The Constitution established in 1980, during the dictatorship, caused Chilean education to become an iconic case in the world in terms of privatization and implementation of market policies in education that generated the series of consequences that we will analyze below.
In the first place, the school system was dismantled by the incorporation of the logic of competition to the detriment of collaboration. Thus, each school had to compete to capture enrollment, which would allow it to have access to greater financing thanks to the subsidy provided by the central level.
In second place appears the atomization of learning, product of the decentralization of the educational system from the transfer of schools to municipalities and the emergence of multiple private supporters with public financing of different legal structure, interests and educational results.
A third effect was the increase in socioeconomic segregation between schools, generated by the different student selection mechanisms, the establishment of the copayment –which allowed families to be charged a monthly fee–, and the consequences of the strengthened accountability mechanisms. from 2000, being much more demanding with the public supporters than with the private ones that receive the state subsidy.
Fourth, there was a segmentation of the teachers’ labor market due to the different labor and contractual conditions, which weakened their power of influence and their working conditions.
In fifth place is the constant decrease in enrollment in municipal establishments and the consequent progressive increase in enrollment in private establishments with public financing, which translates into a deficit of structural characteristics and an increase in the precariousness of municipal education to which Students who require the most support attend.
Finally, there is the decrease in public resources effectively allocated to education, since the law allowed profit in private subsidized establishments.
Part of these consequences were based on the demands of the student movement of 2011, which among its demands installed the end of profit with public resources and free education at all levels; the need to eliminate academic and socioeconomic selection from preschool through high school; the elimination of shared financing, one of the main mechanisms of segregation; and the demunicipalization of public education.
What the rejected Constitution proposed
The proposed new Constitution represented an advance towards expanding the framework for Chilean society, and education was no exception. In the first place, it made it possible to settle the tension present in the current Constitution between the right to education and freedom of teaching.
Here it is pertinent to point out that the 1980 Constitution defines freedom of education as the “right to open, organize and maintain educational establishments.” Thus, the idea of freedom is based on the conception of a private economic right that in practice has prevailed over the rights to education of both students and parents, or caregivers to educate their children, since the educational establishments were the ones that selected their students.
The proposal for a new Constitution, in addition to establishing the right to education and adding that it is a primary and inescapable duty of the State, proposed to guarantee the freedom of education, but establishing that this referred to the freedom of fathers, mothers and legal guardians. to choose the type of education of the people in their charge, respecting the best interest and progressive autonomy.
Second, it advanced in dismantling the market principles that have governed Chilean education for the last 40 years. For this, cooperation, non-discrimination and inclusion were established within the principles of education.
It also created the National Education System, which integrated all public or private institutions from preschool to tertiary education. In this system, public education was established as the strategic axis whose expansion and strengthening had to be guaranteed by the State. For this, it established a secular and free Public Education System at all educational levels, whose financing would be public and through basal contributions, without the schools having the need to compete for enrollment in unequal conditions.
Thirdly, the proposal for the new Constitution established that education is a process of training and permanent learning throughout life, which is essential for the exercise of other rights, and understands it as an integral process, which is reflected in its principles and ends. Thus, among the ends he established social justice; respect for human rights and nature; ecological awareness; democratic coexistence among peoples; prevention of violence and discrimination; and the cognitive, physical, social and emotional development of people. He also considered that the State is the guarantor of comprehensive environmental and sexual education.
What is coming for Chilean education
The current scenario is uncertain. Those who called to reject the proposal for a new Constitution pointed out that it was to elaborate another one, a new one that “unites us”. However, up to now there is no certainty that the same actors who historically refused a constituent process and who boycotted the process initiated in the second administration of Michelle Bachelet will reach an agreement and fulfill that promise, since they are mainly linked to the right and conservative sectors of the coalition that governed 20 years after the return to democratic governments.
Thus, the only certainty is that for the moment the same Constitution that has channeled privatization and market education remains in force. Therefore, the government of President Gabriel Boric will have to continue navigating this scenario to promote changes to the educational system according to his government program.
An antecedent is the second government of Michelle Bachelet, in which the first educational policies were promoted, which, although they touch in part on the market principles of Chilean education, do not end with the market. These changes occurred mainly through the School Inclusion Law, which made it possible to eliminate the selection of students for academic and socioeconomic reasons, advance in the elimination of profit, and advance to free primary and secondary education.
For its part, in higher education, free education was implemented for 60% of students, which, although it provides a field of action that allows us to continue correcting market mechanisms and moving towards a fairer educational system, restricts options such as preference of the State to public education, which would probably be declared unconstitutional. A complex but viable challenge would be to move towards a new financing system for Chilean education.