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Chile: Students Protest Reduction of Hours for Social Sciences

Image by author, Juan Arellano

Chilean students made the news due to a walk of over a thousand kilometers that a group of them undertook to protest the quality and costs of education in their country. But recently, a decision from Education officials sparked a debate, when they reduced the number of hours for Social Science classes in order to increase hours for Math and Language. This was part of an educational reform proposed by President Sebastián Piñera and the Ministry of Education. A post [es] in the blog Sebastián Piñera E. en la Presidencia de Chile [Sebastián Piñera in the Presidency of Chile] stated that the project would generate important changes in the curriculum.

“Con este proyecto, se incrementará la subvención escolar preferencial para los alumnos más vulnerables hasta casi duplicar la subvención regular y generará cambios curriculares para fortalecer el aprendizaje, incluyendo más horas de lenguaje y matemáticas.”

“Esta reforma se hace cargo del momento, y apuesta por el uso de las nuevas tecnologías en las salas de clases y en los hogares, ya que habrá material pedagógico disponible en forma gratuita por internet”

“With this project, we will be able to increase the preferred scholar subsidy for the more vulnerable students until almost doubling the regular subsidy and will generate curriculum changes to strengthen learning, including more hours for Language and Math.”

“This reform takes place immediately, and points towards the use of the new technologies in lecture halls and in homes, since there will be pedagogical material available for free over the internet.”

Despite these interesting points, Cristián Cox, director of the Center for Political Study and Practices in Education [es] stated his opinion [es] specifically against the curriculum change at the expense of the Social Sciences in the daily La Tercera.

Historia y Ciencias Sociales es el área que organiza los contenidos y experiencias de aprendizaje para la convivencia con los otros, cercanos y distantes, que ofrece los relatos fundamentales de lo que somos como nación, y que genera los fundamentos tanto de la lealtad con el orden político como de su crítica. Es, en suma, el área de la experiencia escolar que forma para el civismo y la ciudadanía. Aquí no basta “dictar materia”: lo que el currículum plantea es el trabajo de documentación histórica, discusión de evidencias y marcos interpretativos, producción de ensayos y debates. Todas actividades que requieren más tiempo, no menos, que la pedagogía tradicional. Junto con el recorte objetivo de 200 horas, el mensaje es claro: la formación ciudadana no es importante.

History and Social Sciences are the areas that organize the content and experiences of learning for socialization with others, nearby and distant, and offers fundamental stories of what we are as a nation and that generates principles such as loyalty with the political order as well as criticism of it. It is, in summary, the area of scholar experience that shapes civic and citizen life. It is not enough to dictate subject matter: what the curriculum proposes is the work of historical documentation, debating evidence and interpretive frameworks, essay production and debate. All the activities that require more time, no less, that traditional pedagogy. Together with the reduction of 200 hours, the message is clear: civic formation is not important.

Gonzalo Tapia in his blog in the daily El Día, expressed his opinion about the entire set of educational changes, from which the hour reduction is just a part, he said [es]:

- Aumento en las horas de clases en Lenguaje y Matemáticas. Concuerdo plenamente con ello, es necesario, pero debe buscarse otros mecanismos para ajustar el Plan de Estudios, nunca en desmedro de la asignatura de Historia. Jamás.

- Hourly increments to Language and Math. I agree wholeheartedly with this, it is even necessary, but we should look for other mechanisms to adjust the educational plan, never to the detriment of History. Never.

Because of all this, a group of professors, academics, students and elites, agreed to participate in a protest [es] in Santiago to expose their rejection of the reduction of hours for History in the schools. In prior days, other university students from Universities La Serena and Pedro de Valdivia had marched [es] in protest for the same reason. Surely they did not imagine they would be severely repressed by the carabineros (local police). These are two videos of the march:

The protest ended with 15 people arrested [es], although others reported only 5 [es]. In a previous protest a few days ago, the police detained a photographer [es]. The blog Correo SR published a statement [es] from the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Chile about the march, where among other things it says:

Cabe señalar que los manifestantes en todo momento marcharon por la vereda del sector sur de la Alameda, tal como había sido acordado … con el Capitán Rodríguez de la Prefectura Central de Carabineros. […]

Mientras se sucedían los últimos discursos en un clima entusiasta pero sereno, una delegación de diez académicos … se dirigió a las dependencias del MINEDUC a hacer entrega de la Declaración … pero cuando se encontraban haciendo ese trámite, estallaron incidentes debido a la actitud de los efectivos de Fuerzas Especiales de Carabineros presentes en el lugar que, desconociendo el acuerdo previo … pretendieron -sin que mediara la más mínima provocación por parte de los manifestantes- que los centenares de personas reunidas en el bandejón central de la Alameda despejaran el lugar.

Testigos presenciales, entre ellos varios académicos de la Universidad de Chile y de otras universidades, aseveran que apenas la delegación de profesores se encaminó al Ministerio, los carabineros empezaron a hacer uso del carro lanzaaguas y de gases lagrimógenos para disolver a quienes pretendían seguir manifestándose pacíficamente sin molestar ni interrumpir el tránsito de vehículos ni de peatones.

It is worthwhile to mention that the protesters at all times marched by the southern sector from street Alameda just as it had been authorized by Captain Rodriguez of the central prefecture of police…

While the last speeches took place in an euphoric but serene atmosphere, a group of ten academics… went over to the administration of MINEDUC [Ministry of Education] to deliver the declaration… but just when this was taking place, several events took place due to the attitude of the special police forces who were present but ignored the agreement… [they] attempted—without the least bit of provocation from the protesters—to make the hundreds of people that had congregated in the central plaza of Alameda leave the place.

Witnesses, among them several academics from the University of Chile and others, stated that the delegation of professors had barely begun to walk, the police began to use their water hoses and tear gas to dissolve the crowds who peacefully did not seek to bother nor interrupt the vehicle nor pedestrian traffic.

The Chilean political opposition (la Concertación) is heavily criticizing [es] the educational reform proposed by Piñera's government. But it is not only about opposition per se, in El Quinto Poder [the Fifth Power] readers can find under the tag “education“ the most recent articles dedicated to this reform, and there are strong arguments to, at least, think a little bit more about the application of some of the reform's points. Of note is the Facebook page: No a la reduccion de horas en Historia y Ciencias Sociales [es] [No to the reduction of History and Social Science hours], which has more than 12,000 followers at this time.

Juan Arellano was present in Santiago at the time of the protests and filmed these two videos. This post was adapted for Global Voices; the original post can be found in Juan Arellano's blog, Globalizado.

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