Directorate for Education and Skills

Education Policy Outlook Highlights: Chile


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  Last update 20 November 2013
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‌‌Chile’s educational context

‌‌Students: Educational attainment and reading performance in Chile have shown some of the largest improvements across OECD countries in recent years. Equity remains an issue, particularly for socio-economically disadvantaged students and students in rural areas. In PISA 2009, a large proportion of students still exhibit low reading proficiency. Enrolment in pre-primary programmes has increased, but it remains low at early ages. Educational practices that may hinder greater progress in equity include grade repetition, school choice, and transfers to other schools for struggling secondary students. Upper secondary completion has increased to exceed the OECD average in 2011, and most students expect to continue on to higher education. However, for the one-third of students enrolled in vocational education and training (VET) programmes, the transition into further education and the labour market is challenging. Tertiary education enrolment and completion has also increased considerably in recent decades, reaching the OECD average.

Institutions: Chile’s learning environments are similar to those in other OECD countries, according to PISA findings, but they also show great variation across schools. School leaders exercise pedagogical leadership and receive in-service training, but until recently they did not necessarily reach their position through professional recruitment. Results of candidates entering the teaching profession on a voluntary national University Selection Test (Prueba de Selección Universitaria, PSU) show that while progress has been made, there is a need for improvement. Support for teachers includes clear standards, comprehensive evaluations intended for improvement and professional development opportunities. The recent creation of institutions to develop more systematic evaluation can contribute to monitoring school processes and guiding school improvemen.

Governance and funding: The Ministry of Education sets the central framework and guides educational policy, and schools have autonomy within a regulated framework. Education is delivered by municipalities and by a high proportion of privately managed educational institutions that receive public subsidies. Expenditure on education has increased over the past decade, and investment in educational institutions is now higher than the OECD average. Chile also has the largest share of private funds among OECD countries, mostly due to high private funding in tertiary education.

‌‌Key policy issues

Within a context of significant improvements, equity and quality in education are a challenge in relation to other OECD countries. Schools require strong school leaders and support to implement and drive school improvement, along with continued support to improve teaching conditions. The evaluation and assessment framework can be further consolidated for greater coherence. Public funding and quality assurance of tertiary education institutions remain key issues to ensure efficiency and equity. The challenge extends to aligning skills of young people with the needs of the labour market to ensure social progress.

‌‌Recent policy responses

To strengthen performance and support disadvantaged students, a financial incentive, the Ley de Subvención Escolar Preferencial, 2008 (Law on Preferential Subsidies) has been introduced. It increases funding for schools that serve disadvantaged students from early childhood through secondary education, while offering more support to these students and their schools. In tertiary education, a more comprehensive scholarship programme pays full tuition expenses for high-performing disadvantaged students, and low interest rates have been set for student loans.

A new accountability system brings together the Ministry of Education, the National Education Council and a newly created Quality of Education Agency (Agencia de Calidad de la Educación, 2012), which is in charge of coordinating national assessments for schools and students, monitoring national system performance and providing information to stakeholders on performance. The Superintendencia de Educación Escolar also initiated inspections in 2012 to ensure that schools meet legal standards for operation. To support quality assurance in tertiary education, a draft bill introduced in parliament (2013) aims to increase monitoring and promote quality.

Changes designed to enhance professionalism include standards for teachers and school leaders plus a recent reform of the school leadership role, which requires competitive and open selection processes, offers higher salaries and more assistance for professional development, and grants more flexibility in firing teachers.

PISA performance results and equity levels have improved significantly in Chile since 2000, with the highest increase in reading literacy across OECD between 2000 and 2009. However, students perform at a lower-than-average level in PISA, and the impact of socio-economic status on performance is higher than the OECD average (see interactive chart below).


Secondary and tertiary education attainment is similar to the OECD average: 88% of 25-34 year-oldshave attained at least secondary education (compared to the OECD average of 82%), and 41% have attained tertiary education (compared to the OECD average of 39%) (see interactive chart below).


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