This is the third and final post about Education in Chile by Professor Mario Waissbluth, which he wrote for this blog to help us understand a system that took Milton Friedman’s advice and relied heavily on testing and choice.


Chile´s Education (III): A necessary change of course.

In my two previous columns I described the Chilean political, economic and educational model. In short, growth with inequity and segregation, which is showing serious signs of being questioned in its roots… in the streets.

In this context, can the educational model change its course, given the fact that, constitutionally, Congress is almost by definition tied up in two halves, therefore giving to both sides veto power over major changes?

If the November election is won by the same coalition which invented the present model, I am afraid that the change of course will be microscopic, if any. After all, they are the proud parents of this by now grown baby, and their ideological faith in it is blind. Evidence does not matter. If, on the other hand, the center left coalition wins the election (more likely), they have shown sufficient public repentance with their omissions, so that there is more ground for hope… depending on the results of the simultaneous election in Congress, which in the end will define the depth and feasibility of the transformations.

Our Foundation, Educación 2020 ( published in April a document called “The educational reform that Chile needs”, which in essence presents a middle course, hopefully acceptable to both aisles in Congress. The more radical students call it “yellow”, the “tea-partyists” call it “marxist”. Such is life. Our proposals are based on eight strategic pillars, designed to change course gradually, from what Hargreaves and Shirley have named as “the 2nd way” (in this case ultra-pure, skimmed and distilled, far worse than the US and British models) not towards a “Finnish 4th Way” (politically and culturally impossible) , but towards a middle course, something like a “3.5 Way”.

The eight pillars, each having a set of short, medium and long term proposals, are:

1. A program for the reconstruction and appreciation of the teaching profession, at the pre-school and school level.

2. 350.000 new spaces of high quality preschool openings, free and non-selective, from ages 1 to 5.

3. Rebirth of public education, to transform it into a formidable competitor of private education in every district, regardless of its socioeconomic composition.

4. Rebirth of technical education at the high school level, where close to 45% of kids study in the utmost decay of quality and motivation.

5. Use market tools and special funds to “perforate” market competition and promote collaboration amongst all types of schools, teachers and principals.

6. Gradual but steady moderation of the “command and control” bureaucracy and the teaching to the test abuse.

7. Radical innovation in the teaching models being taught in Schools of Education, to bring them from the XIX to the XXI century.

8. Last but not least, the hardest one from the ideological viewpoint: slow down and reverse segregation as much as possible, by gradual elimination and control of financial segregation (i.e. charging fees to parents in state subsidized schools), gradual elimination of profit in the school system, and serious prohibitions regarding selection, skimming and early expulsion of the less promising students.

This reform would require approximately 1.5% of GDP in additional public expenditure, not from one year to the next, but gradually over 6 years, thus reaching levels closer to OECD standards. Wish us luck.