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Chile's Bachelet Prepares Next Phase of Education Reform

  • Reuters

FILE - Chile's new President Michelle Bachelet waves from a car heading to La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, March 11, 2014.

FILE - Chile's new President Michelle Bachelet waves from a car heading to La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, March 11, 2014.

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday her government was preparing the second phase of an ambitious education reform, hours after Congress approved the first set of changes.

After eight months of intense debate, the Lower House late on Monday approved the first part of the multi-pronged reform, which includes an end to profits at state-subsidized schools and eliminates their selective entrance policies.

The measure was sent to Bachelet to be signed into law.

"What we've put an end to here is a set of illegitimate bases put in place during the dictatorship, behind the nation's back, and today we've recovered Chile's historic tradition and the best practices in the world," said Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre.

The government will now look to bolster teacher pay and conditions, bring public schools, now managed and financed by townships, under national jurisdiction, and make university education free, Bachelet said.

Details on the next phase of the reform are scant.

"We need good teachers with good salaries, with decent working conditions. We also need for schools to go back to the state ... and of course we think it's of the utmost importance that nobody is left out of the university," she said.

Months of massive student protests, demanding major changes to an education system that was privatized under then-dictator General Augusto Pinochet, helped shape the 2013 electoral campaign and propel Bachelet into power.

She took office in March for her second non-consecutive term promising to upend some of the long-lasting legacies of Pinochet's 1973-1990 dictatorship and to bridge Chile's wide income inequality gap.

Bachelet championed a recently approved tax overhaul that will boost the state's coffers by $8.3 billion and help pay for the education changes. She also sent Congress a bill that seeks to balance labor relations by bolstering unions and workers' rights.

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