Vouchers and the educational apartheid proposed by Milei

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – The presidential debates in Argentina showed us again that Javier Milei is not willing to budge on anything, in order to continue taking advantage of the social unrest in Argentina, through anti-state far-right rhetoric. He comes from market fundamentalism, with which he doesn’t care about destroying basic and democratic aspects of coexistence.

One of those measures, which Milei seeks to carry out if he becomes president of Argentina, is to install a voucher system in the school environment, which, applied to countries as unequal as ours in Chile, is truly catastrophic in terms of school segregation.  

Hence, if one reviews the Chilean experience regarding vouchers in recent decades, one clearly sees a process aimed at the destruction of public education, which places us in Latin America as the country with the lowest enrollment rate in public schools, only surpassed by Haiti, which should make us very ashamed and as an example of what not to do at the political level.

However, Milei continues to sell the idea that Chile has an educational model to follow, ignoring the enormous demonstrations that have been taking place against this for-profit and exclusionary model since the 2000s. Protests that denounce a negligent State, which completely delegated its responsibility with the country.

From the outside world, it can be said that the privatization of education in Chile has made it possible to increase school enrollment and improve the scores of some standardized tests. However, it has also meant a deepening of segregation to extremely dangerous levels, generating a system of school apartheid, which has only contributed to a greater concentration of wealth and greater social disintegration.

It is true, in Chile what was proposed by Milton Friedman, who proposed giving money directly to families (as Milei proposes), was not strictly applied. It was instead done through a school subsidy per student, making the financing of the schools depend on the number of students who attend each day.  Those who do not meet a certain number may even close.

Consequently, the so-called school subsidy in Chile has been a true catastrophe for many students, who have been victims of a school selection system, which for years has violated the right to education of a good part of them. A group of fanatics thought that the best way to provide quality education was through competition between schools, without caring in the least about the dignity of the people.

Before 2014, with the model that Milei wants to replicate, subsidized private establishments, which are the majority and have state financing, could select their students by criteria based on the status of the families, their economic and cultural capital. Now the selection is random, the school cannot set requirements.

In fact, if one reviews other experiences of vouchers in education, such as Sweden, a country that is immensely more socially egalitarian than ours, it has also resulted in greater segregation, which only ends up generating differences between students and the denial of collaborative logic and plural encounter in schools.

Having said the above, if Javier Milei becomes president he will try to destroy the Argentine educational system, of which there is a transversal defense of the public, including the right-wing candidate Patricia Bullrich (4), leaving Milei as an enemy of a key area for social integration and citizen education.

In short, trying to promote vouchers in the school system is an insult not only for Argentines but for those of us who have trained and gone to study in the neighboring country, which is accompanied by other delusional measures, such as the closure of the Ministry of Education and the end of the Comprehensive Sexual Education.

However, if Milei tries to do what he promises, he will have teachers, students, parents and an entire Argentine society mobilized and full of conviction, which will not allow itself to be trampled by a lunatic in power. One who believes he can put an end to public education, as happened in Chile, applying totally failed ideas and without any type of evidence to support them.

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