“No” to Education Reform
Thousands of parents protested last week in Santiago, Chile, in opposition to new education reform reflecting the protests of students occurring over the past few years, demanding free education for all. New education reform will put an end to subsidized schools in Chile. At the head of enacting this legislation is the socialist government of Michelle Bachelet, via the New Majority Coalition, a group that has enough power in both houses of Congress to pass the legislation through. Free education was also a platform on which Michelle Bachelet ran for presidency, taking office in March 2014.
Parent protesters form a group called “Confepa,” or Chile’s Confederation of Parents and Guardians. Although students have been protesting for free education since 2011, middle-class parents are concerned that their children forego the benefits of taxpayer subsidies that fund school resources. School activists call the education system “profoundly unfair“, as middle class students have access to better schools while low-SES students are subject to under-funded state schools.
With the new legislation, the state will increase how much money it spends per student, and can allot more funds to lower-income areas to ease the burden on lower-SES families. If this reform becomes law, more than 4,000 schools that currently receive state funding will have to close or become independent institutions, projected to move around 200,000 students to new schools. While parents are concerned with the change of schools for their children, activists are more concerned with the unequal opportunities for quality education as they exist.
The current education system is a remnant of the Pinochet era, privatized under Pinochet’s dictatorship, and has effected in expensive and poor-quality education that generally benefits those with more financial means. This reform would reinforce the current rule of the socialist party. The PanAm Post quotes University of Chile School of Government and Political Science Professor Felipe Muñizaga, who points out that such a political reform, if successful, “will have secured a socialist-oriented political and cultural hegemony in the medium and long run.”
Free Education as Socialist Practice
Parents’ concerns are not without merit; there are often negative effects to changing schools, especially mid-term. However, it is not to be overlooked that the parents who stand in opposition to this legislation are from the middle class. Their children will not suffer from poor quality education like parents who pay less tax dollars and subsequently have under-funded schools. Additionally, if a system is maintained where schools can be privatized, a hierarchy of schooling systems will be maintained, as private schools offer certain affordances (generally, more money) that reflect in the opportunities granted to private school attendees. A private and public school system essentially perpetuates class structures within education, and the prospect of a free education system for all seems to fall more in line with socialist practice (and by extension, the current socialist government).
Chilean parents march against President Bachelet’s education reform. (2014, October 25). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-29773137
Chile’s education reform sparks protest. (2014, October 26). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/world/257816/chile’s-education-reform-sparks-protest
Chilean Parents Rise to Protest Anti-Profit Education Reform. (2014, October 30). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://panampost.com/adriana-peralta/2014/10/30/chilean-parents-rise-to-protest-anti-profit-education-reform/
Chilean president’s landmark education reform passes first hurdle. (2014, October 21). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/21/us-chile-education-reform-idUSKCN0IA2QH20141021
Can Chile Succeed in Making College Free? (2014, October 26). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/inside_higher_ed/2014/10/free_college_in_chile_michelle_bachelet_s_no_tuition_plan_has_meant_more.html