The Chile Experiment - EdChoice
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  • Apr 30 2018

The Chile Experiment

By Mariano Narodowski

In The Chile Experiment, Mariano Narodowski examined the available achievement and segregation data of Chile’s school choice-based system compared to countries with similar socioeconomic structures and common educational histories, but with traditional education systems: Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

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In this report, you will learn:

  • 1

    Chile is the only Latin American country that has a universal school voucher system.

    Chile formed an educational voucher system that largely adjusts to the characteristics listed by the theory: demand-side subsidy, free school choice, administrative and pedagogic school autonomy and competition among schools. The rest of the countries in the region seem to form quasi-State monopolies centralizing educational systems even with differences within these structures.
  • 2

    Chile has scored highest in math, reading and science of any other Latin American country in 2015.

    The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show Chile has experienced considerably higher academic achievement than other Latin American countries. In PISA 2000, Mexico ranked as the best-performing Latin American country with an average of 410 points followed by Chile (402) and Argentina (400). In 2015, Chile ranked first with 443 points. In addition, Chile’s academic gains from 2000 to 2015 ranked second among Latin American countries that participated in PISA since 2000.
  • 3

    This study is unique because it compares Chile to other Latin American countries on a variety of academic outcome and segregation measures.

    The author finds relatively high academic gains and decreases of socioeconomic segregation in Chile. Segregation measures across this and related studies, though, are sensitive to measurement definitions and neighborhood characteristics, among other factors. Past research efforts examining segregation levels since Chile’s voucher implementation have been limited, but cross-country comparisons add important context and frames for reference. It should be noted that this study, as well as others’ previous research on Chile’s school choice program, report findings that cannot rule out the possibility that observed patterns are due to unobserved or unmeasured factors.
  • 4

    All Latin American countries’ school systems are relatively segregated, but the Chilean voucher system appears to prevent segregation from worsening.

    This study considered different indexes for measuring segregation to quantify socio-economic segregation. The different analyses show education systems in other Latin American countries may reach much higher levels of segregation than Chile’s voucher system. For example, from 2000–2015 segregation levels in Peru increased by 17.8 percent. Meanwhile, Chile’s free school choice system has not significantly increased the degree of socioeconomic segregation in schools.

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