In Chile, Bachelet Pushes Slate of Education Reforms

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is pushing to end inequality in Chile, as she stated in her address to the United Nations General Assembly, in no small part by taking steps to reform the country’s education system.

Bachelet stated that, “inequality is one of the greatest threats to development and international security because it fosters poverty, exclusion and breeds social unrest, resentment and violence”, reports UN News Centre.

The president’s reform passed its first hurdle after the Lower House approved the bill and it was passed on to the Senate.

The reform first seeks to eliminate selective entrance at state subsidized schools and stop a school’s capability of earning profit. Elementary school officials would not be allowed to select their student body based on factors other than their ability to pay school fees.

“There is no doubt about it, today is important … because this is one of President Bachelet’s emblematic projects. It has left the Lower House and is on its way to the Senate, where we expect to discuss it with all the depth that’s needed,” said Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre.

Congress, while weighted to the left, still does not have enough votes to push the reform, through so there will likely be compromises made in order to get it passed, reports Reuters.

The reforms are part of a broader education reform package. The initial campaign, which focuses on restrictions on elementary school exclusivity and bans all for-profit educational organizations, is just the start. These reforms focused on state schools but bills making their way into legislation target the private sector, reports Adrianna Peralta from PanAm Post.

Representative Felipe Kast of the Evópoli Party adds that “It would be better for the New Majority, Bachelet’s party, to obsess about upgrading public education than to attack private education. Months, in discussions, have passed, and not a word on [quality].”

In defense of the education reforms, Eyzaguirre explains that the purpose of the two measures is to protect the students against inequality and discrimination. He denied that the reforms are merely a way to attack profit in education. The minister explains that the role of government is to make sure student rights are respected.

The president of Independent Schools of Chile, Hernan Herrera fears that Blachelet’s reforms will eventually destroy nontraditional schools in Chile.

Herrera also feels that proposal to have no differential financing as long as students attend nonprofit schools is immoral and possibly unconstitutional. He thinks aid needs to be given to the students based not on their chosen place of education but rather their economic need.

So far the only part of the reform that has failed to progress to legislation was the proposal to mandate all schools be co-educational, which came from independent representative Gabriel Boric.