Primary and Secondary Education

The law makes primary and secondary school mandatory for all Chileans.
The Chilean state provides an extensive system of education vouchers that covers about 93% of primary and secondary students (the other 7% attend non-subsidized private schools). The system is based on a direct payment to the schools based on daily attendance.

Schools are either public (nearly all owned by the municipality of the commune in which the school is located) or private, which may receive government subsidies.

Private schools (subsidized or not) may be organized as either for or non-profit. In order to receive public funding, private schools must reserve 15% of seats in each class to students classified as "vulnerable" (based on family income and mother's level of education). Schools receive extra funding for each "vulnerable" student they enroll.

The 1965 reform established primary education as the initial cycle of schooling. Before that, by 1920, Chilean legislation had established four years of minimum mandatory education. By 1929 the minimum had been increased to six years. In 1965 primary education was extended to eight grades, ideally designed for ages six to 13.

Secondary education is divided between Scientific-Humanist (regular), Technical-Professional (vocational) and Artistic, all lasting four years. The first two years are the same for the three kinds of schooling, while the third and fourth years are differentiated according to the orientation of the school.

The schools offering Technical-Professional programs are denominated:
Industrial Schools: electricity, mechanics, electronics, informatics, among others.
Commercial Schools: management, accountancy, secretary and similar.
Technical Schools: fashion, culinary, nursery and the like.
Polyvalent Schools: offering careers of more than one of those listed above.

Most of the students choosing the vocational branch come from disadvantaged socioeconomic background. Private school with subscribing-fees gathers less than 1% of the students.

Compulsory education only covered the eight years of primary school, but in 2003 a constitutional reform established in principle free and compulsory secondary education for all Chileans up to 21 years of age. This ensured twelve years of compulsory schooling, which was an unprecedented milestone in Latin America at the time.

The net enrollment ratio (covering students of school age) in 2009 was 93.19% in primary, and 70.70% in secondary, while the gross enrollment ratio (covering students of any age) was 106.24% in primary and 94.68% in secondary.

Type of school
dependency Pupils
(2014) % Total 3,535,835 100.00
Delegated Administration 46,880 1.33
Municipal (public) 1,305,032 36.91
Private, non-subsidized 270,085 7.64
Private, subsidized 1,913,838 54.13

Voluntary tuition

Public schools and subsidized private schools may charge a fee for the selection process, an annual price of enrollment (which, as of 2011, cannot be higher than CLP$3,500, or about US$7) and a monthly tuition fee (financiamiento compartido or "shared funding", also known as copago or "copayment"), which is voluntary for the parent. Enrollment and tuition fees are forbidden in pre-primary and primary school in these institutions. A fee to the so-called Parents Center (Centro de Padres) is voluntary and cannot be higher than 0.5 UTM (Unidad Tributaria Mensual or "Monthly Tax Unit") a year (payable in up to ten installments), which was CLP$19,143 (about US$40) in 2011.

Mandatory tuition
Public schools and subsidized private schools have the same selection and annual enrollment costs as in schools with voluntary tuition, but they are allowed to charge a mandatory monthly tuition, which cannot be higher than 4 USE (Unidad de Subvención Educacional or "Education Subsidy Unit"). This was equal to CLP$72,763 in 2011 (about US$150) in both primary and secondary school. A Parents Center fee is the same as in schools with voluntary tuition.

Non-subsidized private schools are free to set the price, which may include enrollment and tuition costs, as well as a fee for applying to the school (paid once) and one for being admitted to the school (also paid once, and can be quite high in some exclusive schools). There may be other payments, such as to the Parents Center or for school materials, which may be included as part of the tuition fee.

There is a third type of public school, the so-called Delegated Administration schools, which are owned by the State but managed and financed by private corporations. These cannot charge a selection fee. The annual enrollment cost is voluntary and the same as in schools with voluntary tuition. They are allowed to charge for tuition, but it is up to the parent to decide how much to pay. The maximum cost is 1.5 UTM annually, which was CLP$57,430 (about US$119) in 2011. A Parents Center fee is voluntary.

There is a fourth type of public school, administered by the Ministry of Education and completely financed by the State. Currently, there is only one such school: Escuela Villa Las Estrellas in Antártica.