Promoting educational equity in Chilean schools

In a country of widespread inequality, good education can help close the gap. But first, we need to decide what we mean by “good”.

The challenge

It might seem obvious: the best schools produce the best results. But equity, whether in wealth or education, hasn’t grown as rapidly as Chile’s income over the last decades. Some schools may not be getting enough credit, others may be complacent.

At present, Chilean schools are rewarded based on factors including pupils’ raw test outcomes. But this neglects a whole range of issues affecting a school’s ability to achieve the very highest results. Consequently, inequality gets reinforced as schools with the toughest challenges face punishments as severe as closure.

What we’re doing

In collaboration with national and international partners, I'm following up my own PhD research highlighting the strong influence of prior attainment and school context – things like pupil demographics, family background and school location – on students’ test performances.

This work allows schools to be compared not just on raw performance scores, but on contextualised student progress that more accurately emphasises the value they add. Broadly, this means tracking improvements in students’ performance while adjusting for prior attainment and those key contextual factors. Having refined the weighting process, we’re now publicising the results, which present a very different picture of Chilean school performance classifications.

This is an emergent research field, so sharing and discussing these findings with local stakeholders and a wider academic audience is an important part of our strategy. This isn’t about telling other people what to do, it’s about offering a new perspective with which to make informed decisions.

How it helps

While our work challenges the standard rankings and perceptions of Chile’s schools, it also provides an opportunity to spotlight proven best practice from around the education system.

By increasing local awareness of the additional considerations that they face, we’re showing that schools educating pupils from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds may be doing a better job than many realise, which helps Chile work out how best to support schooling and reduce inequality for generations to come.

Related researchers

Partner organisations

  • Unidad de Curriculum y Evaluación Ministerio de Educación, Chile
  • Agencia de la Calidad, Chile
  • Líderes Educativos, Chile

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