"The government consistently tells us they want to protect our mixed (public-private) education system. However, what they are proposing is an increase in investment in private sector education which will ultimately lead to the destruction of free education in Chile."

Student Federation of Universidad de Chile (FECH) Vice President Camila Vallejo, one of the student leaders who presented a budget proposal to a Congressional committee this week. The students asked for the government to cover 30 percent of public universities’ budgets. 


Chile’s teachers dramatically under-prepared

Forty-two percent of Chile’s newest teachers don’t have adequate teaching skills. And 69 percent don’t know the teaching curriculum. At least, those are the findings from the Chilean Education Ministry’s Inicia 2011 test, which is given to newly graduated teachers, according to the Santiago Times

The test, for now, is voluntary and was taken by 3,271 recent graduates. Eight percent of teachers were rated as outstanding based on their teaching skills. Just 2 percent - or 25 teachers-to-be - received the highest possible rating for their knowledge of subjects in the curriculum. 

“What’s important here are the students,” Education Minister Harald Beyer said at a news conference. “They deserve better teachers and we should have high quality and equal education.”

Chilean government may increase involvement in student loans

It’s good news for Chilean student protesters, who spent months last year demanding improvements to the country’s public education system. If a new Education Ministry proposal gets through Congress, banks will no longer provide a significant amount of student loans. Instead the bulk of funds will come from the government, lessening the interest rate for many students, reports the Santiago Times

Under the new system, all but the richest 10 percent of students will use state-financed loans with an interest rate of 2 percent. The interest rate through banks is 6 percent. Students will also only have to start paying back loans once they start earning money and will never pay more than 10 percent of their income. 

Although the plan directly address demands from the student protests, they won’t celebrate just yet:

The proposal has yet to be discussed in Congress and for this reason student leader Gabriel Boric gave a cautious response to the news.

“We have to study this proposal in detail - we are somewhat accustomed to the ‘small print’ of the government - but it seems that there is a positive reaction,” the president of the Federation of Students of the Universidad de Chile (FECH) told Chilean press. “The government is clearly acting on the demonstrations of last year.”

One Laptop per Child initiative does not impact student performance

One Laptop per Child, the American-based charity that distributes laptops to children in developing countries, failed to raise test scores in Peru, reports ZDnet

According to an evaluation by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), students in Peru who had received the laptops did not do better academically. They also did not demonstrate an increased motivation to learn or spend more time studying. The findings point to a common critique of one-to-one programs: throwing technology at education problems is not a solution in and of itself:

The IDB concluded that [One Laptop per Child] does not provide enough guidance for teachers to show students how to effectively use the computers in class — and so the next item on the agenda should be improving teacher training.

However, the report does congratulate the Peruvian government for providing the computers, as less than 25 percent of households had access to a computer in 2010.

Now, far more students and households have access to such devices — the ratio of computers to students rising from 0.28 to 1.18 — and it will help students become more comfortable with basic tasks, even if that is not reflected in test scores for general education.

"No longer can there be tantrums and the expectation for others to solve our problems. Now, whenever we are required to, we will present clear and concrete resolutions, rather than demanding solutions from the central power."

— Gabriel Boric, president of Confederation of University Students of Chile. The group recently released an 80-page plan to reduce the cost of education for Chilean families.