in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
almost two decades of military rule (1973-1989), the newly elected democratic
government inherited an educational system characterized by high inequalities,
which were largely the outcome of the decentralization and privatization
initiatives undertaken by the regime of General Augusto Pinochet.
that time, according to data from the National System of Measurement of
the Quality of Education (SIMCE), a
large gap in achievement (25 points) existed between private and public schools.
Likewise, repetition rates in public schools were three times higher than in
private ones. In the schools where students had lowest achievement levels, the
educational level and the income of their families were also among the lowest.
address this situation, the democratic government designed a comprehensive
policy to support those schools with the lowest
academic achievement and with students of the
lowest socio-economic background. The rationale behind this policy was that, in
order to promote equity, it is necessary to provide special attention to
children from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to compensate for the negative
impact of poverty on their educational opportunities. Shortly thereafter, the
policy was translated into a specific program.
in 1990 the government launched the P-900 (Programa 900), which targeted the the
bottom 900 schools of all 13 regions of the country in terms of students with
low socio-economic background and of low academic achievement. The program had
six key objectives:
to improve reading and mathematic skills of learners in the first four grades;
to improve the quality of the teaching-learning process;
to train supervisors to act as advisors in pedagogy;
to increase teacher responsibility;
to promote group work among teachers; and
to integrate school and community.
The program consisted of a comprehensive strategy of support that
included the distribution of textbook materials for students, and guides for
principals, teachers and tutors with suggestions for remedial instruction to the
slowest learners. The implementation of the program started with the improvement
of the physical plan of schools and provision of basic equipment. School
libraries with reading and audiovisual resources for the initial grades were
ensures, as was the maintenance of school buildings. School supervisors
throughout Chile were requested to focus their efforts on the P-900 schools.
The strategy also included regular training for supervisors and
teachers (using participatory models) in the use of the didactic materials, in
adopting new pedagogical approaches, in increasing studentsí self-esteem, and
in strengthening school-community relations. Young tutors from the community
were trained in remedial instruction.
All schools were located either in rural areas or in extremely poor
urban areas. Although the programme started with 900 schools, by 1992 the number
of participating schools reached 1,385 schools, which represented 15 per cent of
Chilean public primary schools. Focusing on the first four years of basic
education, by that year the programme was working with 222,491 students and
7,267 teachers. While until 1997 the P-900 focused on the first four grades, as
of 1998 it expanded its activities to all grades of primary education.
After a decade of implementation, it is pertinent to raise what is
perhaps the key question around any educational reform: did P-900 make a
difference in terms of learning achievements? After the most recent tests,
conducted in 1999 by the National System of Measurement of the Quality of
Education, a noticeable improvement occurred in the areas of mathematics and
language with respect to the scores obtained at the beginning of the program.
Moreover, it was found that the progress made by students in P-900 was
significantly higher than the progress made by comparable public schools which
were not part of the program.
While there is no doubt that education alone cannot drastically
alter the unequal opportunities that derive from class inequalities (see Bowles
and Gintis 1976), recent initiatives like P-900 in Chile, Escuela
Nueva in Colombia, Conafe in Mexico, or BRAC in
Bangla Desh show that massive programs to improve learning among the poorest
children can make a difference, and challenge the cynical claim that these
efforts are necessarily condemned to failure from the beginning because the
structural socio-economic context overdetermines educational achievement.
Indeed, the success of the P-900 program in improving the
achievement of poor students suggests that education can make a modest
contribution in equalizing educational opportunities through pedagogical
innovations and policies of positive discrimination that favour the most
disadvantaged sectors of society. Such contributions, however, in order to be
significant and sustained over time, have to be complemented with other social
and economic redistributive policies.
Reimers, Fernando. A framework to analyze the implementation of
educational innovations in Latin America. p. 3-6 [Presented at the Annual
Meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society, Kingston,
Guttman, Cynthia. All children can learn: Chile's 900 Schools
Programme for the underprivileged. Paris, UNESCO, 1993. 31 p. (Education for
all: Making it work).
Daniel Schugurensky (OISE/UT)
Citation: Schugurensky, Daniel (2002). 1990: Chile launches P-900, a national program to support poor schools. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/1990p900.html (date accessed).
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