The education reform bill
ChilNet extracts from the press, January 1997
Law may leave students without schools says FIDE
Director of Education Bill
8 January 1997
The government's education reform bill is in the legislature and
last year's strikes seem far behind, but the controversy
continues. In the following interview, published in La Epoca Jan.
5, the president of the Private Schools Federation (FIDE), priest
Hector Vargas, presents the case against the bill. FIDE
represents 500 private grade schools and high schools, most of
them parochial. Among other things, Vargas argues that the
government's plan to extend the school day and make it a single
shift - whereas now most schools group students and teachers into
two shifts - is an attack on educational freedom.)
LE: Do you think
there will be insufficient teachers to implement the educational
HV: We believe
that... there will be a lack of teachers. First, because they are
going to be obligated to work a single shift, and second because
statistics show that each year fewer students are entering
LE: But the
ministry is pushing the fortification of those study programs in
fundamental problem is not that, but rather teachers' salaries.
If they have to study for so many years to practice a profession
and it is not accompanied by a good salary, fewer and fewer
students are going to study education.
LE: Some teachers
say the extension of the school day will cause them problems.
HV: Because the
teachers who worked in more than one school will have to be
compensated upon leaving one school for another, and no where
does the bill establish who is going to pay that compensation.
And we are talking about millions and millions of pesos.
LE: Why don't you
agree with the obligatory extended single shift?
HV: Because for
the schools that have two shifts, ... if their administrators
don't have the space to expand the facility - which occurs in a
significant percentage - they will have to eliminate half of the
classes and those children will be out on the street. You cannot
obligate everyone by force to comply with such a law.
LE: But the
students can relocate to other schools...
HV: This is a
very serious problem which has to do with the constitutional
right of educational freedom. According to the Constitution,
parents have every right to choose the school they want for their
kids. And they choose on the basis of the educational program of
the school, be it for tradition, teaching style or the education
percentage of FIDE member schools are affected by this?
HV: ... (W)e
estimate about 15 percent. Imagine what it means to take a child
out of a school not because of disciplinary or performance
problems, but simply because of "a law that expels."
LE: According to
your information, does the system have sufficient capacity to
absorb the demand for education if all children enter into a
single shift in March?
HV: If all
schools implement this system at once, thousands of children will
be left without schools. Consequently, the ministry has a
classroom construction plan, although the implementation will be
gradual. But I insist that the problem is not one of classrooms,
but of educational freedom.
LE: Do you
believe that the problem in education is merely a lack of funds?
HV: No, the
problem... does not depend so much on the amount of funding, but
rather on management. We are convinced that we are not going to
increase the quality of education by increasing the students'
schedules by two hours. Education improves with a good
LE: Do you
believe the reform is badly designed?
HV: I think the
reform is very well-intentioned, but the underlying problem is
that things are being done less and less democratically and with
less input from the actors. *
No student will be left out of school: Government
response to criticism of education reform
9 January 1997
officials met Tuesday with representatives of 13 educational
organizations, including the Teachers' Union, to respond to
criticism of the education reform bill now before the Senate. The
bill has already been approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
organizations argue that the bill is improvisational,
underfunded, and will displace students and undermine educational
freedom. The organizations are particularly concerned about the
plan to extend the schoolday and convert it to a single shift.
Under the present system, many schools teach two student bodies
on two shifts and with two sets of faculty.
Education Committee began analyzing the bill on Tuesday. That
same day, the National Private Schools Corporation (Conacep),
which represents some 600 schools, sent the committee a report
calling parts of the reform "an attack on rights guaranteed
by the Chilean Constitution" and calling for modifications.
The obligatory longer schoolday, Conacep says, will rescind
schools' right to develop their own educational programs. In
addition, several organizations say the reform will force schools
with limited facilities to expel thousands of students, thereby
infringing on parents' constitutional right to choose where to
educate their children. (Ed note: See interview in yesterday's
meeting, Minister of Education Jose Pablo Arellano and Ministry
of Education (Mineduc) Undersecretary Jaime Perez de Arce assured
the organizations that no students will be displaced as a result
of the reform. Perez de Arce told La Epoca that the program will
be phased-in to allow time for the construction of additional
classrooms and facilities. The schools that are prepared to
implement the extended schoolday now will do so in March, he
said, but the full plan will not take complete effect until 2002
document, however, argues that the 27 percent funding increase to
prepare schools for the extended schedule is "absolutely
In regards to how
the obligatory extension will affect educational freedom,
Undersecretary Perez de Arce referred to 1994 figures indicating
that 90 percent of Chilean students have an average 800 class
hours per year. Developed countries, by contrast, have some
1,200. "(The reform) does not do violence to the freedom of
education, but rather aims to improve the quality of
education," he said.
of the reform is that it will cause teachers who work two shifts
under the current system to lose part of their income. Perez de
Arce said these teachers represent only 15 percent of the
profession, and that the affected educators will have sufficient
time to adjust. In addition, he said, the quality of education
will benefit from having teachers dedicate themselves to a single
group of students.
organizations have also argued that the reform has been
improvisational, and as one consequence of this lack of foresight
there will not be enough teachers to implement it.
The head of
Mineduc's General Education division, Juan Eduardo Garcia,
responded in an interview with La Epoca that the reform has been
in planning since 1990. He also said he has no doubt there will
be enough teachers to extend the schoolday. Any shortage which
might arise, he said, will be dealt with through separate
initiatives accompanying the reform.
In related news,
the Chamber of Deputies Education Committee approved legislation
Tuesday to raise teachers' salaries and provide new retirement
packages for years of service. *
Educational reform suffers setback: Senate
rejects key measures of bill
La Nacion, La Epoca
16 January 1997
Education Committee and the government agreed on a pared-down
version of the Frei Administration's education reform bill
Wednesday, after opposition senators attempted a major overhaul
of the project.
The bill's key
feature, the extension of the school day, remained intact in the
version to be debated in the full Senate today.
did reject the bill's main financing measure, however, without
which the government says it cannot implement the $1.5 billion
peso (US$3.6 million) reform. The government insists that its
plan to maintain the value-added tax (IVA) at 18 percent, rather
than lower it to 17 percent as previously planned, is crucial to
the Full School Day project.
Larrain (UDI) argued that, based on the country's anticipated
growth, government revenues will be sufficient to finance the
reform without maintaining the tax at 18 percent.
Minister Jose Pablo Arellano said the government plans to
gradually implement the reform from 1997-2002 to cover 9,000
state-subsidized schools. Grade school class hours are to rise
from 30 to 38, and high school class hours from 33 to 42. The
additional teachers and construction these changes require make
the IVA "indispensable," Arellano said.
As the bill
stands, the longer school day will begin this March for 3,000 of
the nation's 9,000 grade schools and high schools, according to
Minister Arellano. Education Committee President Sen. Roberto
Munoz Barra (PPD), however, says most of these 3,000 schools are
rural institutions with small student bodies, so the reform will
only immediately affect about 13 percent of students nationwide.
The minister said
the government is satisfied with the bill, but will continue to
seek to reinstate the 18 percent IVA at every opportunity. The
Chamber of Deputies approved the tax in the bill's original
Association President Jaime Ravinet attacked the bill's financing
on other grounds. He says the 24 percent subsidy the government
has budgeted for public schools this year is insufficient because
it takes into account only additional class hours and not
teachers' planning hours, parent meetings and other additional
activities. The government expects cities to maintain the same
share of financing, he says, which means an increase in absolute
threatened to derail the reform over questions about its
constitutionality. Various educational organizations, teachers
and legislators, including UDI Sen. Larrain, say the obligatory
nature of the school day extension violates the educational
freedom of schools and individuals guaranteed in the
Undersecretary Jaime Perez de Arce responded that the issue is
one of educational quality, not educational freedom.
Alejandro Foxley accused the right of supporting educational
reform in public and sabotaging it in private.
Committee approved the modified bill after the Education
Committee Wednesday, and the full Senate is expected to approve
it today. The legislation will then be submitted for the approval
of the full Chamber of Deputies. *