In Chile, education plays a fundamental role in the country’s development. Chile’s education is considered to be the highest ranked in Latin America according to international studies. Evidence of the same is an OECD research project executed by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), which reported that Chilean students got the highest score in the region.
The World Bank recently stated in its report «What opportunities do our children have? Report On human opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean 2010″ that Chile is the country with the most education opportunities for its citizens in Latin America.
The Chilean school education system is divided into two stages: primary or elementary (a total of eight years) and secondary or high school (four years).
Establishments are also divided into three groups: public or municipal education (free and financed by the State), subsidized private education (shared financing) and private education.
Municipal education focuses on vulnerable or impoverished income groups, where children have access to education and other public resources including meals. In contrast, private education is typically the most expensive and is only affordable for families with higher incomes. One of its benefits is better quality education.
Private schools have shown to have the best-performing students. The Universidad de Chile Department of Educational Evaluation, Measurement and Reporting (Demre) reports that private establishments come in at the top of its educational quality ranking every year.
Some examples of this are the private schools often included among the best-ranking schools, the Itahue, Los Andes, Cordillera, Kendal English School, The American School, Playground, Los Sagrados Corazones, The Grange School, Santiago College and Tabancura private schools.
However, there are some exceptions. This list of top-ranking schools includes outstanding public schools such as Instituto Nacional, Liceo José Victorino Lastarria and Liceo Carmela Carvajal, which are ranked at the same education level as private schools.
In keeping with the same, the Ministry of Education (Mineduc) is in charge of ensuring and regulating a fair and quality educational system. The ministry also determines the standards and policies to be applied to all educational establishments in Chile.
In fact, one of the most important current challenges for Chilean education is to improve the quality of public education and thus reduce inequality. In keeping with the same, the past government administrations have started a series of reforms, including the passing of a General Education Law in 2009.
The wide range of school alternatives in Chile include schools exclusively for boys or for girls, but most schools are mixed. In addition, there is a wide range of possibilities in terms of education, religion, language, etc.
There are schools featuring religious and non-religious education. Likewise, colonies have strongly influenced education in Chile. This means that there are British, German, Italian, Arabian and Jewish schools, among others, where these languages are generally taught as a second language. At any rate, the teaching of English is fundamental at practically all private schools.
There are also several establishments managed by religious congregations, mainly Catholic congregations such as the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, the Company of Jesus and the Opus Dei prelate. Although these generally feature a strong religious influence, this varies depending on each school. For example, some establishments feature an entrance requirement that students belong to the congregation, while others are more permissive.
As for the last four years of education, or high school education, students can choose between: scientific-humanistic, technical-professional and artistic high school education.
Scientific-humanistic education refers to establishments that focus on preparing their students for the University Placement Test (PSU), which is used to determine whether these students will qualify for a state-owned or traditional university.
Technical-professional education trains students in a specific area, such as a commercial area (accounting, secretarial, advertising, sales, among others), an industrial trade (electrician, mechanic) and more recently a technical or agricultural trade.
Artistic education was established very recently (starting in 2006) and places emphasis on developing children’s talents.