On public education in Chile

Camila Vallejo Dowling Communist Party, Member of Parliament (Congress), Chile*

In 2011 the Social Movement for Public Education led the biggest demonstrations since Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. Since then, one of the main campaigns in Chilean society has been for the recognition of education as a social right, under the slogan of “free, quality, public education” (educación pública, gratuita y de calidad).

For more than 30 years, education in Chile has been treated as a commodity. As a consequence, the Chilean educational system has been considered as a regulated market, one ruled by the principle of financial profitability. Throughout the years billions of dollars have been transferred from the public purse to private corporations and turned into private profit.

Meanwhile, public education in Chile has been completely left behind. The neoliberal hegemony overestimated the idea of the invisible hand of the market, and public institutions were treated in the same way as private institutions.

The equal treatment principle in the Chilean education system can easily be explained: public resources injected into education are distributed to public and private institutions alike, with no legal criteria for the state to make a distinction between the two, thus making it impossible to discriminate either in favour or against either one. In this context, while private institutions’ enrolments increase, public institutions’ enrolments decrease proportionally. Thus, policy on financing education is largely rooted in the neoliberal orientation of Chilean public policy. Indeed, we may consider it to be the reason why public education is in such a critical condition.

An instructive case is the state-sponsored Crédito con Aval del Estado (CAE), which enables students who would normally not gain access to higher education to take out special loans for studying. A report on the CAE by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) points out that “the way in which the system is constructed nowadays allows banks to accumulate a profitable free portfolio of risk, loading the state with the burden of the high-cost segment and charging excessive premiums”.

For 30 years, (almost) all institutional changes stimulated the private sector offering but not that of public establishments. Today, we see the results of these policies: just a third of enrolment is in public sector schools, while just 15% of students enrolled in tertiary education are in state institutions. Chile has the lowest level of public enrolment in university of all OECD member countries and, before the reform of the education system, public education in Chile looked doomed.

This inspires a most genuine interpretation of President Bachelet’s government programme, because it identifies the need for direct provision of education by the state as a core aspect of the paradigm shift that the people require. Of course, to overcome our neoliberal education system, and consequently make education a social right, the strengthening of public education is fundamental as “the engine of the institutional reform process,” leading to higher levels of trust and social cohesiveness.

For us, those aims cannot be waived by making a public policy that is meant to oppose neoliberalism (still hegemonic in Chile) and a new system of public education possible that has democratic engagement at its base. The Education Reform Bill was designed to improve children’s opportunities to obtain quality education, without social and economic discrimination.

Obviously, transforming education in Chile is never a simple task. We must overcome a market-centred view of educational services and work towards an institutional system able to guarantee respect for dignity and to promote integration into society. Keeping this goal in mind, the new system must be conditioned by equity and must develop collaboration among citizens: the rights of every child and young person, male and female, must be taken seriously, without any discrimination.

*Camila Vallejo was a student leader during the Social Movement for Public Education in 2011.

For more on the IBRD study, visit: www-wds.worldbank.org/

The future of education at the OECD Forum 2016

Other OECD Forum 2016 issues

OECD work on education

OECD Higher Education Programme

OECD Education & Skills Today

www.oecd.org/chile

OECD Forum 2016

© OECD Yearbook 2016




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.8% June 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% May 2018
Last update: 02 Aug 2018

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • International co-operation, inclusive growth and digitalisation lead the themes of the 2018 OECD Forum in Paris on 29-30 May, under the banner of What brings us together www.oecd.org/forum. It is held alongside the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 30-31 May, chaired this year by France with a focus on multilateralism www.oecd.org/mcm.
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • Ambassador Aleksander Surdej, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD, was a guest on France 24’s English-language show “The Debate”, where he discussed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018