In the year 2022, one million two hundred and eight thousand students had serious non-attendance, meaning that almost 4 out of 10 students did not have sufficient attendance to pass the school year. Just under fifty thousand students in 2021 did not enrol in 2022. There is agreement that the situation is serious and that remedial action is needed.
The problem lies in the fact that the agreement on intervention does not go to the heart of the problem because education in Chile has been and continues to be a fertile ideological battlefield in which the damage affects children and young people of school age. All sectors say they put students first, but in practice education is one of the emblems of spectacle politics.
In the thirty-three years since the return to democracy there have been 21 education ministers who have been in office for an average of 13.4 months and only three have remained in office for more than half of the presidential term.
In the same period there have been 24 constitutional accusations against ministers of state of which six (25%) are against education ministers. Three have been successful in removing ministers from office, of which two (33%) are education ministers: Yasna Provoste and Harald Beyer.
The figures speak for themselves. The ideological battle has been and continues to be waged in education, and those most affected are the students; it is worth asking her: What can we expect from the policy to improve quality and reduce absenteeism and dropout rates? Not much, since the action taken by the Ministry of Education is palliative and does not go to the heart of the problem.
Today, it is not enough to make education compulsory; who has the authority and capacity for it to make the law enforceable? Times have changed and we must pay attention and take action to redesign the curriculum, pedagogical practices and learning objectives. And above all, education must be entertaining and capable of awakening and satisfying the innate curiosity of children and young people instead of atrophying it.
Just by way of example, we can cite the results of the “Reading is Powerful” programme which found that seven out of ten 5th grade students in vulnerable schools do not understand what they read. And if they do not understand, what incentive can they have to attend school if most of the educational process is based on reading and writing?
For many families, school is no longer a meaningful experience. Mothers, fathers and parents who do not see the value of schools for their children prefer that they take on care work at home or enter the world of work at an early age, usually in the informal and sometimes criminal ambit.
If we really want to develop public policy that puts the best interests of children and young people first, we must convene an open and evidence-based discussion to agree on a state policy that transcends this and successive governments.