Education International
Education International

Chile mobilises for Public Education

published 23 August 2011 updated 2 September 2011

In recent months, Chilean civil society has organised en masse to defend the right to public education for all.

Education unions are leading the demands for a profound reform of the Chilean education system. The current government's privatisation of education jeopardises Chilean citizens' fundamental right to quality free education. President Piñeira's education policy echoes and re-enforces the policies of Pinochet's military dictatorship in the 1980s

The movement for public education, led by unions, students and teachers, has been increasing pressure on the government, calling for a genuine national dialogue on education, which could include a referendum.

EI affiliate, Colegio de Profesores de Chile (CPC) has, along with the student federations, recently introduced a proposal for a Social agreement for education, demanding an end to profit in education, with specific measures such as decentralisation without privatisation, or ensuring financing for higher education.

The proposal was rejected by the Minister of Education, Felipe Bulnes, who instead proposed solutions for a small group of students, thus seeking to create divisions within the movement. The counter proposal from the government includes further privatisation and the concept of educational freedom is limited to the freedom of choice for those who can afford to pay for education.

Earlier this month, there were demonstrations across the country that resulted in heavy police repression and more than 800 detainees, many of them minors. "When the only form of dialogue is repression, it is not possible to progress with agreements," CPC  said in a statement.

Far from being intimidated, on August 18, Chile's people took to the streets in what was called the "March of the Umbrellas", in reference to the thousands of students, teachers and citizens who carried umbrellas under a relentless rain which did not stop the peaceful demonstration.

The coming weeks will be key in the united fight of the Chilean people. Unions, teachers and students have announced a national strike for 24 and 25 of August.

In Liceo A 131 in Buin, Maipo Province, several students have been on a hunger strike for a month now. Across the country there are 31 young people on hunger strikes, most of them secondary school students between 16 -18 years old.

In this context, the CPC offered possibilities to the government for saving the school year, such as the possibility of rescheduling. Jaime Gajardo, CPC President said that "in an emergency situation such as that which exists today in Chilean education, the authorities have the power to reschedule the contents, and prevent students from losing the year."

EI stands in solidarity with Chile education unions and insists that education is a fundamental right that neither can nor should be regarded as a commodity or thrown open to the market.