Chile and New Zealand work together towards improved education

Education Minister Hekia Parata of New Zealand travelled to the Andean nation to share ideas for improving indigenous and public education.


The 13th Education Seminar, organised by Libertad y Desarrollo (LYD)  — a Santiago based organization for research and private education — took place last month with special guest New Zealand Education Minister Hekia Parata. Parata, herself a native Maori, was invited to share her country’s education successes and models for improvement, particularly in indigenous communities.

The seminar, titled “Quality and Management in Education 2013,” was attended by various members of Chile’s education system, including Parat’s counterpart, Carolina Schmidt, the Superintendent of Education, Manuel Casanueva, as well as hundreds of leaders and teachers from different schools and institutions from around Chile.

“We help to ensure quality,” Casanueva said. “That’s what we can do by ensuring that all the institutions have the right conditions to deliver high quality education.”

The minister from New Zealand echoed this sentiment, drawing on similarities between the two countries.

“Like New Zealand, Chile recognises that raising teaching quality and leadership is crucial to raising achievement, and building skills and pathways to success are essential,” Parat said.

Parat, in addition to being the Education Minister for New Zealand, was also visiting as a representative of the Maori, the native people of the Pacific Island nation. Chile’s education leaders were excited to hear about the Maori educational success stories as a potential model for Mapuche programs.

The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group and represent about nine percent of the overall population. In the southern regions of Chile, the Mapuche community make up a larger percentage of the population- in the Araucanía city of Temuco more than a quarter of the population identify as Mapuche.

One example Parata shared during the seminar was the kura kaupapa, Maori language immersion schools. Currently, Chile has more than a dozen intercultural preschool programs that teach Mapudungun, the native Mapuche language, alongside their regular Spanish lessons. However, the government is still looking for more opportunities to include its rich native cultures in the national education system.

Chile and New Zealand have developed a positive relationship, working together on various education projects. The island nation is the only country currently chosen by the Chilean government for the “Penguins Without Borders” program. The program sends Chile’s brightest high school students to New Zealand for six month study programs in the hopes of expanding their minds through new experiences.

Due to the success of “Penguins without Borders,” New Zealand now plans to send half a dozen spanish-language students to Chile, in what they are calling the “Flying Kiwis” program.

“It is great that we have the benefit of these programs both in New Zealand, and for New Zealand students now able to study in Santiago,’’ Parata said.