Hundreds of schools in Chile face shut down by 2021

SANTIAGO – The education ministry’s quality watchdog said that nearly 400 schools have been rated “insufficient” since 2016. According to law, such a rating mandates closure, if, by the beginning of the new decade, these schools do not improve.

The Education Quality Agency, a government service to shape education policy, published their 2018 report. The watchdog assess the performance in basic and secondary education of all schools in the country according to four levels of quality.

First the good news. This study found a considerable improvement in the overall indicators. From 2017, primary and middle education (“basic education” in Chile) improved for 918 schools and 427 educational establishments at high school level.

The report from last year found that 65% of the middle and primary schools reached the high and middle rank. In 2018, the number reached 69%. Meanwhile, the number of schools in this category increased from 63% to 69% of the total.

On the other hand, schools in the “insufficient” category dropped to 8% of the total, leaving 430 and 229 schools, respectively, in this low-quality category.

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Shutting down schools?

Now the bad news. The agency identified 396 schools, out of 8510 in the country, whose two levels of education have remained “insufficient” since 2016, when evaluation began. This data is very relevant because according to the 2011 Law of Educational Quality Assurance, which establishes that the state must ensure quality and equity, an educational establishment that remains for four straight years in that range can be shut down.

In the primary and middle education sector, in total, 715 schools performed worse, 125 of those fell from “medium-low” to “insufficient.”

Educational quality executive secretary Carlos Henríquez has warned that if by 2020 those schools don’t improve, the recognition of the state will be taken away and they won’t be functional in 2021.

According to education minister Marcela Cubillos, to avoid that outcome her department will facilitate training to reinforce capacities in teachers and managers. To this end, the ministry will identify the deficit of each school and tailor specific programs that “respond to the real gaps detected in each of these schools.”

Henríquez expects that by 2020 fewer places should have problems, as with the ministry’s help each year a third of the low-rated schools leaves the “insufficient” category.

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Social and regional differences

When analyzing the results by socioeconomic group, in primary and middle education, schools catering to higher income groups are well represented in the high performance category. On the other hand, schools serving low and lower middle income socioeconomic groups are overly present in the “insufficient” category.

Meanwhile, at high school education level, most establishments in the high performance category serve the average income socioeconomic groups. Schools rated “insufficient” in primary and middle education are mostly catering to low and lower-middle socioeconomic groups.

By region, in primary and middle education, Maule region (center-south) has the highest proportion of establishments in the “high” category (30%), while Tarapacá and Atacama (north) have the highest percentage of establishments in the “insufficient” category (17% and 16%, respectively).

In high school education, Maule region stands out again, because it has the highest proportion of establishments in the “high” category (25%), and Tarapacá and Magallanes (extreme south) have the highest percentage of establishments rated “insufficient” (both 17%).

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To calculate performance, the agency crossed the data of the last three measurements of the Simce education quality measurement system (a battery of tests across the country to measure certain aspects of school curricula) with the indicators of students’ personal and social development. The index obtained is adjusted with characteristics of the student population, such as level of poverty.

Currently, the agency has found some strategies that schools have used to improve their performance and pedagogical management, school environment, and leadership.

Five indicators that can make a difference were identified, among them respectful communication. In schools in the “insufficient” category, this element is present in 40% of classrooms, while it reaches 79% in “high” category schools.

Other indicators include the optimization of the use of time by teachers in the classroom, management of teaching time, attention and timely response of teachers, and the facilitation of the appropriation of concepts.

Also, since 2014, the agency has conducted evaluation and performance orientation visits, observation of classes, studies and analysis of questionnaires. This way, it could identify key characteristics that allow schools to obtain better results.

A friendly school climate is crucial. So it is essential to create an educational community that cares for and respects the school, fosters understanding values and appreciates diversity, favors inclusion, and meets the academic and socio-emotional needs of the students respectfully and opportunely.

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Performance Category Primary and Middle School levels

Distribution 2016 2017 2018
Primary schools Number of schools Percentage % Number of schools Percentage % Number of schools Percentage %
High 898 15.7% 925 16% 844 15%
Average 2.785 48.6% 2.793 49% 3.086 54%
Average-low 1.415 24.7% 1.374 24% 1.344 24%
Insufficient 633 11.0% 616 11% 430 8%
Total 5.731 100% 5708 100% 5704 100%


Performance Category High School level


Highs schools  

2017 2018
Number of schools Percentage % Number of schools Percentage %
High 429 15,40% 459 16.3%
Average 1.342 48,30% 1.490 52.9%
Average-low 670 24,10% 640 22.7%
Insufficient 338 12,20% 229 8.1%
Total 2.779 100% 2.818 100%


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