In this opinion piece, Guillermo Scherping, a member of the Colegio de Profesores de Chile, sets out the events that led to the radical change of direction in Chile’s education policies.
The date of 26 January 2015 will remain etched on the memories of the men and women of Chile who, ever since privatisation and the exclusive education system were imposed, have fought to restore and develop free public education, with good, integrated and inclusive education, linked to the personal development of all. It is the first step in putting an end to a society based on the privileges of the most powerful.
The approval of the law that puts an end to profit in education, an end to families paying and an end to the abhorrent selection of students will also remain etched in the memory of solidarity of everyone at Education International and above all in the Latin America Regional Committee. The model “student”, the example that the neoliberals invited us to follow, is falling apart. Allow me to single out one person in particular for this victory: Stella Maldonado, who spared no effort in crossing the mountains to join us in the streets and fight by our side. Sometimes the right ideas take time to break through, but once they have been set in motion, because they are fair and well-founded, they will win out. This is the case here.
This is a victory for democracy that we must dedicate to all the Chilean families who joined our fight and believed that education in our country had to change. To all those children and students who suffered police repression for demonstrating in the streets, who repeated courses, paralysing education, who demanded social justice, and education as a social right, namely free and quality education for all. To education workers, teachers, public servants and professionals who have fought with us from day one for free, good quality public education.
It is important to make it clear that this reform would not have passed into law if it had not been for the struggle led by the social and political movement, and if the experience of Latin America and the world had not been so clear and convincing in this case.
With the new education system everyone will have the opportunity to become educated without social, cultural or economic discrimination. This fact alone heralds a better future, breaking the chains imposed by the doctrine inherited from the Pinochet era.
The fight continues, as always. In the midst of the discussions on labour reforms, that will strengthen trade unionism and put end to the replacement of striking workers, another obstacle imposed by the dictatorship, we have initiated a draft law on a Professional Teaching Career, as part of the National Plan for Teachers (Initial Teacher Training and In-Service Teacher Training). The bill will probably be discussed in parliament next March. Then, in the course of the year, there will be a law that will put an end to the Municipalisation of education and create a New State Institutional Structure for Public Education.
It is against this background of struggle and debate that we will be holding the Education International Latin America Regional Conference in Santiago de Chile. We look forward to seeing you!