Though I knew this would be an educational experience, I never knew just how much I would learn and how many questions about the education system in Chile and Argentina I would form. I initially came in with a general idea of what I wanted to do my research on: the power politics of education revealed through the national curriculum; however, I didn’t know nearly as much as I have learned about this topic during this program, and for that, I am so grateful.
I have had the chance to visit 20 schools in Chile and Argentina, and no 2 classrooms have been the same; I have visited technical high schools, in which students specialize in a skill like carpentry or nursing, popular education reintegration schools, that teach liberation rather than domination in the curriculum, public dance academies, and more. Initially, I wanted to learn what the purpose of education is in both of these countries, and I found the answer to differ based on who was answering the question. Then we discussed the harm in standardized testing because it does not accurately evaluate the intelligence of students and it does not reveal whether a school gives quality education. Then I wondered, what IS a quality education and who defines “quality education.” That question brought me to the Ministry of Education, or the Department of Education equivalent, who has the power to decide how students are formed and what skills they will gain throughout the education system.
I’ve learned that education is not as idealistic as I originally thought. Originally, I thought the key was finding the perfect pedagogy to teaching and then applying it worldwide, but I’ve learned through my experience the influence of politics and economics on the product of each country’s education system. Through my reflections, I find critical thinking to be an extremely important skill set that is lacking in the international education system because a government prefers obedient citizens above critical and rebellious citizens. But I believe, in the case of Chile, that schools should integrate critical thinking into their curriculum to move towards a structural transformation in the stagnant social structures that exist today and that impacted the impactful protests recently.
The Ministry of Education has an incentive to form citizens that will bring wealth to their country, and accordingly, they will prioritize classes or skillsets that contribute to the predominating economy. While Chile is rich in natural resources, approximately 90% of employed Chileans work in the service sector industry, thus the Ministry of Education has an incentive to emphasize people skills, problem-solving, and more. If a country’s main industry is natural resources/ manual labor, the Ministry of Education may prioritize following instructions, physical health, and any other skills deemed favorable to the economic market.