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Chile: the education system

Education - Chile

Chile is separated from Antarctica by the Drake Passage, in the north, the country borders Peru, in the east – on Argentina and Bolivia. The official language in Chile is Spanish, which is spoken by the vast majority of residents. 

Educational system

The educational system in Chile was considered the best in Latin America until the military coup in 1973. Before which the Unified National School educational reform began. Its goal was to adopt a unified educational program for public and private schools to overcome cultural differences between children of different social groups. Currently, every citizen of Chile is legally assigned the right to free education. Education in Chile is divided into several levels: preschool, basic, average, higher.

The first three are regulated by the Ministry of Education, higher education – by a special Higher Education Council. Preschool education is not compulsory and is available for children from three months of age (nursery) to six years (kindergarten) inclusive.

Basic education

Starts at the age of 6-7, last eight years, and is divided into two four-year cycles. Secondary education is four years old and includes not only schools but also colleges.

Since 2003, this level of education has become compulsory and free; it is received by an average of 87.7% of young people aged 15-18.

Higher education

It is represented by three stages: vocational training centers (2 years of study), professional institutes, and universities. Private schools (subsidized or not) can be organized as either for or as a non-profit organizations. To receive government funding, private schools must reserve 15% of places in each class for students classified as “vulnerable” (based on family income and mother’s level of education). Schools receive additional funding for every “vulnerable” student they enroll.

In vocational training centers, students receive knowledge and skills in basic disciplines, after which they can already get a job in their specialty. At the institutes, they receive diplomas of higher education of the same technicians of the highest level, and after graduation, you can enter universities that provide higher education at all levels of training – bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral studies in all specialties existing in the country.

State (traditional) universities are regulated by the Council of Rectors and are supported by the state. Admission to them is carried out according to the unified state system of entrance examinations Prueba de Selección Universitaria.

Higher education Students can choose between 25 “traditional” universities (public or private) and 35 private. There is a single, transparent admission system used by 33 universities (all 25 “traditional” universities and eight private universities that participated in 2011).

The test, called PSU, an acronym for the Prueba de Selección Universitaria, is designed and evaluated by the University of Chile, while the system itself is administered by the Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación). The test consists of two required exams, one in Mathematics and one in Language. There are also two additional specific exams, Sciences (including Chemistry, Physics, and Biology fields) and History, depending on which undergraduate program the student wants to apply to.

The cumulative GPA achieved during high school is also taken into account in the final score of admission, as well as the student’s relative position in his class and the two previous promotions. Each university assigns different weightings for different exam scores for the different programs offered. Some universities may require additional (non-PSU) tests or face-to-face interviews for admission to certain programs.

Academic year

The academic year is divided into semesters. The first part of the year in Chile starts from the end of February or the beginning of March till July. After a two-week winter break, the school resumes and lasts until the end of November or early December, followed by a summer break. The period of study is created by the government in each local administrations.

Education reform

Chile is undergoing significant reform towards its publicly funded education system. One of the first proposals sent to Congress included a ban on compulsory co-payments, removing existing selection processes, and converting commercial schools into non-profit organizations.


Studying in Chile is one of the ways to obtain a Residence Permit from the country. The essence of the program is simple. You must get an education from the local university, and after receiving your education, you will obtain a Chilean Residence.

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