In Chile, it is not always clear who is paying for education. The Government typically uses a system of vouchers that cover a percentage of the costs for public schools, but not everything. In addition, the Government has different systems of subsidizing both public and private schools throughout the country. Schooling is not mandatory for any age, and there are various fee systems in place for both public and private schools to charge tuition and other costs to students seeking education.
Chilean students are still taking to the streets to demand that Bachelet stay true to her promises to reform the fragmented education system.
Fragmented education system
In Chile, there is neither a national curriculum nor a central education budget. Each local council runs its schools and they define their own educational line, including a ‘standard for admission’ for students. There are several private consultants (so-called technical education agencies), which design the annual plan at a cost of US$15,000 dollars. Families receive vouchers and must pay the school they can afford. This fragmented education system resembles a chain of agencies – similar to a chain of supermarkets – competing with each other, and with the private sector, to attract clients and make a profit.
One of the most troubling issues for unions is the de-professionalisation of teaching. Due to the Education Act passed in 2006, non-qualified teachers are now allowed to work as teachers. The teaching profession is precarious, with salaries 40 per cent lower than that of other equally-qualified professionals and with highly unstable working conditions. Recent studies show that 16 per cent of teachers in Chile suffer from anxiety disorders and depression. In addition, the lack of public resources to meet teacher training and retraining requirements means that teachers must pay for their own learning and development.