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Models of regulation, education policies, and changes in the education system: a long-term analysis of the Chilean case

Abstract

An important dimension of international comparative analysis in education is studying the models of regulation that structure the way in which educational provision is organized. The specialized literature has defined three predominant regulatory models: the traditional bureaucratic professional model, the quasi-market model inspired by neoliberal thought, and the evaluative state model linked to the notion of new public management. This paper seeks to contribute to this line of analysis by studying the evolution of the Chilean education system since 1980. We describe and analyze the models of regulation that have governed Chilean education and their expression in educational reforms and policies; we assert that Chile has adopted all three mentioned models. We also identify some of the principal consequences of these policies: a highly atomized, privatized, and socioeconomically segregated school system; an improvement in access to education and the conditions for the educational process; and an increase in learning outcomes, despite starting from very low levels and stalling during the past decade while remaining highly unequal in character. Thus, we propose some hypotheses to interpret those changes, relating them to the models of regulation as well as the policies previously analyzed. Overall, we affirm that the market and evaluative state models have achieved modest positive effects while producing relevant undesirable consequences. We conclude the paper with a reflection on the character of the particular hybridization of regulatory models developed in Chile, and the types of policy we believe should be prioritized to improve quality, increase innovation, and diminish inequity.

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Fig. 1

Source: created by the authors based on Bellei et al. (2018) and MINEDUC (2021)

Fig. 2

Source: created by the authors based on the National Survey of Socioeconomic Characterization (Ministry of Social Development, 2018). *Net rate of coverage: total number of persons attending a determined educational level, divided by the total population of the official age bracket for said level. Early education: 0 to 5 years; primary education: 6 to 13 years; secondary education: 14 to 17 years; post-secondary education: 18 to 24 years

Fig. 3

Source: created by the authors based on official PISA results

Notes

  1. 1.

    TIMSS mathematics results are the exception: they increased steadily between 2003 and 2019. A plausible hypothesis is that TIMSS, by evaluating knowledge based on official curriculum, is more aligned with Chilean education policies, strongly oriented toward curricular implementation and evaluation of knowledge in Language and Mathematics. This differs from PISA that evaluates higher order skills, which have been less prioritized by Chilean curriculum, pedagogy, and standardized tests (Bellei & Morawietz, 2016).

  2. 2.

    We did not use SIMCE to analyze long-term Chilean trajectory. Although SIMCE has been applied since 1988, its technical characteristics and the continuous changes in the national curriculum hinder its longitudinal comparability. In any case, the broad SIMCE trend is consistent with our general interpretation: both in Reading and in Mathematics, average achievements increased slightly in the 2000s and stagnated in the following decade.

  3. 3.

    PIACC results support this finding: nearly a third of Chilean adults with post-secondary education only reach the inferior level of performance (OECD, 2016).

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Acknowledgements

Support from ANID/ PIA/ Basal Funds for Centers of Excellence FB0003 is gratefully acknowledged. Additionally, Gonzalo Muñoz received support from “Becas Chile” Program to pursue doctoral studies in Educational Sciences at the University of Granada, Spain.

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Correspondence to Cristián Bellei.

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Bellei, C., Munoz, G. Models of regulation, education policies, and changes in the education system: a long-term analysis of the Chilean case. J Educ Change (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-021-09435-1

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Keywords

  • Educational policy
  • Educational reforms
  • Market reforms in education
  • Test-based accountability policies
  • Models of regulation in education
  • Comparative education