The privatization of education in Chile: a historical perspective

If you analyze school systems from a comparative perspective, the Chilean case stands out for its accelerated and high level of privatization. To understand this distinctiveness, you need to put the changes to the regulation of state-financed private education from the beginning of the 1980s into historical perspective. Although private education [1] was recognized as educational work of the State from the second half of the nineteenth century, it was only during the period of the civil-military dictatorship (1973-1990) that market mechanisms were introduced in the process of expansion of school education, through the establishment of a policy of equal access to state funding, competition for enrolment and the existence of minimum requirements for private providers (Bellei, 2015).

During this period, the education sector was the scene of structural changes that radically transformed the former – historically state-led and state-protected – national education system (Echeverria and Hevia 1981, PIIE 1984, PIIE 1989). With the aim of making all educational institutions leaner and more efficient, neoliberal measures were introduced in public policy (Ruiz, 1999; Oliva, 2010), which substantially modified the functioning and orientation of the school and university system (Bellei, 2015; PIIE, 1984; Slachevsky, 2015). These initiatives were mainly a response to decisions made by different civilian and military actors who promoted the introduction of market principles in the process of drafting laws which shaped the new structure of the education system.

As I have highlighted in certain papers (Pérez Navarro, 2018, Pérez Navarro and Rojas-Murphy, 2017), the debate in the commissions, which drafted the educational laws, shifted between two poles: on the one hand, the regulatory role of the State in education and, on the other, Freedom of Education as the basis of the educational system. The sources of evidence showed that, initially, a group of collaborators in the dictatorship – linked directly to the education sector – advocated for the maintenance of the state role in education, although in a reduced capacity. However, their proposals were rejected in the different deliberative commissions, silenced as voices who wanted to limit the privatization process.

We believe that it is important to study how laws, which initiate processes of privatization, are created and to carry out a more complex analysis in this respect. For example, in the case of Chile, we need to review those statements that indicate that the dictatorship imposed, without resistance, its neoliberal educational policy, and show that there were voices against privatization measures, especially amongst those collaborators who were close to the educational sector.

Versión en español



Bellei, C. (2015). El gran experimento. Mercado y privatización de la educación chilena. Santiago de Chile: LOM.

Echeverría, R., Hevia, R. (1981). Cambios en el sistema educacional bajo el Gobierno Militar. Araucaria, 13, pp. 39 – 56.

Oliva, M. A. (2010). Política educativa chilena 1965-2009. ¿Qué oculta esa trama? Revista Brasileira de Educação, 15, pp. 311-328.

Pérez Navarro, C. (2018, in press). “Reconstrucción del proceso de elaboración de la Ley Orgánica Constitucional de Enseñanza: actores, proyectos y disputas ideológicas. Chile, 1973–1990”. En: Espacio, Tiempo y Educación.

Pérez Navarro, C. y Rojas-Murphy, A. (2017). “Estado Docente, subsidiariedad y libertad de enseñanza. El proceso de privatización educacional en Chile desde la perspectiva de los actores (1973–1990)”. En: Revista Serie-Estudos, Vol. 22, N° 45, pp. 5-23.

PIIE (1984). Las transformaciones educacionales bajo el Régimen Militar. Santiago de Chile: Programa Interdisciplinario de Investigaciones en Educación.

Ruiz, C. (1999). Educación, mercado y privatización. Reflexiones sobre las Humanidades y la Universidad, número especial. Recuperado el 15 de octubre de 2016, de

Slachevsky, N. (2015). Una revolución neoliberal: la política educacional en Chile desde la dictadura militar. Educação e Pesquisa, 41, pp. 1473-1486.


[1] There are three types of school in the education system of Chile. First, there are schools financed by the State, but administered by municipalities. Second, there are private fee-charging schools, financed by parents. Third, there are state-subsidized schools, managed privately by individuals and groups. In this blog, I refer to the latter group of schools. State-subsidized, private schools can be for-profit or not-for-profit but all this will change with The Inclusion Law which prohibits profit in schools financed by the State.

Photo source: Revista Cuadernos del Profesor Rural N° 24 (1980)


One thought on “The privatization of education in Chile: a historical perspective

  1. Pingback: Privatización de la educación chilena: una perspectiva histórica | Raising Voices in Education

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