In a new proposal, the Ministry of Education in Chile aims to eliminate the mandatory status of History, Geography, Physical Education and Visual Arts for 3rd and 4th graders in Chilean high schools. This has generated a national debate about the importance of giving students a basis in all areas of the school curriculum, as they are expected to start choosing their areas of interest for when they go to university.
According to the proposal by the Ministry of Education (Mineduc) for the 2020 national curriculum, the mandatory subjects will be Spanish Language and Literature, Mathematics, English, Social Sciences (Educación Ciudadana in Spanish) and Philosophy. These subjects total 14 hours out of the 42 weekly hours a high school student in Chile must follow. 27 other subjects can be chosen by the student or school, to complete the week.
Three Fundamental Questions Arise
The first question that arises: can a teenager of approximately 16 years choose his or her own future at this age? From the perspective of neuro-psychoeducation and (cognitive) neuroscience, it has been proven that this is impossible, as adolescents of this age are still developing themselves in psychological terms and in aspects of self-recognition.
Another question is, who considers it convenient that History, Arts and Physical Education should not be mandatory? Is this something beneficial for the few, or let’s say, a certain political party? Let’s keep in mind that during the 3rd and 4th grade History courses in Chile, the age of the military dictatorship and the transition to democracy is being taught.
Third, taking our curriculum as reflection of our society, our national History, Arts for our mental development and Physical Education for our health are cornerstones of that same society. They reduce inequality rates in the country, as they deliver the same knowledge students of all different social contexts, and contribute to the development of not just a few, but all Chilean students.
Government’s “Outdated” Explication
The Ministry of Education said the subjects History, Arts and Physical Education will lose their mandatory status, as 1st and 2nd graders in Chilean high school face in their 3rd and 4th year the same learning objectives. When reviewing the fundamental objectives in the national curriculum we see that, although there are similarities, these objectives are not the same. The first two years of high school in Chile create general knowledge of the subjects. Subjects that are deeper explored in the last two years of high school.
Another justification of the Ministry of Education is that the subjects in the national curriculum have not been updated. Wouldn’t it be easier and more beneficial for society to update these, by making structural changes to the national curriculum, instead of thinking about having their mandatory status erased? But it also makes me wonder, what are we as society learning, if our current curriculum has been outdated according to the Ministry for a couple of years now?
Consuelo Manosalba Torres (@consuelomanosalba) is the Head of Education at Chile Today. Currently, she does a PhD in Education at the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción after obtaining her masters in University Teaching. She studied Neuroscience and Special Education and is specialized in Childhood and Youth in Latin America and the Caribbean.