Agencia de Calidad de la Educación
División de Estudios
Departamento de Estudios Internacionales

Overview of Education System

The Chilean educational system is governed by the Quality Assurance System, which is mandated to guarantee good quality education for all students in the country. To achieve this, the Quality Assurance System implements programs of evaluation, inspection, and supervision, and provides guidance and continual support to schools. The Quality Assurance System is composed of the Ministry of Education, the Superintendence of Education, the National Council of Education, and the Educational Quality Agency.1

The Ministry of Education is the central institution of the Quality Assurance System. Its purpose is to implement educational policy through granting official recognition to schools, defining regulations, providing funding, and creating and supporting educational resources, standards of learning, and pedagogical training. The Superintendence of Education monitors the implementation of educational regulations and imposes sanctions. The National Council of Education approves and informs the national curriculum, standards of learning, and national and international assessment plans, among other educational frameworks. The Education Quality Agency evaluates and monitors student learning outcomes and indicators of personal and social development. It provides guidance to schools aiming to foster quality education for all, to reduce learning gaps, and to realize more inclusive education.2

As of 2014, there were 12,061 schools in Chile, serving 3.54 million students. These schools are divided into groups depending on their administrative status: public schools (44.5 percent of all schools, 37.3 percent of all students), private subsidized schools (50.6 percent of schools, 54.9 percent of students), and paid private schools (4.9 percent of schools, 7.7 percent of students). Public schools are managed by local governments (municipalities) and funded by the state. Private subsidized schools are managed by private entities and funded by the state; private schools can be free of charge or have a shared structure of funding, in which both families and the state provide funds.a

Private schools are managed by private entities and funded exclusively by families. The Ministry of Education officially recognizes all these educational institutions as long as they meet the established requirements, and parents can choose among them for their children’s education.3,b Chile’s current school system consists of eight years of basic education (educación básica), which combines primary and lower secondary education (Grades 1 to 8), and four years of high school (educación media), which corresponds to upper secondary education (Grades 9 to 12). Basic education starts when students are 6 years old.4 In 2015, kindergarten became compulsory, making compulsory education a total of 13 years.

Schools may offer primary and lower secondary education (basic education), upper secondary education (high school), or both (complete schooling). Some schools offer education for Grades 7 to 12 only, and others, mainly very small rural schools, offer education for Grades 1 to 4 or Grades 1 to 6 only. Schools providing upper secondary education offer humanistic-scientific education, technical professional (vocational) education, or both (polyvalent). These tracks start in the 11th grade, when curricula differentiate. Some schools offer specific artistic education. For students with special needs, temporary or permanent, there are human and technical resources, as well as specific knowledge and assistance available.5

The Ministry of Education is responsible for developing the national curriculum, which determines the fundamental objectives and minimum content for each grade and subject in all schools. It also develops study plans and teaching guides. The national curriculum must be approved by the National Council of Education, which is independent of the Ministry. However, schools are free to decide how to implement the curriculum and may include additional educational objectives, content, and programs, with prior approval by the Ministry of Education. In primary and lower secondary education (basic education), there is one common curriculum for mathematics and science because all students at this level follow the same track. In upper secondary education, there is one common curriculum for Grades 9 and 10, but different curricula for Grades 11 and 12, depending on whether students follow the humanistic-scientific or the technical professional track.6

Languages of Instruction

The vast majority of the population in Chile speaks Spanish. Some ethnic languages also are spoken, including Mapudungún (spoken by the Mapuche people from the mid-south of the country), Aimara (spoken by the Aimara people from the Northern Andes), and Rapa Nui (spoken by people from Easter Island).7

The official language of instruction for mathematics and science is Spanish in the vast majority of schools, but there also are a few bilingual schools where these subjects are taught in a foreign language. In schools with a high proportion of indigenous students, the objective is to allow them to learn in their mother tongue, and there is a higher proportion of instruction in indigenous languages.8

  • a A law was passed recently, intended to eliminate payment from families in private subsidized schools, which will receive more public funding. Law 20.845 will take effect in 2016 and will be implemented gradually in private subsidized schools.
  • b Fewer public establishments (approximately 70) are managed under the Executive Management System (Sistema de Administración Delegada), which is administered by several corporations and nonprofit foundations.