Can the authorities and institutions take charge of the critical educational situation after the confinements and the many changes in methods of the school systems? In a column for CIPER, an expert on the subject addresses this situation from the double exception of the health and constitutional debates.
TFollowing the experience of confinements that the covid-19 pandemic brought to the entire world, both Chile and other countries have been faced with the need to restructure the spaces in which teaching and learning processes take place, implementing a variety of methods. hitherto unknown in school systems (online and/or hybrid classes, intensive use of educational technology, large-scale implementation of so-called “emergency remote teaching”etc.). This situation has revealed the great inequalities between students and teachers, both due to the social and digital gap, as well as access to and knowledge of technological tools [CEPAL y UNESCO 2020; RUIZ 2020]which reflects the lack of scope of the new educational model.
Given this scenario, it is increasingly necessary to move towards educational justice and put into practice “conceptual tools and policy criteria to promote the construction of a possible educational justice model” [AGUILAR NERY 2016, p. 9]. The definition of educational justice has evolved over time, although several authors agree in presenting it as a critical account of the distribution of schooling, established as a hope and one of the axes of recognition for the construction of a fairer society.
Most theorists who have highlighted the issue of educational justice agree that States must begin by assimilating education as a human right. It is a recognition that, in the Latin American context, often remains on paper. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, to which Chile subscribes, indicates in its article 26 the right to education, but the national reality shows progress in this regard but also problematic knots to resolve, such as, for example, the education of persons deprived of liberty. Two years ago, the annual report of the INDH highlighted its concern about the complaint by SENAME executives in relation to “the absence of state entities that support educational activities” (INDH 2020, p.48). For its part, the Chilean Gendarmerie (official letter No. 14.00.00.1066/16; June 22, 2016) confirmed that 24% of inmates with incomplete secondary education do not receive educational attention (the figure increases to 63% among inmates who have only Basic Education or appear without schooling).
In the context of the pandemic, if we talk about educational justice, there is an almost general consensus that it is the States that must take charge of preparing an accurate diagnosis from the context, considering the inconveniences of schools during this period. Establishing prevention and improvement policies will help education to be better prepared to face similar vicissitudes in the future. Now, from the perspective of educational justice, under this responsibility lies a problem: what happens if the State is inefficient in the task? In other words, what to do when the authorities and institutions are not capable of taking charge of the critical post-pandemic educational situation?
This has been the subject of debate recently in Chile. [ver más en MEGE; ARANEDA; SANDOVAL; y La Tercera], because even the allocation of new resources to improve education has not been efficient. According to Education Action data, Chile would invest 22.5% of the national budget in the Ministry of Education in 2022, although the results continue to be deficient in several areas. A clear example of this is the implementation of the New Public Education, in which the advances have been very poor, since they have presented various problems and ineffectiveness as a result of the inefficiency of the state apparatuses. [ARIAS, 2020; BALERIOLA et al., 2021; CONTRERAS TRIVIÑO et al., 2021; GONZÁLEZ, 2019].
As for Higher Education, the universities had to implement initiatives that promote retention during a pandemic. Potentialization of virtual classrooms was carried out, contracting of videoconferencing platforms and support in greater connectivity of students through connection cards. They were, however, temporary measures. The challenge now is to maintain and give continuity to policies that provide resources to those students who still suffer from the digital dividea situation that is evident, for example, in the results of the Barometer survey carried out by Subtel in 2021, which indicates that although 87.4% of households declare they have their own and paid access to the internet, the breakdown shows that only 28.9% have a fixed connection (with greater stability), due to its high cost, according to respondents.
In short, rather than creating equal opportunities and conditions, so that both the State and educational institutions become involved in redistributive policies and this goes hand in hand with the recognition of the other, we need to implement thoughtful and political actions that listen to the voices of the excludedas Jesús Aguilar points out, including the principle of social participation that does not go from top to bottom, but is achieved in coordination, with democratic dialogues between the various social actors. [AGUILAR, 2016],
In accordance with the above, we must consider what Antonio Botía proposes, around the fact that «the school, located in an unequal environment, would seem condemned to reproduce said inequalities. Hence, greater justice in the school could mean acting more to reduce social inequalities than in educational reforms.»
From another approach and from my perspective —in addition, considering the principles of educational justice related to the education-society relationship—, freedom of education should also be included as one of its drivers. In this sense, specifically in Chile this freedom was questioned, and in my opinion, quite limited. The recent constitutional proposal, which kindled the hopes of a large part of the country, rejected by a categorical 61.86% of the voting population, sought to resolve the issue of educational justice. However, in my opinion, not completely.
The proposal of the Convention presented significant advances, but the ideologization of the text caused many aspects contrary to the advancement of true educational justice without bias to be obscured. Although the freedom of education was explicitly established in the text, it left many doubts about denominational and private schools.
I understand that freedom of education as such is a principle that must be respected in all regulations that seek to safeguard democratic principles. This must be limited to the current curricular and regulatory framework of each country, since in this way educational trajectories are ensured. However, what happens when one of these principles restricts the freedom of certain sectors?
By way of example and evidence, article 34.4 of the Proposal for a new Constitution established that «education will be governed by the principles of cooperation, non-discrimination, inclusion, justice, participation, solidarity, interculturality, a gender approach, pluralism and other enshrined principles…”, which every school establishment must contemplate and safeguard. Later, in article 41.3, it consigned “the freedom of education”, specifying that it and academic freedom would be subject to “the framework of the aims and principles of education” (as, according to what I understand, those that are established in article 34; among them, “the gender approach” which, in some of its principles, collides with certain religious confessions). Thus, the Proposal put ideological principles into tension, excluding a not inconsiderable sector of society and preventing us from advancing towards true educational justice for all social sectors.
today we meet ad portas of the beginning of a new constitutional process; For now, full of uncertainties. However, hopes remain valid, hoping that whatever body drafts the Magna Carta that governs us for at least the next fifty years will focus on a path that really tends towards the implementation of true educational justice, without exclusion.