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Families with kids have plenty to consider when moving to Santiago, and taking the time to explore schooling options is also on the list. Although the idea of exposing their children to Spanish teaching in the public sector may seem appealing at first, most parents ultimately opt for the assurance of quality education that comes with one of the city's many international schools.
Public schools in Santiago
Chilean schooling covers preschool up to age five, primary school from age six to 14 and secondary school from age 15 to 18. When starting high school, students must decide if they want to attend a technical school based around several distinct and practical courses to prepare the student for the working world. Alternatively, to prepare their children for university and further education, secondary schools that specialise in scientific subjects and humanities are selected.
The standards of public education in Chile are generally adequate but, accompanied by the fact that classes are taught in Spanish, this means that most expats living in the capital send their children to an international school in Santiago.
Most local children attend public schools in Santiago and there are also several private schooling options, some of which receive a state subsidy.
Private schools in Santiago
Private schools in Santiago generally have a religious foundation. In some cases, families applying to the school will need to practise the relevant faith for their children to be considered for admission.
Like public schools, private schools follow the local government curriculum, although they have more freedom to make adjustments and additions to the curriculum. Unlike public schools, they are more likely to teach in a combination of Spanish and other languages up until secondary school where the preparation for school-leaving exams is done in Spanish. That said, the quality of non-Spanish teaching can vary greatly.
Costs in Chilean private schools can quickly add up. In addition to soaring school fees, parents may also have to budget for other expenses such as incorporation fees, annual enrolment fees, books, transport, uniforms, field trips and more.
International schools in Santiago
Fortunately, parents have a wide array of international schools in Santiago catering to expats. The standard of education is generally high and there are facilities for various curricula and languages, including the International Baccalaureate and American, British and German curricula.
Space at international schools is usually limited and parents are advised to plan well in advance. Parents must prepare necessary documents, academic reports and birth certificates, while children may be required to take a short test and sit for an interview.
Fees are undeniably exorbitant at these schools and no ordinary salary can afford them. Luckily, expats moving to Chile as part of a corporate relocation can negotiate for tuition expenses.
Special needs education in Santiago
Special needs education is pushing to become inclusive in both public and private education sectors. Many schools provide support for learning disabilities, psychological and behavioural problems. Headteachers hire specialists to give the necessary assistance with the help of government subsidies when needed. However, finding certain services in English is not always possible and expat families may have to turn to more expensive international school options.
International schools in Chile provide varying levels of learning support to children with disabilities. Some support minor learning disabilities, helping with reading, maths and language. Parents should contact the school directly to find out how much support can be given.
Homeschooling in Santiago
Although fewer parents choose homeschooling than mainstream schools, it is a viable opportunity. Negative aspects of mainstream schooling like longer school days, not enough specialised attention and the hefty price tag of international schools mean that many families look for alternatives.
Homeschooling one’s children is not a decision to take lightly as parents must be up for the challenge. It requires a great degree of empathy and understanding, and expats should research the curriculum they choose to follow. They can be guided by Chile’s national curriculum and textbooks, online resources or international curricula.
There are no specific laws for homeschooling, although parents may need to take a validation test to prove they can educate their children. Parents can find more information on this process from homeschooling families that network on social media platforms like Facebook and through Chile’s Ministry of Education.
Nurseries in Santiago
Parents with young children in Santiago have many nurseries to choose from. There are bilingual daycares in Santiago and several international schools also provide preschool opportunities. When choosing a nursery, expats should consider the teaching- and caring style and activities available, whether it’s flexible and fun or gives special attention to kids’ early development. Parents must also consider their accommodation and find a nursery in the same area or suburb where they live.
Tutors in Santiago
Expat families looking for a tutor are unlikely to have many problems. Online portals such as Apprentus and networking with other families and on social media are great ways to find a tutor in Santiago.
Tutors are great for students of all ages, including children looking to study for a test or even adults interested in learning Spanish. This may be part of a language exchange or on a more formal tutoring basis. Tutoring can be flexible, allowing for face-to-face or online classes on a schedule that suits the tutors and the tutees.
►Read more about the Chilean education system and schooling options for expat kids in Education and Schools in Chile
►Our article on Expat Contract Negotiation will help with getting the educational allowance you need
"I love our children’s school. It is perhaps the number one thing I love about Chile." Read Nina's interview to find out her experiences of the schools in Santiago.
"Most English-speaking schools are located in Lo Barnechea and Chamisero. When you have chosen a particular school, make sure to carefully select where you are going to live, because traffic jams..." Read more insights into finding schools and accommodation in Jérémie's interview.
Are you an expat living in Santiago?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Santiago. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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