Inclusive Education Act No. 20.845 of 2015 promotes free, diverse, integrative and inclusive education. The act stipulates that it is the state’s duty to ensure inclusive, quality education for all and promote the creation of conditions for access and attendance of students with special educational needs (SEN) to mainstream or special education centres, depending on their best interests. The system must also encourage the idea of education centres as a meeting place for students from different socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, gender, or religious backgrounds or nationalities.
Special educational needs
Decree No. 170 of 2009 on Special Education set the rules for selecting students with SEN to receive special education grants. It defines a student with SEN as a student who requires additional help and resources – human, material or pedagogical – for their development and learning, and to achieve the aims of education. There are two types of SEN: temporary and permanent.
According to Act No. 20422 of 2010, special education is a school system modality that provides specialized services and resources to both mainstream and special schools to ensure quality learning for children and young people with SEN, disability-related or otherwise, and ensure compliance with the principle of equal opportunities for all learners, in accordance with current regulations.
The Chilean education system has three types of school system in the special education modality:
- Special schools for children with sensory, intellectual, motor, relational and communication disabilities or specific language disorders.
- Centres with School Integration Programmes for children with learning difficulties or disabilities. The School Integration Programme, a school system strategy, aims to contribute to the continuous improvement of the quality of education provided in schools, promoting the attendance, learning and participation of each and every student, especially those with SEN, whether permanent or temporary. Alternatively, schools with a School Integration Programme may create a separate class exclusively for students with disabilities. In this case, the school can choose whether to follow the mainstream curriculum (with the necessary accommodations/adaptations), or the curriculum tailored to the student’s disability.
- Hospital schools and classrooms for children who are hospitalized.
However, the type of school organization in the school modality varies according to the level of education. According to the Review of Educational Policies in Chile (2004–2016), in preschool and primary education, schools must use the mainstream curriculum and adapt it to the needs of students according to their disability. In secondary education, there are several alternatives for students with SEN: schools with School Integration Programmes and special schools. The latter are intended for students who need more learning support. At the higher education level, it is non-compulsory and aimed at people who have completed their secondary education and wish to obtain a higher technical qualification, professional qualification or academic degree. There are three types of higher education institutions: universities (which can award high-education technical qualifications, and professional and academic degrees), professional institutes (which can award professional qualifications that do not require a bachelor’s degree, and higher education qualifications), and technical training centres (which can only award higher education qualifications).
According to data published by the Library of the National Congress of Chile in 2018, 183,373 students had SEN at the time of enrolment, representing 5.12 per cent of total national enrolment. There are 2,027 special schools, 5,662 schools with School Integration Programmes, and 46 hospital schools and classrooms.
Act No. 20422 of 2010 establishes rules on equal opportunity and the social inclusion of people with disabilities. It decrees that it is the duty of the state to ensure the necessary conditions for the access and attendance of students with SEN to mainstream or special education centres that receive state subsidies or contributions. Preschool, primary and secondary schools must draw up plans for students with SEN and encourage the participation of all teachers, education assistants and other members of the education community in these plans.
Supreme Decree No. 332 of 2011 sets the minimum ages for admission to special education.
The Inclusive Education Act No. 20.845 of 2015 established that education centres should be a meeting place for students from different socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, gender or religious backgrounds or nationalities.
Education and freedom of education are complementary rights that are guaranteed in Article 10 of the 1980 Constitution.
The Inclusive Education Act is based on the principle of non-discrimination, which implies inclusion and integration in education centres. The admission process for students in schools that receive state subsidies or contributions must be carried out in accordance with the principles of transparency, inclusive education, universal accessibility, equity and non-discrimination, taking the priority right of parents to choose their child’s school into special consideration.
Act No. 20609 of 2012 established anti-discrimination measures in education.
In 2017, the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education published the Terms and Conditions for the Construction of an Inclusive Policy in Higher Education. Its aim was to share approaches and provide criteria for the identification of inclusive policies and initiatives that enhance work organized in a network and help drive the creation and/or strengthening of inclusion units at state universities. According to this document, diversity as a condition for inclusion encompasses not only socioeconomic aspects, but also aspects such as ethnic and cultural identity, disability, and gender and sexual diversity. At the higher education level, the inclusion of people with disabilities is promoted, in which the National Disability Service (SENADIS) plays a key role.
The government programme for 2018–2022 included universal accessibility, inclusive education and labour inclusion in its priorities. The National Education Plan 2020 proposed inclusion for learning in diverse classrooms. The plan seeks to reinforce the national continuous training programme on diversity management, with a focus on interculturality and students with SEN.
Chile's inclusive education programme aims to contribute to the development of schools with inclusive approaches. According to the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), this is achieved through capacity-building of teachers and education stakeholders, collaboration and exchange between schools and universities and the generation and dissemination of knowledge and tools to facilitate political decision-making and strengthening of educational practices and training processes.
The Centro de Estudios Mineduc [Ministry of Education’s Centre for Studies] published a National Report on the Review of Education Policies in Chile for 2004–2016. It brings together a series of policies developed in the country to promote equity and the inclusion of people with disabilities and different socioeconomic groups and genders.
Decree No. 1 of 1998 established the rules for the social integration of people with disabilities. It sets the rules for selecting students with SEN to receive a special education grant.
Decree No. 170 of 2010 set the rules for selecting students with SEN to receive a school education grant. The decree sought to improve educational integration of children with SEN. It establishes that education centres must carry out a comprehensive or interdisciplinary diagnostic assessment to identify students with SEN according to the criteria and dimensions of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). This evaluation is to be funded with special grant resources.
The Special Differential Grant is intended for students with visual or hearing impairments, severe dysphasia, autism, a severe intellectual disability, multiple disabilities or deaf-blindness, who according to their SEN, must be educated in classes of no more than eight students. To optimize the process of registration and admission to this education institution, in 2017 an online platform was implemented where education centres register their students. In 2018, some 10,134 students in 346 special education centres benefited from the initiative.
Act No. 20422 on Equal Opportunities and Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (2010) promotes the adaptations of curricula, infrastructure and support materials as necessary to enable and facilitate access to education for people with disabilities at all levels of education, providing them with the necessary resources to ensure their retention and progress in the education system.
The Inclusive Education Act established that it is the duty of the state to ensure inclusive quality education for all people. The School Integration Programme was created to offer an inclusive strategy for the school system in order to help improve educational quality and the progress of all students, especially those with permanent or temporary SEN. The programme makes human and material resources available and develops diversified teaching strategies, trains teachers and develops educational materials to promote the learning of students with SEN. To be admitted to the School Integration Programme, students undergo a diagnostic assessment by education and health professionals. The programme also establishes interventions according to disability type.
The Ministry of Education developed a Manual to Support School Inclusion within the Framework of the Education Reform that provides guidelines for the use of the educational inclusion programme as an inclusive tool. The National Education Plan 2020 proposed a reform of the educational inclusion programme to make the care model more flexible and increase resources according to the real proportion of students with SEN that attend school. The plan also proposed the creation of specialized centres to support students with SEN and teachers in managing diversity.
The 2015–2018 Plan: Education for Gender Equality provides for the implementation of education policies with a gender perspective. Measures being taken to promote gender equity include the following:
- the creation of a Gender Equity Unit within the Ministry of Education
- training of professional and technical teams working in the Ministry and the education sector
- the promotion of gender mainstreaming among teachers.
According to the plan, there is no significant gap in access for girls (51 per cent) and boys (49 per cent) in preschool education, with the exception of special education, where 39.2 per cent are girls and 60.8 per cent are boys.
In its Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of Chile (2018), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women welcomed the adoption of the Inclusive Education Act but expressed concern about the low educational attainment among indigenous women and girls and the difficulties faced by some pregnant girls and young mothers to continue or return to education.
The Education with Gender Equity work plan approved by the Minister of Education in 2019 is based on three main pillars:
- quality education without gender bias that guarantees equity in the learning processes of boys and girls;
- more vocations and opportunities for women and girls;
- a zero-tolerance policy on gender-based violence in preschool, primary school and higher education.
People living in poverty
Act No. 20248 on Preferential School Subsidies (2008) sought to guarantee the quality and equity of education in schools with students whose financial circumstances may be affected by socioeconomic conditions. It identifies priority and preferential students.
Students in rural and remote areas
In rural areas in Chile, multigrade schools predominate, with at least one of the classes containing students from different education levels. Decree No. 968 of 2012 on Rural Education sought to ensure quality learning for girls and boys attending rural multigrade schools.
Rural education systems face greater barriers to ensuring inclusion, particularly for students with disabilities. The government implemented the School Integration Programme in rural areas and has programmes to promote education in rural areas, such as the Territorial Integration Scholarship.
Ethnic groups and indigenous peoples
The Ministry of Education, through the General Education Law, the Indigenous Act (No. 19.253) and International Labour Organization [ILO] Convention No. 169, has ensured the full inclusion of the indigenous peoples living in Chile. The Intercultural Bilingual Education Programme (1996) sought to ensure that all students, regardless of their indigenous origin, acquire knowledge of indigenous languages and cultures by incorporating indigenous language into the national curriculum as a subject.
The Ministry of Education, through awareness-raising and dissemination, develops and distributes management, technical and teaching resources with the aim of promoting the knowledge and world views of indigenous peoples within education communities. Nearly 2,000 education centres are complying with the principle of interculturality by implementing intercultural actions in their Plans de Mejoramiento Educativo [education improvement plans].
Programmes such as the Indigenous Scholarship, which provides financial support to indigenous students, have significantly increased attendance and reduced dropout rates among beneficiaries.
Act No. 21151 of 2019 grants legal recognition to the Chilean Afro-descendant tribe. Article 4 provides that Chile’s national education system must endeavour to provide a programme unit that enables students to acquire adequate knowledge of the history, language and culture of Afro-descendant people, and to promote their cultural and artistic expressions at the preschool, primary, secondary and university level.
As a result of the increase in migrants in Chile, the National Policy for Foreign Students 2018–2022 was created with a view to ensuring that foreign students are included in the national education system.
The Ministry of Education seeks to ensure an inclusive education system. The Regional Ministerial Secretariats support the Ministry in this aim. In the regions, the implementation of education policies is the responsibility of the Provincial Departments.
The National Board of School Aid and Scholarships (JUNAEB) provides school aid to Chilean students in vulnerable situations.
In the case of students with disabilities, the Ministry of Education works hand in hand with the Ministry of Health to ensure their inclusion in the education system. The Ministry of Health is responsible for determining whether a disability exists according to the international classifications of the World Health Organization. The Comisión de Medicina Preventiva e Invalidez [Commission for Preventive Medicine and Disability – COMPIN] issues disability certificates that enable access to grants or special schools. Students with disabilities must be registered on the National Disability Registry.
In the area of gender, the Ministry of Education is working with the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity to develop specific measures to eliminate gender stereotypes and move towards gender-equitable education. There is a Mesa Intersectorial de Educación en Afectividad, Sexualidad y Género [Intersectoral Board for Emotions, Sexuality and Gender Education] that supports the work of the Gender Equity Unit.
Act No. 20422 mandated infrastructure adaptations to facilitate access to schools for students with disabilities and the creation of public access libraries with materials and technologies accessible to all.
The Curriculum and Assessment Unit is responsible for developing the national curriculum. The curriculum takes into account the needs of vulnerable groups such as children with disabilities and indigenous children.
Article 36 of the Act on Equal Opportunities and the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (2010) establishes that mainstream education centres must incorporate curricular innovations and adaptations and provide the necessary support materials to enable and facilitate access to existing courses or levels for people with disabilities, providing them with the additional resources they require to ensure their retention and progress in the education system.
Decree No. 83 of 2015 on the diversification of teaching approved a series of criteria and guidelines for curricular adaptation for students with SEN in preschool and primary education. The decree proposes two types of curricular adaptations: those that focus on access and those that focus on learning objectives. To determine which curricular adaptations should be implemented, schools should conduct an individual diagnostic assessment. The decree also states that centres providing special education at the preschool and primary education level must use the mainstream curriculum and adapt it to the needs of students according to their disabilities. However, this decree does not apply to secondary education, so at this level schools are not obliged to make use of the mainstream curriculum.
The National Education Plan 2020 proposed making the secondary education curriculum more flexible so that education would be more diverse and representative of what secondary schools offer today.
Starting in 2015, the aim was to incorporate a gender perspective throughout the curriculum; increase the visibility of women in the curriculum; and achieve a greater balance in bibliographies and references to women authors in texts recommended in study programmes.
Learning materials and ICT
The Me Conecto para Aprender [Connect to Learn] programme is a presidential initiative that seeks to close the gap in education access through the delivery of a laptop (including mobile broadband internet access for one year) to each student in seventh grade of primary school in all public schools in the country.
Programmes have been developed to use ICT in special schools to promote communication strategies and access to the national curriculum for students with multiple disabilities.
According to Decree No. 170 of 2009, students with SEN must be assessed by competent professionals registered in the National Registry of Special Education Professionals. The decree establishes the type of professional who must assess each type of disability. In all cases, in addition to being assessed by medical professionals, the student must be assessed by a special education teacher.
Chile offers a financial incentive to teachers working in isolated, rural, culturally diverse and disadvantaged schools. The measure seeks to attract teachers to areas with high concentrations of vulnerable students.
The School Integration Programme allocates resources to teacher training and encourages collaborative work between teachers and education assistants.
In multigrade schools, capacity-building for teachers is actively promoted, alongside the creation of microcentres, where neighbouring rural schools can meet once a month and teachers can discuss pedagogical matters.
The 2015–2018 Plan: Education for Gender Equality establishes continuous training on gender mainstreaming for teachers with national courses on gender, discrimination, inclusive schools, sexuality and sexual diversity in the classroom.
The Education Quality Assurance Agency is responsible for assessing and monitoring learning.
The national education report seeks to involve citizens in public decision-making processes. The last report found dates back to 2017.