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Education and SchoolsBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Chile - Education and Schools
Ninety three percent of students are enrolled in public schools, with the remaining students opting for private schools. The education vouchers system is used in Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand, and was introduced in Chile in 1981 to grant all children access to education despite their financial background. The income of the parents using this system is not assessed when granting education vouchers, meaning the value of the vouchers is the same for all parents. There is stark inequality between poorer and rich families, which means affluent families can afford to top up their vouchers and give their children access to better education. This issue has been highlighted by UNESCO and the OECD. Public education is managed by the municipality, while private schools at times receive help from the government.
Children between up to five years old can join preschool for free, although this is not mandatory. The state funds preschools, and over 90 percent of children below the age of five attend these before proceeding to the primary level. Preschool has three cycles, divided into two segments:
- Sala CUNA for babies up to two years,
- Nivel medio for toddlers and transicion for ages four to six.
Chile has a wide range of preschools, although their quality does not necessarily match that of preschools in the US and Canada. Nursery schools are a way for parents to get free, supervised childcare. Preschools introduce children to the social environment of a school setting and help improve necessary skills of coordination. Children are also taught how to relate to other children and even do group activities. Children in preschool are taught writing, reading, and arithmetic, which prepares them for primary school.
After preschool, children attend primary school for eight years. Primary school has two cycles, each of which are divided into four years.
High school education lasts for four years and is where students plan their career paths, which might be technical-professional, artistic or scientific-humanist. Chilean students can receive specialized education to help them prepare for tests which allow them access to university. Although primary school education is free in the country, parents are expected to pay certain fees for high school education.
The state has special schools for children with special needs such as learning difficulties, disabilities, or psychological and behavioral problems. Some of these pupils are taught in special units within mixed schools, although there are also schools that are specifically dedicated to these children. In recent years, special needs students are being integrated into mainstream schools to get exposure. There are various schools for different needs.
The school year starts from March to December, with a two-week break for winter holiday in July and summer break from December to March. Enrollment takes place between July and August for the following year. The children of expats who hope to enroll in state schools are required by the ministry of education to pass an exam before they can enter either primary or high school. This exam is taken in March or July before the start of the school year. If you would like to home school your children, you need to register with the provencial department in March and June. This will allow those children to sit for the examenes libres later. Examenes libres are the exams that migrant children and those who have not studied in the Chilean system are expected to sit for before they can be enrolled into state schools.
Most schools in Chile have uniforms. However, wearing uniform is not compulsory, but rather a formality for differentiating between schools and university. The uniforms mostly consist of grey trousers, white shirts and navy blue jackets for boys, while girls wear grey dresses or skirts with white shirts, blue tights or trousers. Private schools also have their own distinct uniforms whose color and design is determined by the specific school.
The grading system uses numbers one to seven. One is the worst while seven is the best. To pass you need a minimum of four. Early levels of education have a letter grading system, which is as follows: MB (Muy Bueno) B (Bueno) S (sufficient) I (insufficient). For the university entry test level, scores range from 150 to 850 points, depending on the subject or university. Expat students are required to achieve certain minimum scores to be enrolled in universities in Chile. School operating hours vary with the school. Some run from eight in the morning to two in the afternoon, while others run until four in the evening. Lessons last for 45 minutes with lunch breaks. Students are free to carry lunch from their homes, eat school lunch, or go back home during lunchtime for meals.
The primary school curriculum teaches mathematics, foreign languages, indigenous language, history, natural sciences, art, technology, geography, social sciences, religion and physical education. In high school, the curriculum helps students obtain specialized training to prepare them for vocational or university training. The compulsory subjects in high schools include language and communication, science, geography, mathematics, history, social science, English, physical education, technology, philosophy, psychology, visual and musical arts.
High school tuition tends not to be more than 3500 pesos. However, in a government-subsidized school, there are no mandatory monthly fees, meaning parents have the right to refuse to pay. In non-subsidized schools, the price is constant for three years, with quarterly payments.
Higher education in Chile consists of universities and professional institutions. There are about 25 public universities and more than 30 private universities. The public universities are the ones that were formed before 1981 or came from older institutions. At university, there is a two-year foundation program where general education in bachillerato is done. The school year has semesters lasting from February to July and August to December, with a winter break and summer holiday.
Universities and technical schools charge enrolment and tuition fees. If you seek an education loan, the state acts as your guarantor. The government also gives student loans, but only to those in public universities.
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