Monday, June 05, 2006

Student protests in Chile continue

According to the BBC, Chilean students rejected this government offer (which promised to improve infrastructure but notably did not include free bus passes) over the weekend and are planning a national strike for today. One interesting note about the students' demands that I missed last week is the frustration with the decentralization of the education system in Chile. Students argue that local control leads to inequalities between schools, and want a return to centralized control.

I don't know much about Chile, but this aspect of the student protests is particularly interesting to me because of the debates over education I saw in neighboring Bolivia. A number of rural villages I visited had fought for local control over schools so kids could learn the community's indigenous language and have time off to help their parents during the harvest, things that never happened under centralized control that refused to value indigenous and peasant culture. Rural Bolivians seemed satisfied with the changes that local control over schools had brought, but the schools were literally falling apart and there was a big difference between rural and urban schools. Teachers seemed to be on strike every other month over wages. Again, I don't know what the issues are in Chile (there is certainly a much smaller indigenous population there) but the protests seem to show that without adequate funding, the benefits of local control over education are neutralized.

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