curriculum, on par with the educational necessities of the 21st century. They have 3.5 times more nutritional rations than in 1990; receive textbooks in all subsidized institutions; complete between 200 and 250 classroom hours more per year with the full school day; and have access not only to better conditions due to an increased investment in educational infrastructure, but also 90% of them to computer labs in primary and secondary schools. (Valverde, 2004)
The new stage in educational restructuring is centered on quality; the desire is to guarantee all students a quality education, regardless of their socioeconomic conditions. An important milestone occurred in May of 2003, when the Constitutional Reform established and guaranteed twelve years of free, obligatory education. With this, all Chileans are assured access to high school until 21 years of age.
Other key aspects in education reform include fluency in a foreign language and development of basic skills in the new information and communication technologies, which are the driving forces behind the digital literacy instruction and a program to improve the English classes in schools called “English Opens Doors”. Chile has experienced major political, economic and social changes in the last three decades.
Three democratic governments led by the same political coalition (Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia) have taken the reins of the country since 1990 after 17 years of an authoritarian military government. The military government carried out a reform program of the school system in Chile aiming to decentralize its administration, introducing a voucher system for its finance and encouraging an increase of government-funded private schools.
On the other hand from 1990, the democratic governments have attempted to implement policies in education with an explicit focus on public investments for increasing quality and equity in the educational system, while maintaining the organizational and funding components introduced in the eighties. (Carlson, 2002)
Chilean’s school system is organized into two levels: an eight-year compulsory primary level and a secondary level (compulsory from 2003 on) of four years. The pre-primary education system is for children up to the age of 5 and not yet compulsory. Similarly, the educational system is decentralized involving 3 types of schools: public, private subsidized and private non-subsidized. Both public and private subsidized schools are financed by the government through a per pupil subsidy system, based on student attendance. Private schools are financed via student fees.
MINEDUC acts as a coordinator by regulating, evaluating and supervising all aspects of education. Additionally, it draws up general educational policies and special programs for improving the quality and equity of the system. The Chilean government, mainly through its ministries of Finance and Education, Teachers Associations, and public and private teaching institutions are involved in the development of teaching policies. However the different actors in the educational process do not find a common ground where on a regular and compulsory basis their different interests are in agreement.
When the process of decentralization in the beginning of the 1980’s made public Educational institutions to depend directly on the municipalities, teachers lost their rights as public employees and became employees ruled by the same regulations in the private sector. Once the democracy returned in 1990 there was strong pressure from the teachers to change the situation. As a result, the Teachers Act was enacted in 1991 for all those professionals in education who work in public, private subsidized and private schools stating that they are subject to the current labor law. (Valverde,2004)
Educational inequality is still substantial in Chile. Differences in attainment by income level are noticeable even at the primary completion level in Chilean society. Whereas 99.1 percent of children in the wealthiest income quintile completed the primary level in 2000, only 71.9 percent of children in the poorest quintile did so. Socioeconomic differences are wider at the secondary level, with 30 percent of the children in the poorest quintile completing secondary school, compared to 95 percent of the children in the wealthiest quintile. Disparities magnify at the tertiary level, with only 3.1 of the poorest youngsters, but 48.2 percent of the wealthiest ones, completing tertiary education (Torche, 2005).
Another important component of the privatization reform was the decentralization of public schools (Cox and Lemaitre,1999). Before the reform, the Ministry of Education centrally controlled public schools and was responsible for all aspects of their operation. It hired and paid teachers, maintained facilities, and designed the curriculum. With the reform, schools were transferred to about 300 local (municipal) governments (Gauri,1998).
In addition, in the context of welfare state retrenchment, public spending on education dropped from 4.9 percent of the gross domestic product in 1982 to 2.5 percent in 1989, and the educational budget reallocated funds from the tertiary level to lower educational levels. Because of the budget reduction, insufficient resources to maintain expenditures plagued the new voucher system, and the value of the monthly subsidy per primary and secondary student dropped by 20 percent between 1982 and 1987 and did not regain its 1982 value until 1994 (Cox and Lemaitre, 1999). This decline in the educational budget was especially consequential because the expansion had drawn in relatively poorer children, who were more dependent on the educational system’s inputs (Birdsall, Ross, and Sabot, 1997).
The privatization reform rapidly created an educational market at the primary and secondary levels. To understand the depth of these changes, a before-and-after comparison is useful. Prior to the privatization reform, almost 80 percent of Chilean students attended public schools. Private-paid schools charged relatively high tuition and catered to high-income families. These private-paid schools did not opt to take the government voucher, which was low in comparison to their fees.
The voucher system thus enabled a new private sector to enter the market as providers of publicly financed education: the so-called private-voucher schools.5 Although private schools that received governmental subsidies existed in Chile before the privatization reform, they received only about half the budget allocated to public schools, and the subsidies were usually delayed and eroded by inflation (Hsieh and Urquiola, 2004). Therefore, they functioned as a form of charity, rather than a component of the educational market. Even if they will be called voucher schools as will the government-sponsored private schools that emerged after the privatization reform, the reader should keep in mind that they are a different institutional form.
Certainly high hopes concerning the role of curriculum policies have become major in Chilean educational restructuring as this movement has gained energy. Chile is among the first Latin American countries to take up the test of addressing quality as distinct from quantity or expansion of enrollments, as part of a new set of policies making up the outline of the democratic administrations that have been in power since the end of the dictatorship.
Some of the basics highlighted by the curriculum-driven reform movement worldwide were already in place in Chile at the time of transition to democracy, most notably the oldest continuing system of national assessments in Latin America. This method began in the late 1980s and under the name of SIMCE, has become a feature of Chilean education. In fact, this feature has been a key explanation of the attraction of Chile as a case to test theories regarding the impact of market-oriented policies on educational outcomes.9 This has been true despite the fact that, until 1998, test scores on these examinations have not permitted valid cross-year comparisons.10 Additionally, the much-studied Chilean voucher system is the legacy of the dictatorship, which serves as a substrate on which were built the ambitious educational policy agendas of the three subsequent democratic administrations. There are a number of intriguing reforms in education taking place during the rebirth of Chilean democracy. Although these reforms build on the system created during the Pinochet era, they aspire to substantially redirect the educational system toward goals of equity in educational opportunities and internationally competitive excellence in educational outcomes. (Valverde, 2004)
What makes an educational structure move to a upper arc? The reality is that there is no simple answer. Comparative research does not provide very conclusive answers. The researcher knows, however, that an educational system would be lame if the members (students, teachers and authorities, among others), felt no pressure to achieve a good academic performance. In order to achieve this, those schools must be held accountable to the community for the academic results of their students.
Few structures are able to meet these requirements. State involvement in education must not limit the independence of educational establishments, nor alter their plan to provide quality education. If this is accepted, educational programs directed by the Ministry of Education have no place. Schools must choose the mixture of educational inputs most appropriate to their goals and be accountable for their results.
In this scheme of things, the job of the Ministry is to help inputs and ensure that there is no rigidity preventing schools from choosing the combination of inputs they think most suitable. This is far from what has occurred in Chile. The educational environment is not designed to make schools feel pressure to do well, and the educational authorities play an undeniable role of academic managers where the focus is, moreover, basically on processes and very little on results.
The reform does not deal with several important issues. One is that some municipal governments are clearly not up to the job of running schools in poorer areas. One idea is to group the education departments of weaker municipalities. Going forward, though Chile is making great strides in education possibly it’s the thought process that should change. The researcher believes there should be some sort of equality mandate put in place to make sure that the two school types can exist but are not any different in quality of education.
Chile has a national curriculum. Why can’t school reform be thought of as a type of uniform management of schools? If everyone can agree to be on the same page for the sake of the children, change can possibly come about. Money is one of the key factors in the dispute. Misappropriation of funds causes inequalities. Another question regarding greed must be asked. Are the public schools lacking funding because the government just doesn’t want to put the money up for educational welfare? Instant gratification is the culprit. Education doesn’t pay off immediately so government cannot see the benefit of allocating money for the poorer schools in an expeditious manner. If putting money into the school system is thought of as a long tern investment my Chilean government the may be hope for the future.
Carlson, B. (2002) What schools teach us about educating poor children in Chile. Cepal Review 72, 159-177, Cepal, Santiago. Avalos, B. Profesores para
Cox, Cristian, and Maria Jose Lemaitre. (1999). “Market and State Principles of Reform in Chilean Education: Policies and Results.” Chap. 4 in Chile: Recent Policy Lessons and Emerging Challenge, edited Washington, DC: World Bank.
Delannoy, Francoise,(1998) Education Reforms in Chile,: A Lesson in Pragmatism. Country Studies: Education Reform and Management Publication Series
Birdsall, Nancy, David Ross, and Richard Sabot. (1997). “Education, Growth and Inequality.” pg. 93-127 in Pathways to Growth: Comparing East Asia and Latin America, Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.
Gari (2006) School Diversification in Second-Best Education Markets: International Evidence…Lubienski Educational Policy.; 20: 323-344
Hsieh , Chang-Tai, Miguel Urquiola (August, 2003) “When schools compete, how do they compete?”An assessment of Chile’s nationwide school voucher program. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Torche, Florencia (Oct 2005). Privatization Reform and Inequality of Educational Opportunity: The Case of ChileSociology of Education.Albany: . Vol. 78, Iss. 4; pg. 316, 28 pgs
Valverde, Gilbert A (May 2004)Curriculum Convergence in Chile: The Global and Local Context of Reforms in Curriculum Policy Comparative Education Review;, 48, 2 Proquest Education Journals pg 174
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