Chile’s interior minister Rodrigo Penailillo announced on December 4 that university education would be free by 2016.
The announcement comes after huge protests by Chilean students for greater equality in education that broke out under former president Sebastian Pinera's right-wing adminstration. The Socialist Party's Michelle Bachelet won presidential elections last year, in part by promising to implement many of the student movement's demands.
Penailillo said: “In March 2016 we will start with the free higher education, now that we have the resources [to implement the reform], as we approved the fiscal reform.”
His announcement came after a survey released on December 3 found the popularity of Bachelet's government had dropped to 38% amid heavy criticisms of its education reforms.
“Issues of education, that address inequality, are at the core of the people's concerns and we are working on it with the government,” Penailillo added.
Bachelet took office with a program of social reforms that included education. In September, she implemented a fiscal reform that aimed to allocate US$8.3 billion per year to fund education reform and social programs.
The latest announcement is expected to lower tensions that the reform had generated. Students have been protesting repeatedly since September, fearing the reform would further inequality in the already unequal educational system.
[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]