DISMANTLING OF MARKET-BASED POLICIES ON EDUCATION LAUDED
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education welcomed
the new model of education embraced by the Government, which recognizes
education as a right, not as a commodity.
By Kanaga Raja
The unprecedented education reforms being ushered in Chile are
laudable in that they will dismantle the legacy of market-based approaches in
education that have led to a highly segregated and discriminatory education
system, a UN human rights expert has said.
In a report to the current thirty-fifth session of the Human Rights
Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Mr Kishore Singh,
called on the government of Chile to step up the reforms so as to eradicate all
profit-seeking forces in all private educational establishments, irrespective
of whether they receive a State subsidy or not, so as to restore education as a
core public function and social responsibility.
The rights expert undertook an official visit to the country from
28 March to 4 April 2016, and his report was presented at this thirty-fifth
session of the Council, which took place in Geneva from 6-23 June.
[Mr Singh of India has since been replaced by Ms Kombou Boly Barry of Burkina
Faso as the new UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education.]
In his report, the rights expert underlined that it is of paramount
importance to safeguard the right to education fully against the forces of
privatization, and to maintain education as a public good in line with
obligations under international human rights law.
"The unprecedented education reforms being ushered in Chile
are laudable in that they will dismantle the legacy of market-based approaches
in education that have led to a highly segregated and discriminatory education
system," he said.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed the new model of education embraced
by the Government, embodying the vision of President Michelle Bachelet, which
recognizes education as a right, not as a commodity, and in which for-profit
education should have no place.
The Special Rapporteur was also encouraged to see that the emerging
national legal system is in accordance with international standards, which
constitute the basis of the reforms.
In this context, he said the Inclusive Education Act of 2015 is a
significant step in the reform process in that it ensures everyone's
entitlement to have access to public education without discrimination or
exclusion, free of charge.
"The right to education is therefore no longer determined by
economic situation or social status," he added.
Likewise, the focus on promoting quality at all levels of education
in Chile is a welcome development.
Policies and laws are being designed to broaden access to public
higher education and budgetary support is being increased for candidates from
In addition, new laws and policies currently under development enrich the aims
of education with human values and ethics and civic education, as well as
professional development for the teaching profession.
He however noted that the challenges implicit in the effective
implementation of laws in the field of the right to education, especially the
Inclusive Education Act, are enormous in ensuring equitable opportunities for
education to all those who remain under-served, especially the victims of
"Building an inclusive education system is indeed a demanding
task, and one in which the Government should spare no effort. Giving concrete
shape to the reform agenda calls for more effective implementation of the new
laws to promote education as a core public function and to ensure that all
private providers assume their social responsibility in the provision of
Chile must take all possible measures to discharge its
responsibility as the guarantor and regulator of education as everyone's
fundamental human right.
Education as a public good should be safeguarded across the entire
education system, said the rights expert.
He also called on the State to take appropriate legislative and
policy measures to prohibit for-profit education at all levels of education and
in all private educational establishments.
"As many private providers seek to maximize profits from
education, strict rules and regulations are required to control the financial
operations of all private educational establishments, whether or not they are
The Special Rapporteur noted that Chile has been significantly
marred by the 17 years of military dictatorship (1973-1990) led by General
His Government pursued a liberal economic policy leading to a path
of privatization in education on the basis of market-oriented principles.
The education system that evolved over that period developed
mechanisms of selection, allowing schools to charge fees which, de facto,
divided society according to families' economic capacity and created a system
that reinforced the existing inequalities.
That must be appraised against the alarming expansion of private
schools in Chile; 94% of enrolment in those schools is from the wealthiest
quintile, while two thirds of those in public schools are from the poorest half
of the population.
At present, as a result of the vision embraced by the President,
Chile is going through a historic period of transition in education.
The Government has embarked on the process of remedying the
devastation caused by almost 30 years of market-based approaches in education,
which led to educational disparities, with high levels of school segregation
and stratification fraught with structural discrimination.
The current reforms seek to dismantle the grossly inequitable
education system that resulted from the pursuit of liberal economic policies in
the field of education and to restore education as a public good, putting an
end to for-profit education.
A series of new education laws is being adopted in Chile and new
bills are under discussion with the aim of dismantling the legacy of
market-based policies in education.
"The developing legal framework shows how State obligations under
international human rights instruments can be incorporated into the domestic
legal order, leading to policy and programmatic measures at the national
The Special Rapporteur paid tribute to the President for ushering
in far-reaching reforms that recognize education as a right, not a commodity,
and for the new education model in which for-profit education has no place.
The report noted that Chile, as a State party to several
international human rights instruments, has undertaken legal obligations
concerning the right to education.
For example, it has ratified the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights, which covers the right to education
comprehensively, and it is a State party to the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention against Discrimination
in Education, which prohibits any discrimination in education based, inter
alia, on national or social origin, economic condition or birth.
Moreover, Chile has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, which establishes the right to education and outlaws discrimination based
on social origin and property.
The transformations currently under way in the Chilean education
system are epitomized by the emerging national legislation in the field of
education, which is premised upon the right to education as a constitutional right.
Referring to the Constitution of Chile of 1980, the Special
Rapporteur noted that, although the right to education is not included in
article 20 of the Constitution, which lists the rights that have constitutional
recourse to protection, in proceedings involving violations of human rights,
the judiciary's broad interpretation has included the right to education, thus
paving the way for its justiciability.
Highlighting some emerging legislative initiatives during the
reform process in Chile, the Special Rapporteur pointed out that the Inclusive
Education Act of
2015 (No. 20.845), which came into force on 1 March 2016, on the eve of his
visit, is a key pillar of the reforms.
It is of paramount importance in providing a legal framework for
building an inclusive education system and safeguarding the right to education
as an entitlement.
The rights expert said that virtually all the people with whom he
spoke during his visit referred to the Act as the most significant step in the
"The Act is key in paving the way in the long term for a
paradigm shift in education to the point where the State will assume full
responsibility as guardian and protector of the right to education."
He noted that Act No. 20.910 on the establishment of 15 new technical
education centres, promulgated in March 2016, is another landmark piece of
legislation that contains radical reforms in higher education to widen
opportunities to different socioeconomic contexts and respond to the needs and
requirements of local and national development.
The Special Rapporteur appreciated the fact that in redesigning the
education system and the new legal framework in Chile, reference is
systematically being made to international human rights instruments relating to
the right to education.
Moreover, new education laws in several key areas in Chile are
notable examples in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted
by the General Assembly at the United Nations summit for the adoption of the
post-2015 development agenda, held in September 2015.
During his visit, the Special Rapporteur was extensively briefed by
national and local authorities about the bill on the national public education
system, colloquially referred to as the "de-municipalisation" bill.
Its main purpose is to restore national control over the management
of education, which was decentralized to the municipalities during the
The bill seeks to eliminate social segregation and, like the Act on
Inclusive Education, it focuses on equal rights and opportunities, while
attempting to achieve comprehensive and inclusive quality education.
The Special Rapporteur also welcomed the bill on the rights of the
child, which provides for the financial resources necessary to give all
children equal opportunities to access preschool education.
"It bears witness to the high priority Chile gives to the
rights of the child," he said.
"Having gone through almost three decades of privatization in
the field of education, Chile has some of the deepest and most persistent
educational inequalities in Latin America," said Mr Singh.
The current reforms are valuable in that they have clearly
triggered a process of national transformation with a paradigm shift.
A new model of education founded on equitable access to good
quality public education is taking shape with laws and policies as its
In 2015, some 49% of children aged 1-5 were enrolled in preschool
education with public funding. A concerted effort has been made to make
children from the poorest 40% of households eligible for free childcare in
creches (under 2) or kindergartens (aged 2 and 3).
The report noted that as regards the provision of basic education,
there are currently three types of school in Chile, depending on the way they are
(a) Public schools run by the State and managed mostly by the municipalities,
where education is provided free of charge. In 2011, 40% of pupils attended
(b) State-subsidized private schools, which have shared funding comprising
State subsidies and private funding by students' families, almost all of which
are managed by private owners. In 2011, 53% of pupils attended those schools;
(c) Independent private schools, entirely funded by students' families who pay
the fees charged by the schools. In 2011, 7% of pupils attended those schools.
All three types of school have been serving sharply stratified
socioeconomic groups, with 70% of students in municipal public schools from the
lowest-income households, against 75% of students in private schools from the
In addition, owing to the great variation among municipalities in
terms of their capacity, political will and professional skills, the municipal
system of education in Chile led to great disparities in quality among public
"Such disparities show the importance of the bill on the
national public education system, which seeks to create a national education
system of uniform quality, with the overall responsibility of the national
Government being to provide better management while decentralized
implementation powers are retained at the municipal level."
The 2015 Inclusive Education Act is another landmark piece of
legislation in that it is aimed at doing away with disparities in access to
education, said the rights expert.
Higher education comprises three types of establishment in Chile:
(a) Universities providing professional and technical higher education, which
can issue academic degrees; (b) Professional institutes providing both professional
and technical education, which cannot issue academic degrees; (c) Technical
education centres providing technical higher education.
Professional institutes and technical education centres primarily
serve students from the first three lowest-income quintiles.
While enrolment in higher education has significantly increased in
recent years, covering some 40% of the population aged between 18- and
24-years-old by 2014, access is still largely determined by family income.
About 80% of students are enrolled in private universities and
currently, higher education in Chile is mostly private and very expensive.
The issue of access to education as a right came to the centre of
the national debate in the wake of the massive student protests and public demonstrations
that took place in 2006 and in 2011 against Chilean privatized education, which
has resulted in gross inequities in education.
The Special Rapporteur said that at the time of his visit, the
higher education reforms were still being shaped.
They are expected to provide quality assurance and a new
accreditation system, create public institutions and modify the financing
scheme for research, development and innovation.
The Special Rapporteur trusts that the reforms will include a
participatory process and that, when adopted, they will increase institutional
capacity to absorb the growing number of students and will improve the quality,
capacity and funding of higher education institutions.
The Special Rapporteur also highlighted some of the key challenges
in implementing the reform agenda.
He said that the challenges implicit in implementing the laws in
the field of the right to education, especially the Inclusive Education Act,
are enormous in terms of eliminating segregation, overcoming disparities and
promoting an egalitarian and inclusive education system.
He said all those who remain under-served - indigenous people,
persons with disabilities, migrants and other marginalized sectors of society,
especially victims of poverty – need to be provided with equitable
opportunities for education.
The higher level of schooling for urban as compared to rural
populations compromises equity, he added.
The privatized system of education in Chile has undermined the
provision of public education. "Increased efforts are needed to improve
conditions in schools in remote and rural areas and to eliminate disparities in
access to quality education between urban and rural areas."
The Government also needs to step up efforts to ensure equal
education opportunities for rural and indigenous girls.
There is a large number of indigenous students, and that the number
and size of scholarships for indigenous students are too small to allow
recipients to cover educational expenses in institutions other than those
located in indigenous communities or settlements.
Chile also has to cope with the educational needs of migrants
resulting from the influx from neighbouring countries, he said.
The poor quality of public education continues to result in high
levels of segregation and discrimination along socioeconomic lines.
"Chile needs to take all measures necessary to eliminate the
sharp disparities in quality of education that currently exist between private,
subsidized and public schools and to ensure that all schools have adequate
infrastructure and suitably trained teaching staff," Mr Singh added.
Privatization in education has thrived on false propaganda, leading
to the belief that for-profit private education is of better quality than
public education. The findings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development have dispelled such misconceptions.
"Despite their claims, some private schools have poor
buildings and the use of short-term contracts and young lower-cost teachers
damages the teaching profession. Such schools are not a model for a modern
country like Chile," said the Special Rapporteur. – Third World Network
author: Kanaga Raja is the Editor of the South-North Development Monitor
The above article is reproduced
from SUNS #8487, 22 June 2017.
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