The children start compulsory school at the age of six at the age of six. Then follows a four-year compulsory high school. Some drop-outs occur from high school, but a large majority of students complete all 12 years of school.
The first two year courses at the high school are the same for everyone, while the students during the last two years can choose between practical and aesthetic programs or specializations that prepare for further studies.
- COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Chile, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
During the Pinochet regime a major school reform was implemented. Among other things, this meant that the municipalities were given responsibility for the public schools, that the parents were given the right to choose schools freely, and that the state subsidized most schools via a school money for each student and that it was free for private stakeholders to open schools.
There is broad agreement that the municipalization of the schools led to increased gaps between the pupils of the country. Particularly large is the gap between the city and the countryside. Teaching is generally poorer in public schools in poor municipalities or districts and a majority of the pupils today attend government subsidized privately owned schools. Between 1992 and 2012, over 860 public schools were closed while more than 2,900 private schools were opened. Pupil escape from public schools led to a steady fall in these standards, as school fees decreased while spending continued.
Many schools were also forced to close after being denied their licenses due to financial problems and shortcomings in teaching.
Since 2006, when giant protests were held, students and schoolchildren have repeatedly demonstrated for better quality and greater equality in teaching. Criticism of the education system is also a key part of the protest wave that shakes Chile in the fall of 2019.
Despite the efforts made by the government in recent years as a result of the criticism, the general teaching standard has hardly been raised. According to an OECD survey, literacy is weak in just over half of adults in Chile, compared to less than one in five on average in Europe. About 15 percent of the adult population has a college education.
In 2011, the teachers stood on the students’ side and demanded that the municipal schools be nationalized and that the grants be greatly increased. Despite Chile having one of Latin America’s strongest economies, education grants are well below what the UN agency recommends. The government promised to improve the finances of school pupils and students and to sign in the constitution that everyone should be guaranteed good quality education. But the protests continued with repeated large-scale demonstrations and demands for higher education reform.
When the left candidate Michelle Bachelet returned to the presidential post in early 2014, it was with a clear mandate to reform the education system, including by stopping profit withdrawals from the free schools and making college education free of charge. One year later, the first legislative amendments were passed, which included opening universities and colleges to everyone, which prohibited profit-making activities in state schools. A decision was made later in 2015 that university studies should gradually become fee-free, and by 2020 it should include everyone. Despite the reform decisions, the protests continued. High interest rates on student loans taken before the changes contribute to many problems.
There are some 60 universities, of which the oldest is the University of Chile (Universidad de Chile) in Santiago, founded in 1842.
- Searchforpublicschools: Offers schooling information of Chile in each level – compulsory, technical and higher education programs.
FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
94.8 percent (2017)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Reading and writing skills
96.9 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
21.2 percent (2016)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
21.2 percent (2016)
Success for the left in municipal elections
The government alliance loses municipal elections in Santiago and several other important cities. In total, the left bloc receives about 43 percent of the vote, compared to 38 percent for President Piñera’s center-right alliance. Only 40 percent of voters participate in the municipal elections, which is the first to be held since it became voluntary (see Political system). Piñera calls the low turnout “a warning sign”.
An investigation into Allende’s death is closed
A court finally decides that ex-president Salvador Allende committed suicide. Experts have investigated Allende’s remains the year before and concluded that he took his own life in connection with the coup against him in 1973, (see Modern history). It was unclear all year whether he was shot dead when the military stormed the presidential palace. The court’s decision to close the investigation is announced on the day 39 years after the coup. Violence erupts in several places, and a police officer is said to have been shot dead.
Many are arrested when school occupation is lifted
139 people, most of them students, are arrested when the police take action to end a multi-week occupation of three schools in Santiago.
New anti-discrimination law adopted
President Piñera signs a new anti-discrimination law that both chambers approved in the spring. The law has been dealt with by Parliament for seven years, but the legislative process has regained momentum since suspected neo-Nazis beat a gay man so badly that he died in March. The death toll triggered a national outcry. The conservative UDI has opposed the law of concern for opening the door to same-sex marriage.
Tax reform should provide funding for education
President Piñera presents a tax reform that he says will give money to higher education and make it accessible to everyone. Tens of thousands of students simultaneously participate in new protests in Santiago.
Green light for disputed dust project
The Supreme Court gives the go-ahead for the huge project Hidro Aysén in Patagonia (see July 2011). As a result, only the approval of the government for a 200-km long power line to Santiago remains to begin the multi-billion building. The project consists of five planned hydropower plants at two hitherto unspoilt rivers. The dam project is the largest planned in Chile and would account for a third of the country’s electricity. But many are worried about the environmental effects, as a wilderness area of 6,000 hectares would be submerged. The Minister of Energy resigns when he was not allowed to participate in negotiations that put a stop to the protests, which have been going on for a year. In May, one of the two companies behind Hidro Aysén announces that the project is being put on ice, citing too weak support from the government. Colbún calls for a well-established official energy strategy.
The term starts with new protests
Thousands of students begin the fall semester by once again demonstrating in Santiago for demands for a college reform. An outbreak occurs outside the Ministry of Education and about 50 people are arrested.