UN Committee requests that Chile explain when it will end segregation in education and abandon voucher system
In a list of issues released on 5th March 2015, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) formally asked the Chilean Government to explain the impact of privatization in education and its measures “to put an end to segregation in the education system and guarantee the right to equality and non-discrimination in terms of access to education and within schools”.
In paragraph 14 of the document, the Committee further requested that Chile “indicate whether there are plans to abandon the voucher system and the student selection process in all public, subsidized and private schools.”
The CRC highlighted in its questions one of the key problems in the Chilean education system: the vouchers, through which the State subsidizes private schools, organizing education as a market. Yet, together with student selection in schools, this system led Chile to be the education system with the highest segregation based on socio-economic origin in the world. The Government is now trying to reform the system to address some of the issues, following massive student protests in 2011
The clear questions on vouchers, student selection, and segregation within the list of issues represents an important development. Besides bringing important elements of reflection for the reforms in Chile, it also sends a strong sign to other States, such as Morocco, which may be tempted to adopt a similar voucher system as Chile.
The list of issues presented by the CRC follows a report from a coalition of Chilean and international organizations raising concerns about the effect of privatization in education in Chile on the realization of human rights. The report was prepared by the Sciences Po Paris Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, working in partnership with the Foro por el Derecho a la Educación, the Red de Estudios para la profundización Democrática, the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education, the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative, the Right to Education Project, Education International, the Global Campaign for Education, and the Equal Education Law Centre.
In December 2014, another UN human rights body, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) had already called attention to the same issues, following another report from the same group of organizations. The CESCR had asked the Chilean State to report on “any measures adopted to eliminate fee-paying and selective systems that restrict equitable access to education and indicate what concrete steps the State party has taken to reduce the inequality caused by the current education system”.
The organizations involved in the report now stand ready to contribute to the debate on the reform of the education system in Chile. They will keep on working on this topic with the Chilean civil society in the coming months, as the State party is requested to respond in writing to the questions from the CRC by 15 June 2015. The State of Chile will then be formally reviewed before the CRC during its 70th Session between 14th September and 2nd October 2015, in presence of representatives of the Chilean Government, following which the CRC will issue concluding observations. Before that, Chile will also be reviewed before the CESCR, on 9th and 10th June 2015.