Constitutional draft: let’s take stock

Going into the draft in a little more detail, the clarity with which freedom of education is expressed is valuable. Likewise, as a positive and relevant change, the explicit inclusion of public education in the text stands out.

Daniel Rodriguez Morales is Executive Director of Acción Educar

Yesterday, the 50 councilors who will continue the work of the experts, with the aim of drafting and subsequently approving, a new Political Constitution, assumed their positions. The majority opinion seems to be that the preliminary draft issued by the experts is a good base document, which contains positive elements. The president and vice president of the Committee of Experts presented the text to those who take the post in a cordial and solemn atmosphere. The ceremony was sober and a political climate of certain optimism prevailed.

In the case of education, usually one of the areas in which reaching consensus is more difficult, the bill complies with giving continuity to the system, preserving basic pillars such as freedom of education and the right to education. This is positive, because a system as complex as the educational system should not undergo radical changes due to constitutional effects. However, it also has a downside. You run the risk of “freezing” our educational system to what it is today. No one can say that they are satisfied with Chilean education, and perhaps, with great prudence and reflection, the new Constitution could guide the future development of education.

Going into the draft in a little more detail, the clarity with which freedom of education is expressed is valuable. Likewise, as a positive and relevant change, the explicit inclusion of public education in the text stands out.

But there are also some omissions and errors, arising mostly from the amendments. In the first place, there is a greater state control of education, without clarity of its limits. The State must have a role of development, promotion of education and coordination of the public sector, not of the subsidized individual. This reinforcement of the state role over the entire education system risks turning into more control, leadership and bureaucracy, eventually leading to politicization and capture by interest groups.

The wording of the preemptive right of parents does not meet international standards. The holders of the right are the parents and legal guardians, not the families as the bill seems to confuse. This is an error that follows from the agreed bases, but it can be easily corrected by adding that the holders of this right are the parents or legal guardians. In turn, said right should be part of the right to education, since it is a way of safeguarding and protecting the right to education of children.

The elimination of the section on Official Recognition, which was not publicly discussed at least, is a major problem. This element is and has been key to giving continuity and legal certainty to the educational system regarding the minimum conditions that an establishment of any level must meet to be recognized by the State. In simple terms, it is a guarantee that the State cannot change the basic rules of education by abusing a simple political majority, and it forces the minimum standards for a school to function by consensus.

What could be added? Ideally not too much, but some innovations could be positive. For example, respect for equality before the law should be ensured through non-discriminatory financing of the free choice between state and private education. This would make it possible to stop the progressive discrimination that successive policies have used as the thesis that it is necessary to “take the skids” off subsidized private education so that the public one does better. Nothing more wrong. Finally, and pointing to what was previously mentioned about state control and bureaucracy, it is necessary to reinforce the autonomy of state educational centers. Today, the almost unlimited and often arbitrary and inefficient powers of the superintendencies represent a permanent sword of Damocles over schools and educational institutions. It is necessary to rebalance that relationship.

There is room for the elected constitutional councilors to improve this proposal. It is also relevant that the final text is not just a photo of the moment, but also contains elements that allow education to be projected into the future. Not hand in hand with the State, but as a task of society to which the State can contribute.


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