I wrote to Professor Mario Waissbluth, who has previously written for the blog, about the new turn of events in Chile.

In his previous posts on the blog, Professor Waissbluth explained that Chile’s free-market system had been an educational disaster.

In his last post, before the recent elections, he wrote:


I wrote in this blog a 3-part sequence describing the Chilean
educational system, its consequences, proposing some ways to run
away from this malignant design. Recently, Universidad de Chile
published the results of a survey on adult literacy and numeracy
skills, following the exact methodology of SIALS, the Second
International Adult Literacy Survey published in
1998. Within
the survey data, it is shown that 15 years ago, 45% of young people
in the segment between 15 and 24 years, i.e., the generation that
was graduating or recently graduated from high school, had no
comprehension of language and arithmetic… whatsoever, not even
the ability to read and understand a very simple text or balance a
checkbook. Today, this same age segment shows, tragically and
exactly, the same results. With one of the highest high school
attendances in the world, we now find that these young people spent
12 years sitting passively at a desk, not achieving improvement
even in their most basic skills.
Even worse, in the segment of higher
education graduates, only 10% show adequate or complete
understanding of prose and numeracy, similar to what happened 15
years ago. This is the result of market system debauchery and
completely unregulated exploitation of students who pay and/or get
indebted to obtain these spurious titles. So far, only 20% of
higher education programs, most of them for-profit, have some sort
of voluntary accreditation.
This does not happen by chance, it
is the result of a market-based educational model, with extreme
segregation based on academic and socioeconomic skimming,
curricular overload, with students spending most of their time
training as parrots to answer standardized tests, with public
education and the teaching career virtually demolished.The basic
organizational and financial rules of our model do not exist
anywhere in the world and are full of perverse incentives.


Happily, the anti-privatization reformers won the election, and changes are in store.


Professor Waissbluth has promised to write a longer description of what is happening in Chile.


The leadership of the new government, he says, comes from the student protest movement.


The rollback of privatization is beginning, but there will not be a sharp break. The privatized charters continue to receive government subsidies, but other forms of privatization will be ended.


All of this is very good news indeed.


Chile’s love affair with privatization has ended, and the reform movement to restore a healthy and equitable education system in Chile has begun.


Professor Waissbluth sent this response in the middle of last night:


Hi Diane:
We are happy that the educational reform program is, almost to the letter, the one we, Educacion 2020, proposed a year ago 🙂
The new Undersecretary, 32 years old, is one of the student founders of our movement, she is the lady that drafted the program, and the Minister’s staff includes several former presidents of student federations… plus some key members of our own organization, and I run some risk of it being somewhat dismembered 😦
The program does not end government subsidies to private schools (charter, which constitute almost 55% of the system) but it does end (gradually) the fact that a) most schools charge a copayment to parents, of differing amounts, thus effectively segregating and skimming socioeconomically b) that some of them are for profit c) that they do all types of academic skimming, this last practice including many public high schools. There are yet no specific details,( and they will be complex pieces of legislation) and we shall know them in a month, and these are only a few samples of future reforms. The fights in Congress wil be awesome, but the gov has a slight majority in both House and Senate. I can write a column for you, probably linking it with my three former columns to make it more understandable, or as you wish. Or maybe it should be again a series, since the reforms will be coming gradually, from preschool to tertiary level, and they will be most complex. It is not easy to “change course” radically in the most market oriented system in the world without sinking the ship.
I am happy to say that my 2013 book “Cambio de Rumbo” (Change of Course) is now on its 2nd edition, and the previous one, from 2010 “Se acabo el recreo” (School Break is Over) just entered its 5th edition 🙂


Mario Waissbluth


And he added this comment this morning on the blog, in response to a reader:


We are fully aware that non-profit charters have many spurious practices as well. But you have to be aware that a) 55% of students are enrolled in for profit and non profit charters (far far more than in the US), b) after 30 years of systematic demolition policies, our public education system has virtually gone down the drain, seriously mismanaged (far far worse than in the US). A whole program for the rebirth of public schooling is being designed, it will take a few years to materialize, and for the time being this is the only practical solution. You do not revert 30 years of the most commercialized school system in the world by the stroke of one law, without breaking havoc on the system (beggining with the 55% of parents which have their kids in charters). Today, our key policy is to combat skimming, teaching to the test, and segregation, which are the worst in the world. If you wish, we are trying to go “the dutch way” and we honestly do not see any other solution. If you have a better one, we will be happy to hear about it.


As you read his comments, you can see the goal of the privatizers here: to create a critical mass of privately managed charters that will destroy public education, turning our public schools into dumping grounds, and making it difficult if not impossible to reverse the damage.