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Chile: New minister – old problems?

Following a cabinet reshuffle in the last days of 2011, Chile has found itself with a new education minister. Former education minister Felipe Bulnes resigned from office, citing personal reasons for his leave. He was the second education minister to step down from service in the government of President Sebastián Piñera, who took office in March 2010. After enduring a tumultuous year marked by unprecedented student unrest, Bulnes will reportedly become Chile’s new ambassador to the United States.

The new education minister Harald Beyer Burgos – is an economist by training. He studied at the University of Chile and earned his PhD degree from the University of California. Beyer is the author of many works on economics and social policy. Prior to his appointment as education minister, he worked at the Chilean Centre for Public Studies (CEP), and was a member of several presidential advisory councils and expert panels.

In his capacity as the new minister, Harald Beyer will have to tackle a series of old problems. The OECD’s Economic Survey of Chile 2012, which appeared in January, lists amongst its recommendations shoring up efforts to improve the quality and equity of education, and expanding access for the poor to higher education. These problems lie at the heart of the largest student protests seen in Chile since the country’s return to democracy in 1990 (See ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, August 2011, October 2011). Although Chile's university students were finally pressed to return to classes in late November, protest leaders promise to continue demonstrations in the new year, and continue to enjoy significant attention and support. To wit, the charismatic student leader Camila Vallejo was named Chile’s “Person of the Year” in a national poll released in late 2011.

Ministry of Education OECD Economic Survey of Chile 2012 The Australian Santiago Times