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Lessons from Chile’s troubled education system

Lessons from Chile’s troubled education system

Those looking to change the New Zealand education system should take heed from what has been occurring in Chile, says a Victoria University researcher.

Colin Kennedy, who will graduate with a PhD in Development Studies next week, has been researching the local and global consequences of socio-economic inequality in Chile’s education system from 1964 to 2010.

“It is argued that Chile has the most privatised educational system in the world, as well as a rigid class system, so the school you go to determines the universities you have access to and, ultimately, the job you get.

“What that has led to is having whole sections of society being blocked from educational and career advancement, which creates disparity of opportunity.”

The graduand warns that current suggested changes to New Zealand schools could have similarly negative outcomes.

“We’ve recently seen teachers protesting against the proposals to further privatise New Zealand’s education system, which could see the introduction of charter schools, performance-based pay for teachers, national league tables for primary schools and ‘super boards’ which would govern several schools.

“There is a clear comparison here with the Chilean example, where students have been holding massive street protests for two years. Recently, an estimated 200,000 students continued the on-going demonstrations against the inequalities in their education system.”

Colin’s research is set within the context of Chile’s changing political background over almost half a century – the neo-liberal laboratory of Pinochet, Allende’s socialist path and two decades of neo-structural governments, which have been labelled ‘capitalism with a human face’.

His findings suggest the variety of policy approaches have proved ineffective in reducing levels of educational disparity and that focusing on social relationships could lead to a better understanding of the mechanics of inequality.

Colin believes his findings can be applied to other areas, such as access to quality healthcare. “I’m hopeful my research will lead to policies that can prevent the creation of, and the maintenance of, uneven social relationships, and contribute to real progress in achieving equality of opportunity for all.”

Colin combined his PhD research with managing Victoria University’s student recruitment programmes, which he says allowed him to “walk the talk”.

Now a Postdoctoral Fellow in Social Design Innovation at Victoria’s School of Design, Colin comments: “When I started part-time PhD study, I was already the Manager of Student Recruitment Programmes at Victoria, which is a hectic, time consuming role. However, it was also a great opportunity to experience life from both sides of the fence and, as I also had the opportunity to guest lecture in Development Studies, I felt I was able to fully represent Victoria.”

Colin will graduate with a PhD in Development Studies on Monday 13 May at 6pm.


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