The ongoing pathways of the right to education in Chile: the Penguins’ Revolution

Hernandez Santibañez, Ivette (2010). "The ongoing pathways of the right to education in Chile: the Penguins’ Revolution" Paper presented at the 7th annual conference of the HDCA, 21-23 September 2010, Amman, Jordan.

In 2006 almost one million secondary students manifested in the streets their political voices to demand structural changes in the Chilean educational system where they claimed education is a right and not a privilege. Their social protest known later as the Penguins’ Revolution put on the table a national debate concerning the crisis of the Chilean education system. Through their mobilizations they were on one hand focussing on transforming an educational system that has been “consciously structured by social classes” (OECD, 2004) and highly “influenced by an ideology that gives undue weight to market mechanisms to improve teaching and learning” (OECD, 2004:266) and on the other they were challenging traditional forms of participation exercised by the Chilean post-dictatorship society by new ways of political and social participation. Therefore this paper aims at analyzing the political and social participation addressed by the Chilean secondary students. In order to understand their political arenas this paper describes in the first section the socio-historical matrix which delineates education from the middle of the 1980s. In describing education it is aiming at a better understanding the why of the Penguins’ political claim on education as an effective opportunity for getting social justice. The second section deals with the how of their collective action by highlighting, that it, as an exercise of collective agency, has been evolved as a self-organizing system able to be “autocatalytic and demonstrates autopoiesis” (Mason, 2008). In exploring the Penguins’ Revolution as a self-organizing system this paper is also addressing some common dimensions between previous social movements led by secondary students during the 1980s. Finally the third section deals with a discussion on all those political and social goals attached by secondary student’s mobilization in terms of re-defining education as a right. The latter is developed bearing in mind on one hand Melucci’s approach on social movements as a “sign or message for the rest of society” (Melucci, 1989) and on the other in analysing it from the perspective of tendencies followed by social movements in Latin America.
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