School Admissions System (SAS) in Chile: Ending school choice of families (Part 1)

The different studies into school choice within families in Chile have identified practices contrary to what economic theory assumes is ‘school choice’: the option for a better quality school and parental freedom to decide. These practices are characterised by restrictions that families – principally disadvantaged groups – confront at the moment of choosing, in particular, the choice of schools and shared financing.

In 2015, the Inclusion Law (MINEDUC, 2015) was enacted, which regulates the student admission process, abolishes shared financing and prohibits profit in education establishments that receive state contributions. The aim of this law was a more inclusive education system that guarantees equality of educational opportunities for students and free school choice for families. To this end, a new School Admission System (SAS) was implemented, a centralised admission process that seeks to end choice in all establishments that receive state subsidies, through application by families on the web platform of the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC, S/F).

On the platform, families should register, look for schools – which provide information on the educational project, facilities, extra-curricular activities – they want to apply for, order their preferences and then apply. On learning their results, families can accept or reject the school to which they were admitted. In the event of rejection, they must reapply to the schools which have vacancies. On acceptance, the family should go to the school and enrol the student (MINEDUC, S/F).

In the event of more applicants than places in the school, random allocation software is used – created by the Engineering Department of the University of Chile – which considers distinct priority criteria: i) applicants that have a sibling enrolled in the school; ii) applicants classified as priorities, up to the minimum of 15% per level  iii) the children of school officials iv) ex-students of the school who have not been expelled v) all other students.

During the 2017 presidential campaign, the current President, Sebastián Piñera, characterised the SAS as a ‘tombola’, which seeks to modify the system to ‘reduce the random part and maximise parents’ will to be respected’ (El Dínamo, 2017). In this regard, various academics clarified that: ‘The algorithm processes the applications so that it is in the interest of each family to apply for schools that they genuinely prefer’ (Correa, Escobar, Figueroa and Gallego, 2017).

The random allocation software on which the SAS is based uses the algorithm of ‘deferred acceptance’ (DA) by David Gale and Lloyd Shapley (1962), which was used by Alvin Roth on the problem of school allocation in the 80s. This algorithm is also used to allocate students to schools in the cities of New York, Boston and Amsterdam. The generation of the random order for student allocation takes account of the international standards of random number generation provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the United States, and that requires an external source called ‘seed’. The external source is provided by the National Seismological Service, which provides information (latitude, longitude, depth, magnitude etc.) on the last 6 earthquakes that have occurred in the country (University of Chile, S/F).

The implementation of the SAS has been gradual. The first year considers only admission to NT1 (pre-kindergarten), NT2 (kindergarten), 1st grade, 7th grade and 9th grade; and the second year incorporates the rest of the levels (MINEDUC, S/F). In terms of the regions, the SAS began in 2016 in Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic, in 2017, it continued in the regions of Tarapacá, Coquimbo, O’Higgins and Los Lagos, and, this year, includes Arica and Parinacota, Antofagasta, Atacama, Valparaíso, Maule, Biobío, Araucanía, Los Ríos and Aysén. Finally, in 2019, it will conclude with the incorporation of the Metropolitan Region.

The gradual incorporation of levels and regions and the postponement of the Metropolitan Region until the 2020 admission process is seen by Dr Alejandro Carrasco, Director of the Centre for Studies on Policies and Practices in Education (CEPPE UC), as a possibility for ‘identifying small-scale difficulties and design solutions before expanding the system to large cities’ (Carrasco, 2018).

The ‘Preliminary Evidence of the School Admission System’ will be analysed on 29 August 2018 at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Educational Justice (CJE) of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, permitting us to identify the difficulties and strengths with regards to the SAS and family choice in the school context of Chile.

For more information:

Versión en español


Carrasco, A. (2018). Los desafíos de postergar el sistema de admisión escolar en la RM. Columna en el diario La Tercera. Jueves 19 de julio de 2018. Retrieved from:

Correa, J., Escobar, J., Figueroa, N., Gallego, F. (2017). El sistema de admisión escolar es ciencia aplicada y no una tómbola. Columna del diario El Mercurio. Domingo 05 de noviembre de 2017. Retrieved from:

El Dínamo (2017). Piñera apunta a “creativos de la franja” por criticada parodia de la tómbola. 13 de noviembre de 2017. Retrieved from:

MINEDUC (2015). Ley de Inclusión Escolar que regula la admisión de los y las estudiantes, elimina el financiamiento compartido y prohíbe el lucro en establecimientos educacionales que reciben aportes del Estado. Retrieved from:

MINEDUC (S/F). Sitio web Sistema de Admisión Escolar.

Universidad de Chile (S/F). Sitio web del Departamento de Ingeniería Industrial. El nuevo mecanismo de admisión escolar. Retrieved from:

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