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A reader saw the earlier post about the ruin caused by privatization in Chile and wrote this post about Colombia:
I live and work in Colombia. The same was tried here. Perhaps Colombia drank the “Chilean miracle” koolaid, or perhaps it’s simply that Colombians tend to think anything that comes from abroad (particularly if its roots are in the US) must be golden. The private system insisted it could and would provide better education than the public schools, so the government provided funding for what we would call charters, but here are really just private schools. Among the results: lots of fraud, lots of tiny primary schools opening and closing in garages, often leaving kids with no chance to get into other schools until the next term…if they were lucky, since private schools don’t have to let them in, and there aren’t enough seats in the public schools any more. Inequality is very high, even though the government includes some aspects of social democracy, like nearly universal health care and a progressive tax policy. (The pension system was privatized too, and that’s been a disaster for most people, but I digress.) I can’t speak to whether inequality is actually greater than before the education reforms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. Certainly the public schools lost funds, as anyone who had enough money to pay tuition (yes, not only did these schools get government funds, but they were allowed to charge tuition), enrolled and still enroll their kids in “private” schools on the assumption that public schools are the worst possible option, even though public school kids regularly win scholarships to attend public universities of excellent quality.
Since I moved here in 2006, scores on international tests like the PISA, have dropped. The sorely underfunded public schools have continued to produce most of the top scorers on the ICFES, a national exam required for university entrance, similar to the SAT or ACT. That wasn’t enough to open the government’s eyes. It was the drop in scores on international tests that finally did it. As a result (YAY!), recently, the government stopped funding the private/charter schools. I don’t know if this means the public system will get more funding – I hope it does, because they need a big infusion. Since I’ve been here, there aren’t enough public schools to provide an education for all the children whose families can’t afford a private one. Now, finally, the push is on to build enough to solve that problem. It’s not like our education policy leaders would have to go far to see what NOT to do: Colombia’s a mere four hour flight from Miami. There are none so blind as those who will not look, much less see.