Education and Schools in Chile
Giving a child the opportunity to receive a top-notch education is a chief concern of many parents, and for expats moving abroad, the challenge of settling schooling for their little one seems that much more difficult.
After considering the climate of education and schools in Chile, most expats opt to send their children to international schools. Although the limited number of these institutions reduces the burden of choice, it's also a point of contention for the many families who believe that competition breeds higher standards.
Public schools in Chile
Public schools in Chile are open to expat enrolment, but are rarely used by foreign families due to the below par standards and the complications caused by the language barrier.
The teaching language of the local institutions is Spanish, and most students – and teachers to boot – will have a poor grasp of English.
Furthermore, little exists in the way of integrating students who speak second-language Spanish into the normal academic environment.
Private schools in Chile
A large disparity exists between the quality of public and private education in Chile, and as a country that prides itself on its recent growth and development, the low standard of state-sponsored education remains a sore point.
The gap between the two sectors is still assumed to be so large in Chile that a fair amount of locals choose to send their children to private schools. It follows that these institutions are a natural choice for foreign families.
Private schools in Chile that adhere to a national curriculum are also good options for expat families who anticipate a long-term stay, or who can't afford the hefty price tag attached to international schools.
Most of these institutions have a Catholic (or some form of religious) foundation, so expats will need to take this into consideration. Some of these schools also require that students and their families practice the delegated faith to be granted admission.
The standard of these schools varies considerably, but expats can glean some indication of the quality of each by comparing student body scores on the standardised tests in Chile, the PSU test (used for university applications) and the SIMCE test.
These schools may employ any number of teaching languages, but expats should note that the last four years will always be taught in Spanish in preparation for the PSU test. For this reason, expats who have high school-aged children planning on attending a university in their home country should choose one of the international schools.
International schools in Chile
International schools in Chile offer an assortment of home-country curricula and primary teaching languages. Many of these schools boast bilingual programmes, but others do not. These schools also tend to have a multicultural student body, a broader selection of extra-curricular activities and better facilities than public schools.
Most international schools in Chile are located in Santiago, but expats can find a few options scattered outside of this commercial centre.
International schools tend to be expensive so it is imperative that expats try their best to negotiate some sort of education allowance into their contract before agreeing to relocate. Fees vary depending on the school and the age of the child, with the most expensive bodies costing more than some university tuitions.
Space can be scarce in the more prestigious international schools in Chile (such as Nido de Aguilas, Santiago College and The Grange School), so the further in advance parents can start the admission process, the better. To be admitted to any school, parents need to have proof of their child's academic results and a certificate from their home country school, notarised and legalised at the Chilean consulate. In some cases, it may be necessary for expat kids to take admittance tests, usually in language and mathematics, sometimes with the addition of a personal interview.