|October is here, and Chileans are about to vote on a new constitution on Oct. 25. As part of an ongoing series about the Constitution and the upcoming vote, Chile Today spoke with Beatriz Arancibia, the Head of the Postgraduate Faculty of Education at La Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, about the current Constitution’s education provisions. Professor Arancibia also discussed ways in which these provisions might be amended in a new constitution.|
For millions of Chileans, Oct. 25 will be historic. In a referendum, the country will decide if a new constitution should be written, or if the current one should be maintained.
“I am convinced that it is necessary to change the current Constitution because it was inherited from the dictatorship and written without any public participation. It is also a constitution made to maintain power within a few,” said Beatriz Arancibia, professor and Head of the Postgraduate Faculty of Education, Beatriz Arancibia, at La Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción.
In the referendum, Chileans will first vote whether to approve (Apruebo) the option to rewrite the Constitution or to reject (Rechazo) it. They will also vote how they want to rewrite the Constitution in the event the option to rewrite it is selected: that is, through a mixed convention, made up in equal parts by members of Congress and others elected by voters, or through a constitutional convention, made up entirely of members elected by voters.
“I would like for the option Apruebo, as well as the constitutional convention, to win by an overwhelming majority so that there is no doubt that this is what the country has been demanding for decades,” said Arancibia.
The current Constitution has been reformed nearly 50 times. In educational matters, one of the most recent changes was to mandate pre-primary and secondary education for all Chileans. “That reform was very important. However, it does not mean that the current Constitution guarantees the right to education.”
What Does The Constitution Say On Education?
Article 19, section 10, establishes the right to education. In it, the Constitution declares that the state is responsible for protecting the exercise of this right. “The state shall finance a free system designed to ensure access for the entire population.”
This section mentions pre-primary, primary, and secondary education. However, there is no mention of higher education anywhere in the Constitution. Arancibia thinks a new Constitution should include higher education. “It should be there. It is necessary because more and more young people are entering universities and higher education establishments nowadays. If the Constitution does not include them, the fulfillment of this education could be compromised, as it does not have constitutional guarantees.”
Under the same section, the current code establishes that the state must encourage the development of scientific and technological research, as well as culture and arts. In Arancibia’s opinion, the word “encourage” takes away responsibility from the state. “It opens a way for private interests to participate, and so competitive funds are generated, and you have to compete for financial support. This year, as there are fewer resources because of Covid-19, the postgraduate scholarships were immediately cut. This needs to be fixed. A new Constitution should establish that the state must play an active role that guarantees the conditions to develop science, culture, and arts.”
Article 19, section 11, establishes the “freedom of teaching.” For Arancibia, this is problematic, as she thinks that the Constitution should state the right to freedom of learning. “The right to learn is not guaranteed within the Constitution.”
This section also includes the right to “open, organize and maintain educational establishments,” and the right for parents to choose which establishment they want for their children. “The right for parents to choose an establishment is completely false. Parents can choose the establishment they want, depending on their income. Those who have the means can choose freely, while the rest don’t have many options,” said Arancibia.
According to the professor, this has caused segregation between students. “Another thing to note is that public schools are in great disadvantage compared with the private ones, in terms of the quality of the education they offer.”
Subsidiary State And Profit
The current code gives the state the quality of subsidiarity. This means that whenever smaller organizations can effectively fix a problem, the state should not intervene or assume functions. Some argue that this quality allows for lower-level organizations to function freely. However, others say that it only deepens social differences. “As the state only plays a subsidiary role, it has abandoned public education … with the current logic of understanding education as a market good, the state left everything in the hands of private bodies, therefore, public schools lost funding and lowered their quality.”
To Arancibia, the state should not function as a subsidiary body but be the prime guarantor of basic rights, such as education. “When this right is well-exercised, people have more chances of exercising other basic rights. For example, the right to education contributes to people having a better job, or taking better care of their health, and even exercising better their civic duties.”
According to the professor, one of the aspects that should be revised is the way some educational establishments are currently profiting from education. “In Chile, education has been turned into a great business.”
For over a decade, ending profit in education has been a social demand present in many protests and organizations. Back in 2006, Chile experienced the so-called “Revolución Pingüina” (“Penguin Revolution”). It was a social uprising in which students raised several demands regarding education. Ending profit was one of the primary ones. “With mobilizations like these, the Education Law started regulating this issue. For example, universities are now demanded transparency on their expenses … but an explicit prohibition to profit from education is still missing.”
Regardless of the results on Oct. 25, Arancibia hopes that the quality of education is guaranteed. “A fundamental thing, with or without a new Constitution, is that we can move forward with the pending initiatives that improve the quality of education. It should also be urgent to promote measures that benefit students who are currently in debt because they couldn’t afford to study.”
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant