Students are detained by riot police officers during a demonstration to demand reforms in the Chilean education system in Santiago, Wednesday, May 13, 2009.
In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that Chile was pulling “out of its first recession in ten years,” and needed to make improvements in income distribution, market competition and education, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). OECD charged that the quality of public education at the primary and secondary levels needed work in order to help Chilean children “reach OECD standards in learning outcomes.”
Encyclopedia Britannica provides an overview of the education system in Chile.
In 2008, Andrea Arango, a research associate with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, outlined “The Failings of Chile’s Education System: Institutionalized Inequality and a Preference for the Affluent.” According to Arango’s report, the Chilean government favors the privatization of education in the country. As a result, only wealthier students have access to quality education. Meanwhile, the system “offers inherently unequal opportunities for students from low-income families, who consistently experience sub-standard educational achievements as a result of an ongoing bias in favor of privatization measures.”
Following Saturday’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake, however, Chile may be hard-pressed to improve its economy or its education system. An estimated 2 million Chileans—one-eighth of the entire population—have been affected by the earthquake, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Tuesday.
Aid began to pour into Chile after the country’s president, Michelle Bachelet, asked for help. Though most countries have responded with medical personnel and supplies, drinking water, electrical generators, mobile bridges and other essentials, the European Union said it would send “‘an assessing mission’ to look at damage to hospitals, schools and other facilities,” Catherine Ashton, an E.U. foreign policy chief, told AFP.
At a time when rescuers are frantically searching for survivors, it’s too soon to account for all the missing, injured and dead, or properly assess the full extent of the damage to buildings such as schools. Unlike Haiti, which suffered widespread structural damage due to a lack of building codes, in Chile, “building codes are strict,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Still, Bachelet estimates that one million buildings have been damaged, while Education Minister Monica Jimenez told AP that several “[k]ey structures in Santiago” were badly damaged.
Public schools were set to reopen on Monday, after summer vacation, but now are scheduled to reopen on March 8.