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Minister questions quality of education: Explains results of Aptitude test and argues the need for reform

ChilNet extract from La Epoca
20 January 1997

(The following interview with Education Minister Juan Pablo Arellano appeared in La Epoca Jan. 17. Among other things, he discusses the results of the Academic Aptitude Test (PAA), the national exam all students must take in order to attend college. The minimum acceptable weighted score for admission to a public university is 450 points.)

LE: You are currently designing the new high school curricula and some sectors have suggested orienting this level of education toward technical training. What is the ministry's position?

JPA: We are not going to go in that direction because Chile has a high proportion (of technical education) compared to other countries: around 40 percent of those in high school are in technical training. What we are going to do is improve content, bring it up to date, because there are many specialties which are out of date.

LE: Considering the results of the PAA, do you believe that high school students are being well prepared for higher education or the work force?

JPA: The results of the PAA are an indication of the need... to reform education, because it shows that the quality of education that high school students acquire leaves a lot to be desired. Forty-three percent of the students who took the PAA got less than 450 points on Math. That means they must have answered 12 or fewer of the 60 questions correctly. ... We have problems with high school education, hence the reform.

LE: With the transition bill approved, won't it produce an asymmetry between the students of those 3,000 schools and those who will enter the new system in the coming years?

JPA: (The transition bill) establishes what we had in the original bill: only those schools that have the infrastructure conditions could begin the extended school day this year, and then voluntarily.

LE: It has been said that the bill is unconstitutional because it violates educational freedom. Are you concerned that (critics) will ask for a ruling from the Constitutional Tribunal?

JPA: Concern over educational freedom in our country has had to do with freedom in educational content, and this reform allows that, as well as giving parents the freedom to choose where their children study.

LE: The private sector says schools will have to reduce the number of students if they cannot construct more infrastructure, as a result of the obligatory extended school day...

JPA: But the bill has an article which expressly prohibits the reduction of the student body because of the extended schedule and assures the current number of students.

LE: What will happen if the 18 percent value-added tax is not maintained?

JPA: Without maintaining the IVA we cannot extend the school day and the reform is without effect, because we would not be able to implement one of the four pillars of the reform. *

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