Chile's student protests show little sign of abating
For better or worse, Chile’s education system is one of the most privatised in the world.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), nearly 40% of all education spending comes not from the state but from households in the form of tuition fees. That is higher than in any other country in the OECD.
The government says this private sector involvement should be welcomed, but the students argue that it effectively turns education into a commodity, governed by market forces.
Even at high school level, the private sector is pervasive. Less than half of Chile’s high school pupils go to fully state-funded schools. The rest go to private schools (7%) or subsidised schools (48%), where costs are split between the state and parents.
Pupils have taken over hundreds of schools during this year’s protests and barricaded themselves inside, refusing to allow the teachers in.
At some schools, the pupils have jammed chairs and desks into the railings to indicate that their school is under occupation.
At one occupied school, the Liceo Dario Salas in central Santiago, students set up camp inside, with mattresses laid out on the floors of the classrooms. They painted defiant revolutionary murals on the school walls.
“Ever since Chile returned to democracy we’ve seen how, little by little, they’ve sold off all of the services that we should have access to, and that includes education,” one of the protesters, 17-year-old Fernanda Gonzalez, said.
“Education should be free for all. It should give us the chance to choose different careers and to have a better quality of life.”
One thing we were all really struck by in Chile was the immense idealism and involvement of the youth. These kids do not fuck around.