Chilean Education Paradigms: The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Education Reforms and their Impacts on Mapuche Education Systems

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Virginia Tech


This thesis will address the impacts of Chilean neoliberal education reforms on students access to primary and secondary education. Across three body chapters, I will conduct a historical, policy, and comparative analysis, as well as case study on the Mapuche population within Chile, to exemplify neoliberal reforms' impact on students across differing socioeconomic statuses. Ranging from the 18th century to 2017, this thesis will provide a comprehensive image of how Chile's national education system has transformed from Catholic, missionary schools with majority state influence during heightened colonial practices to increasingly decentralized and marketized institutions during the 1980s. Through a series of analyses, I hypothesize neoliberal education reform has negatively impacted vulnerable students' access to education through exacerbating discriminatory, financial elements at the hands of the rise of privatized education. To support this, I will initially analyze neoliberal dictator Augusto Pinochet's education policies and reforms starting in 1980. To fully understand these lingering impacts, I also analyze 2005 socialist president Michelle Bachelet's education reforms as a method to further understand which 1980 neoliberal education policies were preserved during the restoration of democracy in Chile during the 1990s and early 2000s. The thesis closes with a final case study of the Mapuche population, the largest indigenous population in Chile. With the use of the methodological frameworks deployed in chapter two and chapter three, I attempt to expose the disproportionate impacts of neoliberal education policies on the Mapuche even as modern education and government administrations attempt to transform the education system away from oppressive and discriminatory policies implemented during the 1980s. Riddled throughout the entire thesis are discussions of social movements advocating for greater education equity, amplifying the call for increased attention on justice for students, teachers, and families.



Neoliberalism, Education Reform, Chile, Mapuche, Access to Education, Indigenous Rights