2006 student protests in Chile

The 2006 student protests in Chile (also known as the Penguins' Revolution or The March of the Penguins, because of the students' uniform) were a series of ongoing student voice protests carried out by high school students across Chile from late April to early June 2006. The protests peaked on May 30 when 790,000 students adhered to strikes and marches throughout the country, becoming Chile's largest student demonstration of the past three decades and the first political crisis of president Michelle Bachelet's administration.

Amongst the students' short-term demands were free travel passes on buses and the waiving of the university admissions test (PSU) fee, while the longer term demands included: the abolition of the Organic Constitutional Act of Teaching (LOCE), the end to municipalization of subsidized education, a reform to the Full-time School Day policy (JEC) and a quality education for all.

On June 1, Bachelet addressed the nation by television, announcing several new measures for education that met most of the student's demands. On June 7 the president announced a 73-member presidential advisory committee – promised by Bachelet on her speech to discuss the students' long-term demands – which included six seats reserved for high school students. Initially hesitant to join the committee, on June 9 the student assembly finally accepted the invitation and called for an immediate end to strikes and school take-overs.

On August 23, around 2,000 students were marching in Santiago and other cities in the country, in protest of the slow speed that the reforms were taking place. The rally eventually got violent when small groups turned away from the peaceful demonstrations and started throwing rocks at the police. The police responded with tear gas and water cannons. More than 200 of the demonstrators were arrested and over a dozen were injured. [1]

Background

A banner in an occupied school reads "The LOCE is a loser"

The Organic Constitutional Act of Teaching or LOCE (Act Nº 18,962) was enacted on March 7, 1990, and came into force on March 10, the last day of Pinochet's 16½ year dictatorship. Despite being widely criticized by both students and teachers as well as the ruling coalition (Concertación), it has remained largely unmodified since the restoration of democracy.

Critics of LOCE point out that it reduces the state's participation in education to a solely regulatory and protective role, whilst the true responsibility of education has been transferred to private and public corporations (public schools being managed by local governments — Municipalidades), thus reducing the participation that students, parents, teachers and non-academic employees had previously enjoyed in their schools.

During the 1990s, one of the main objectives of the Concertación administration was a so-called Educational Reform. One of the main pillars of this reform, launched during the Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle administration, was the Jornada Escolar Completa, JEC (Full-time School Day policy) — a plan to increase the hours that high school students actually spend in classrooms (in many cases not increasing the number of additional classrooms and other infrastructure required). However, many consider that the quality of education has dropped to worrying levels despite the high level of government spending on public education. Studies have showed that the JEC still has not been correctly implemented nor has it achieved the desired results. [2]

Since 2000 a new demand has emerged with respect to the transport system's school pass and the new University Selection Test, and although much progress was made in some areas, the core of the students' demands have remained unsolved as of 2006.