Cesar Chelala’s Sept. 16 article, “In Chile, dissent has a woman’s face,” has aspects of Chile’s student protests all wrong, and Camila Vallejo’s role as well. Students have combined three different movements into one, but their objectives remain separate.
On one side are teachers, whose aim is not to have to take qualification exams since, they say, many could fail because of their lack of preparation. Those who don’t pass will have to undergo a period of training that the teachers believe is unnecessary.
Second, junior high and high school students are demanding a better quality of public education. The level of public education in Chile has generated glaring inequalities in society, since it is considered very poor compared with the private education received by those whose families can afford to pay for it.
Even though Chilean public education needs change, the student representatives have neither the maturity nor the capacity to conduct this change. They have absolutely no idea about policy planning or education improvement. Their claims are justified, their methods are not.
Finally, there is the university level, whose representative is Camila Vallejo, a member of the Communist Party, which usually obtains no more than 4 percent support in Chilean elections. The demands for improvement point in two directions: reducing the costs of study and making all universities public and free.
The first demand is absolutely supportable, the second one — in a liberal democratic society like Chile — is not. What we should be looking at is how to improve education quality, not the question of public vs. private, because that will only lead to an ideological debate that will push real educational reform further away.
Anyway, that’s the reality of the strikes and protests.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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