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UNESCO report: Chilean education system promotes inequality

UNESCO report: Chilean education system promotes inequality
December 06
18:00 2011

The Chilean education system promotes inequality and does not fully support the right to education, according to a report published by UNESCO’s Regional Office of Education for Latin America and the Carribean, OREAL.

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Photo: Carlos Porto

The study, led by Vernor Muñoz, a former special rapporteur for the UN in matters concerning the right to education, compares the regulatory frameworks that govern education in Argentina, Uruguay, Finland and Chile, aiming to understand the problems and the opportunities that lie within these frameworks in relation to providing their citizens with the right to education. There is a special emphasis on education legislature in Chile. The availability, accessibility and adaptability of the education system of each of the four countries are analyzed in regards to the obligations of the state. The report lists the international treaties Chile has signed promoting the right to education and cites aspects of these treaties that mention the need for free education as a basic right.

“We sought the execution of this study as a way to contribute to an informed debate that, with the support of those involved, will lead to the permanent improvement of the Chilean education system,” said Jorge Sequeira, director of OREAL.

Muñoz stated that a comparative study was necessary because “although the right to education is included in the constitution of most countries, it is interpreted in different ways”, stressing the need for a common understanding surrounding the concept of a right to education.

Among all the challenges facing the Chilean education system, the study highlights the weakness in legislation to overcome inequality, claiming that “the system that characterizes Chilean education is based around processes of privatization, which tend to cause segmentation, exclusion, discrimination and trigger selective processes.” 

Futhermore,  even if discrimination of students is prohibited by law, features such as admission tests will still promote selectivity and

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The right to education: a comparative view. Photo: Unesco

possibly stigmatization.

Another problem underlined in the report is that in Chile, much of the responsibility of educating children, preventing discrimination and providing a quality education lies with the parents rather than being the responsibility of the state as it is in Uruguay, Finland and most notably, Argentina.

The study concludes by citing features of the current General Law of Education which do not adhere to the idea of education as a right and are possible causes for the current unhappiness with the system, mentioning the failure to address social inequalities in educational opportunities, the lack of guarantees that the right of education has in comparison to other rights, such as the right to property, and the lack of free education, among other problems.

In an interview with OREAL, Muñoz stated that “[education being free] is an essential element because it represents a political vision in favor of the right to education. By definition public education has to be free…because that is what guarantees equal opportunities and access to education for all.”

The complete report, in Spanish, can be found here.

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Marianne Tweedie

Marianne is a native of the UK and was a journalist for I Love Chile in 2011 and early 2012. While in Santiago, Chile, she also worked as an English teacher in the English Opens Doors program.

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