The new figures released by the Ministry of Education this month confirm the enormous educational crisis we are facing in Chile. A self-fulfilling prophecy, after 71 weeks of the massive closure of nurseries, kindergartens and schools as a result of the pandemic, which exacerbated pre-emergency vulnerabilities.
Indeed, according to the recent balance, more than 50,000 schoolchildren dropped out of the system between 2021 and 2022, while 1.2 million boys and girls remained seriously absent. The educational level that presented the greatest increase in non-attendance was basic education, with a 105% increase, followed by kindergarten and the scientific-humanist average, with increases of 87% and 83%, respectively. Regarding learning, we know that 96% of first grade students do not know the letters of the alphabet, so they are not able to read the texts indicated for their age (U. de Los Andes).
That girls, boys and adolescents disassociate themselves from the educational system is a tragedy. It is a complex problem, in which actors and factors of various kinds intervene -individual, family, school, social-, with a differential origin and impact on women and men. An educational trajectory with many repetitions, with repeated family crises in contexts of vulnerability, with child labor or pregnancy at an early age are the most frequent factors that already compromise an entire generation (ComunidadMujer).
Low levels of education increase the chances of facing difficulties in the labor market or living in a situation of social exclusion (Eurostat, 2020). But it also affects the availability of human capital that we need to transition to development.
We are not facing an innocuous event for anyone and, even so, it has been made invisible by other crises that have taken the political contingency seriously. It’s time to sort priorities! The main task for 2023 cannot be other than reducing the learning gap, recovering the students who have left the system and addressing coexistence and school mental health.
For this, educational policies must consider gender factors that increase school exclusion. The collaboration between school, family and community and the appropriate socio-educational policies are, thus, essential to guarantee that thousands of students can opt for better development opportunities in the future.
The challenge is huge and will require a State pact that lasts beyond the current government. For now, the Education portfolio announced an “Educational Reactivation Plan” with an investment of $250 billion. The details are not yet known; repairing trust and promoting public-private collaboration will be essential for achieving the objectives.
We can not wait any longer. The educational emergency must occupy the first place in the agenda of priorities of those who govern, legislate and educate. Of the whole society.
For Alejandra Sepulvedaexecutive president ComunidadMujer