Via the Buenos Aires Herald: Chile gov’t to present controversial education bill. Excerpt:
The Chilean government yesterday announced that a bill for higher education reform will be sent to Congress today despite the fact it lacks the backing of state university deans, several ruling-party lawmakers, and students.
At the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago yesterday, government officials met for an emergency meeting convened by Interior Minister Mario Fernández to discuss the flagship bill.
President Michelle Bachelet last night made an announcement, looking to calm elements opposed to the reform package.
“With this announcement, the president meets another of the promises set out by her government, implementing a system for access to education from the earliest formative years, from kindergarten and primary school, to higher and technical education,” read a government statement.
Minister of Education Adriana Delpiano said before entering the emergency meeting with Fernández yesterday that the bill will not be delayed and that it will meet all deadlines, although there are several government lawmakers who have requested the bill be postponed.
Bachelet promised wholesale reform in her election campaign, but her government has so far failed to deliver its promise.
‘More work needed’
Communist Party deputy and member of the Education Committee Camila Vallejo, a symbolic leader of the student movement in Chile before entering politics and being elected to office, appealed to the ruling centre-left New Majority (NM) coalition, stressing that they must deliver what was promised.
“We need to work on this bill so that it won’t fall by the wayside, but improves on and adheres to what we said, as did the New Majority, would strengthen state institutions, combat debt burden and advance freely and regulate the private sector,” Vallejo said.
According to the students, who have called for a new march for tomorrow despite not having official approval, the bill contains a “market logic” and leaves the door ajar to profiteering from university education, as well as violating the promise of free universal education as promised by the government.
Free access to university education has been one of the main demands of students since they took to the streets in 2011 to demand their right to study free of economic constraint.
The initiative was included in Bachelet’s manifesto for her second mandate, establishing that 70 percent of Chile’s most vulnerable students shall have free access to university education.
However, following the sharp economic slowdown that hit the country this year, the government has cut the quota considerably.