170 000 students and lecturers strike back against the market in Chile (report, photos and videos)

This report has been written Ivette Hernandez who currently is a PhD student writing about the Penguin’s Revolution. She is also part of the of the People’s Assembly Network and regularly participates in EAN events.

More than 170 000 protesters took part in the national strike called by the Chilean University Student’s Union (Confech) on Thursday 16/06/2011. It was a massive public demonstration against the market approach which currently regulates the Chilean Education system.

Hundreds of thousands of university students, secondary students, lectures and teacher’s Union demonstrated in Chile by demanding that state education has to be kept. At the same time they called for the State to fulfil its role as a guarantor of the right to education. The main mainly slogan was that education should be a social right, not a market commodity.

This demand had been already raised by one million Chilean secondary students back in 2006. Through their student movement – later known as the Penguins’ Revolution – they argued that the Chilean education system was a model deeply embedded in a crisis of unequal opportunities of quality education and social justice since it has been – as they sustained – structurally inserted in a process of inequality and social exclusion because of a neoliberal educative reform implemented since 1981 and consolidated by the democratic governments since the beginning of the 1990s.

Most of these ex-penguins (as school students are known because of their black and white uniforms) are currently university students and they marched shoulder to shoulder with today’s school students demanding the end of the for profit approach in all levels of education.

For example, the Higher Education system in Chile has been regulated by the General Law of Universities since 1981. It is a law that allowed the opening of private universities as entities that must be non-profit foundations while the same law reduced the investment capacity of the State to guarantee a free public higher education through traditional or state universities.

In Chile, investment in education is a disaster. At universities, 85% of the finance comes from families and the remaining 15% is provided by the state through, for example, scholarships. In other OECD countries this is totally different.  State contribution is 85% on average. In that sense, there are only three countries in the world ranked worse and where education is also a luxury: the United States, UK and Japan.

The president of the teacher’s Union, Jaime Gajardo, has also criticized the for-profit approach of elementary and secondary education. He argues that subsidized private schools are making profit of education they provide mainly because they can be eligible for vouchers from the state that can reach a value of 40 thousand dollars per student while there is no regulation of the quality of education they provide.

This mobilization was acknowledged by Camila Vallejo, the current President of Student Union from Universidad de Chile, as a historical mass demonstration given the large number of adherents who mobilized in Santiago and other main cities in the country. She recognizes that the current student’s movement is a citizen’s movement given the diversity of people that supported a national strike and demands of recovering the right to education.

About educationactivistnetwork
The education activist network provides national coordination for trade unionists, academics, university workers and student campaigners fighting to defend jobs and education in the UK.

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