NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 13, 2006

Students and teachers have been staging sporadic demonstrations and strikes in Chile to demand that the government use some of its record earnings from the country's valuable copper exports to improve the quality of state schooling, says the Economist.

At the heart of the protests are the discrepancies between their country's economic growth and education system.   Consider:

  • The World Economic Forum's latest Global Competitiveness Report, identifies Chile as the world's 27th most competitive economy -- far ahead of the rest of Latin America -- but just 76th for the overall quality of its educational system and 100th for its math and science education.
  • Other international studies likewise suggest that educational attainment in Chile, although not so different from that in other Latin American countries, is below that of many countries with similar income levels.

In response, President Michelle Bachelet is now proposing to boost state funding for the poorest pupils by a half over the next four years.  Under the scheme:

  • The program will spend an estimated $300 million a year once fully operational.
  • The current pupil funding of around $60 per month would rise to some $90 for the poorest pupils -- provided their schools can show a measurable improvement in performance.

But money may not be the only, or even the main, problem, says the Economist:

  • By 2004 total spending on education -- public and private -- had reached 7.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), up from 4 percent in 1990, putting the country on a par with many industrialized nations.
  • Even among children from Chile's richest families, most of whom attend private fee-paying schools, educational standards are low by international standards.
  • Relative to national GDP per person, Chile's teachers' pay is comparable to those in most industrialized countries.

Source: "How to make them better," Economist, October 7, 2006.

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