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Chile: Comparative Education and Social Change

Chile: Comparative Education and Social Change

Study educational policies and pedagogies in Chile and Argentina, exploring the relationship between education, society, and diversity in both countries.

This program gives students the opportunity to engage in rigorous academic coursework and research on educational systems in urban and rural areas of Chile and Argentina. Students spend time in a variety of schools, gaining insight on the workings of public, private, voucher, underprivileged, coed, and single-sex institutions. Students consider the application of popular education as a tool for social change.

Major topics of study include:

  • Chilean educational system and the country’s current education crisis
  • Regional and national differences in educational systems
  • Popular, intercultural, and bilingual education
  • Role of ethnicity and diversity in educational practices
  • Educational policies, equity, and human rights 

Discover the political, social, and economic factors shaping educational systems and social change in Chile and Argentina.

La VictoriaThis program introduces students to the complex relationship between society and education and the multifaceted forces that affect educational policies and ideologies in two South American countries. SIT faculty, researchers from Universidad Alberto Hurtado, members of governmental and human rights organizations, and local experts lead students in lectures and seminars while also guiding them in field studies.

Program components

The program consists of three main phases:

  • Five-week homestay in Santiago during which students have lectures and intensive language instruction
  • Three-week period studying educational systems in Temuco, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Four-week period when students complete an Independent Study Project

Each phase of the semester exposes students to different perspectives on education and social change through interactions with a broad range of stakeholders – from students and teachers to policymakers and social activists.

Santiago (program base)

During the first five weeks of the program, students live with host families in Santiago. During this period, students attend lectures, seminars, and field studies by SIT professors and researchers from Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Universidad Arcis, Centro de Estudios Nacionales de Desarrollo Alternativo, and Instituto de Desarrollo Económico.

Topics of study include: education and equity, human rights and indigenous education, popular education and labor unions, social change and social movements, and the impact of globalization on education and schooling.

Intensive instruction in Spanish

While in Santiago, students are immersed in Spanish language study through intensive language classes and interactions with host families. Students acclimate to Chilean culture and are introduced to the current social and political issues surrounding education and social change in Chile.

Research and comparative study

Temuco During the second phase of the program, students participate in educational excursions throughout Chile and also travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Students live with indigenous families in Temuco to learn about bilingual intercultural education and the conflicting relationships between the Chilean state and the Mapuche community. Students analyze this experience in light of their excursion to Buenos Aires where they examine Argentina’s educational policies firsthand. During each excursion, students visit classrooms, meet with teachers and students, and learn from community and civil society leaders.

Independent study

Students dedicate the final part of the semester to an Independent Study Project (ISP). Students have the opportunity to critically analyze a topic or situation related to the educational and social dynamics in Chilean, Mapuche, or Argentine communities. Students may choose to incorporate a guided practicum experience into the project as well. Students receive guidance from the academic director during the ISP period.

Sample topic areas for the ISP include:

  • Identity issues and intercultural education in rural Mapuche schools
  • Education and cultural identity through children’s arts expressions
  • Structural aspects of education
  • English language practicum in a primary urban or rural school 
  • The Penguin revolution and its effects
  • School reentry in Buenos Aires
  • Ethnicity in childcare in marginalized areas of Santiago and Buenos Aires 
  • Gender roles in schools
  • National identity in students
  • Human rights
  • Popular education and social change


Previous college-level coursework in education, Latin American studies, or development studies. Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

Access virtual library guide.

The interdisciplinary coursework in the Chile: Comparative Education and Social Change program explores the political, social, and economic factors affecting educational systems and social change in Chile and Argentina. Students examine these effects firsthand through field studies and interactions with urban and rural communities throughout Chile and in Buenos Aires. During the final month of the semester, students leverage their accumulated knowledge and research experience to complete an Independent Study Project.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Education Quality and Equity: Tensions and Proposals – syllabus
(LACB 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this first seminar, students examine the Chilean educational system in the context of global changes. In particular, they study the relationship between education and society in Chile and the current crisis in education. Course topics include educational equity policies and the impact on social indicators; education and human rights: gender, sexuality, religion, and ideology; special education and its challenges; rural education; and university reform. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Bilingual Intercultural Education and Popular Education – syllabus
(LACB 3005 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
The second seminar introduces a comparative focus by having students examine both the Chilean and Argentine educational systems. The course focuses on intercultural education, the role of ethnicity and diversity in educational practices, and bilingual education in South America. Students will examine the particular case of Mapuche communities in Chile. As a second major theme, students also consider popular education models, reading Freire and others, relating these models to social movements. In both areas — the intercultural and the popular — students critically examine the tensions among the different actors in the educational system: students, teachers, and the government. Similarly, through both intercultural and popular education themes, students discuss issues of equity, human rights, and educational policies with reference to the current legislative framework. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Spanish for Social Sciences and Education I – syllabus
(SPAN 2000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Spanish for Social Sciences and Education II – syllabus
(SPAN 2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Spanish for Social Sciences and Education III – syllabus
(SPAN 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this course, students hone their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. They practice reading educational literature as they learn the formal terms and local expressions needed to discuss educational policy, to conduct field research, and to interact in settings related to the program themes and excursion destinations. Students are placed in small classes based on an in-country evaluation that tests both written and oral proficiency.

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project, students learn how to organize and conduct a research project. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice basic social science and educational research methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to working with schools, children, and marginalized groups, and are guided through the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project related to the program themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Santiago, Buenos Aires or in another approved location appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Students may choose to incorporate a guided practicum experience into the project as well. Sample topic areas: identity issues and intercultural education in rural Mapuche schools; education and cultural identity through children’s arts expressions; structural aspects of education; English language practicum; the Penguin revolution and its effects; school reentry in Buenos Aires; ethnicity in childcare in slum areas of Santiago and Buenos Aires; gender roles in schools; national identity in students; human rights; popular education and social change.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

We had incredible access to observe and participate in schools across Chile and Argentina. The program provided a very solid base of knowledge about the politics, history, and culture of Chile.

Program alum

Compare regional and national differences in educational systems.

ValparaisoEducational excursions bring to life the complex educational and social issues discussed in lectures and seminars. Excursions also provide students with an opportunity to apply concepts and methods introduced through coursework, such as cross-cultural adaptation and interviewing skills. Students learn how to reflect and contrast reality versus rhetoric.

Población La Victoria

The Chilean community of La Victoria is known for its strong sense of identity, culture, and social organization. It was a source of social mobilization against the Pinochet dictatorship during the 1980s and it was there that French priest André Jarlan was shot by police bullets. Students visit the community’s public school, a neighborhood association, the museum André Jarlan, and a popular television station (channel 3 of La Victoria). Students meet with teachers, families, local students, and community leaders.  

Human Rights Tour: Uncovering Chile’s Complex Past

Over four days, students visit a series of locations used as torture sites, secret detention centers, clandestine burial sites, and sites used as holding places for citizens kidnapped by the dictatorship. Students typically visit the Museo de la Memoria, el Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi, Patio 29, Memorial de Salvador Allende, the resting place of Víctor Jara, and the Memorial al Detenido Desaparecido y Ejecutado Político.

Students meet with former detainees and relatives of victims and also with the organization Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desparecios. They also have a seminar with prominent lawyers and human rights activists.


During a three-day excursion to the city of Valparaíso, SIT students engage with students and teachers at rural and urban public schools. Students visit the elementary school in Laguna Verde, a rural community to the south of Valparaíso. They also visit Liceo Técnico Femenino A–24, a girls' school. The excursion includes a presentation by members of the Valparaiso Province’s Regional Teacher’s Federation (Colegio de Profesores) who offer their views on Chile’s current educational situation and reform initiatives.

Temuco, Mapuche Region

Study the complex issues of ethnicity and diversity in relation to education systems.

TemucoExamine indigenous educational alternatives and possibilities. Students spend seven days in a Mapuche community in the rural area of Chapod in southern Chile. Living with a local family allows students to enrich their knowledge of the Mapuche community. During their stay, students visit a local school to observe primary and middle school instruction and intercultural bilingual education. Students interact with teachers, students, and host families.

As part of this excursion, students also engage in community work such as:

  • Helping with the construction of a Ruka, a typical Mapuche housing unit
  • Teaching English classes to community children
  • Taking Mapudungun lessons
  • Playing soccer and Palin, the local Mapuche sport, with members of the community

Buenos Aires, Argentina

During the two-week excursion to Argentina, students visit schools and NGOs in the greater Buenos Aires area. A part of the program takes place at Instituto de Desarrollo Económico y Social (IDES), a research institute focused on social and economic policy. Students examine human rights movements, popular education, and the work of local teachers.

Highlights of the Buenos Aires excursion include:

  • Meeting with Argentina’s Ministry of Education staff and professors from the University of Buenos Aires
  • Visiting Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada, the main detention and torture center during Argentina’s dictatorship period
  • Visiting public schools with high populations of Paraguayan and Bolivian migrants 
  • Joining members of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo — Argentina's premier human rights organization — on their weekly walk for human rights at Plaza de Mayo
  • Visiting different schools that represent the formal and popular educational system

Roberto Villaseca, Academic Director

VillasecaRoberto Villaseca graduated from the Universidad de Santiago de Chile with a degree in industrial management. He earned two postgraduate degrees, in university pedagogy and college management, from the Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación en Chile; he also has a master's degree in education from that same university. Roberto is currently a PhD candidate in education at the Universidad de Aconcagua, Chile, where he specializes in assessment and accreditation. Roberto has held academic assignments at the Universidad Arcis, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, and Universidad de Chile, and has served as the academic coordinator of the Faculty of Engineering at the Universidad Bolivariana. Roberto is an expert consultant on labor for state institutions such as the Chilean National Institute of Agricultural Development (INDAP) and SENCE (National Training and Employment). As a consulting member of the National Commission on Standardization of Occupational Competence, Roberto designed the Integrated Regional Programs (PTI) for CORFO (Development and Production Corporation). Roberto's research has focused on education, economics, globalization, and economic development, areas in which he has published several articles. His experience with SIT dates back to 2001 when he served as academic coordinator of SIT's Globalization and Economic Development program as well as SIT's Advanced Field Research summer program. He has served as an academic advisor of more than 40 Independent Study Projects for SIT students enrolled in different programs throughout Chile. In his current role as academic director, Roberto oversees every aspect of the Chile: Comparative Education and Social Change study abroad program. In addition to delivering lectures, advising students, and coordinating academic seminars, Roberto helps plan the program's educational excursions and works to ensure that students' academic needs are met.

Roberto has been academic director since February of 2009. This experience has helped him to analyze aspects of intercultural bilingual education in Mapuche territory, to understand the public aspect of the Argentine educational system, and to look at the relationship between intercultural education, human rights, popular education, and social change. During 2011, Roberto made presentations about the education crisis in Chile at various universities and schools and has participated in seminars on the students' strike and other social movements.

Gladys Solange Velozo, Program Coordinator

Gladys is a primary school teacher from Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación, UMCE. She is currently completing her master’s degree in education with a specialization in psychology and pedagogy. Gladys has worked as a teacher since 1998. As the program coordinator, she works constantly with partner universities, institutions, social organizations, teachers and excursion coordinators to coordinate program activities.

Noemí Muñoz, Program Assistant and Homestay Coordinator

Noemí is a history and social sciences teacher from Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello. She has worked as a teacher since 2011. As the homestay coordinator, she works constantly with host families and students throughout the semester to ensure a positive experience on both sides, while also ensuring the logistics for the program activities.

Juan Antonio Painecura, Program Coordinator, Temuco, Mapuche Territory

Mr. Painecura has coordinated SIT excursions focused on the Mapuche people for the past 16 years. He is a guest lecturer at Chilean universities on Mapuche history and philosophy and is the author of several articles on Mapuche history including “La Historia del Pueblo Mapuche en el Contexto del Modelo Neoliberal” (ARCIS, 2004).  A longtime activist on Mapuche community development and culture survival issues, he has conducted indigenous leadership training sessions in other Andean countries and is a founding member of CINPRODH (Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derrechos Humanos de Temuco), a human rights organization in Temuco, Chile. Mr. Painecura is a Mapuche retrafe (silverwork artist) and consultant to the Smithsonian and the Royal London Museum on their Mapuche silverwork art collections. He is the owner of Ruka Kimun, a Mapuche cultural training and indigenous tourism business. He holds a degree in design from the Universidad Católica-Temuco.

Marta Kesilevski, Program Coordinator in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Marta holds a B.A. in education sciences and a master's degree in social sciences with a specialization in education from the Facultad Lationoamericana de Ciensas Sociales (FLACSO). She is also a doctoral candidate in social sciences. Marta is the Chile Education program’s local coordinator for the homestays and excursions in Buenos Aires. Marta currently is an expert of the Ministery of Education in Argentina about topics of the quality education.

Faculty and lecturers for this program typically include:

Juan Eduardo García- Huidobro, PhD

Dr. García currently serves as Dean of the Education Faculty at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado. He received his doctorate in education sciences and philosophy at the Universidad Católica de Lovaine and his master’s degree in education policy from the Universidad Alberto Hurtado. He is also the director of the Center for Investigation and Educational Development (Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Educación) and the former president of the Presidential Advisory Council for Education (Consejo Asesor Presidencial para la Educación). He has published extensively on the subjects of education and the Chilean educational system.

Manuel Riesco Larraín, PhD

Dr. Larraín is a civil engineering professor at the University of Chile. He earned his master’s degree in industrial engineering with a minor in economics from the University of Chile and received his PhD in political economy from the Social Science Institute in Moscow. He has worked as the external research coordinator for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva, since 2003 and is currently the vice president of the Centro de Estudios Nacionales de Desarrollo Alternativo (CENDA), Santiago. He has been a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme since 1999.

His publications include: "Derrumbe de un Mito. Chile Reforma sus Sistemas Privatizados de Educación y Pensiones" CENDA, 2007.

Pablo Cottet, PhD

Dr. Cottet is the director of the School of Sociology at the Universidad ARCIS. He earned his PhD at the Universidad de Chile, specializing in aesthetics and art theory. He has lectured extensively at public institutions and has made presentations at the Museum of Contemporary Art and various universities. Dr. Cottet has also conducted various research and intervention projects, as well as consulted for government agencies. He has extensive experience as a teacher at undergraduate and graduate universities in Chile, such as Universidad Diego Portales, Academia de Humanismo Cristiano, and Universidad ARCIS. In addition to publishing several papers in books and magazines, Dr. Cottet led the international seminar "Current debates on social research methodology" for the doctoral program in social psychology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Liliana Pascual, PhD

Dr. Pascual received her doctorate in educational sciences and her master’s degree in sociology from the Department of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Buenos Aires. She also has a master’s degree in English language teaching from the Cambridge Institute of English Culture. Currently she is the quality manager for Argentina’s Ministry of Education.   

Nora Gluz, MA

Nora received her master’s degree in social science and education from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Argentina. She received a bachelor of science in education at the University of Buenos Aires and is currently pursuing a doctorate in education at the same university. Nora is also a researcher and teacher, and has published articles and books on education in Argentina.

Mónica Bonnefoy López, MA

Mónica Bonnefoy López has a master’s degree in political science and local management from the University of Social Science and Arts (ARCIS) in Santiago and is also licensed in social work from the same university. She is currently an instructor in the department of social work and a thesis advisor at ARCIS University. Additionally, she is chair of the Social Intervention Methodology and Systemization of Social Practices Department at ARCIS. Her publications include “Trayectorias de vida en niños, niñas y jóvenes socialmente excluidos: aprendizajes de violencia” as well as readers for the Social Practices and Master in Social Politics and Local Management classes at ARCIS University. 

Geraldine Abarca, MEd

Geraldine Abarca received her master’s degree in education with an emphasis in bilingual and intercultural education for Andean countries from the San Simón University in Bolivia. She holds a certificate in education from the Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences (Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación) in Santiago, Chile and a certificate in pre-school education from la Universidad Católica de Chile.

In country resources and program partners generally include:

The family I lived with shared their lives, their house, their family and their opinions about everything from music to politics to food production in Chile. I couldn't have asked for a better family, and I'm grateful to my program for finding me a family that I learned so much from.

Program alum

The program’s three different homestays give students the chance to experience daily life in Chile and Argentina and to develop an in-depth understanding of, and appreciation for, different cultures. The program includes two homestays in Chile (Santiago and Temuco) and one in Argentina. By living with different host families, students are exposed to multiple perspectives on the relationship between educational policies and society.

Santiago homestay

During the first five weeks of the program, students live with host families in Santiago where they experience urban Chilean culture. Students practice their Spanish language skills and learn about their family's experiences with education and social change in Chile’s capital city.

Temuco homestay

homestay in TemucoStudents live for one week with an indigenous Mapuche family in the community of Chapod, Temuco, a village in southern Chile. Students experience the living conditions of a rural, indigenous community and learn about the ancient traditions of Mapuche education. Visits to a Mapuche school and conversations with community leaders and teachers provide students with insight into the challenges of bilingual intercultural education.

Buenos Aires homestay

During their two-week excursion to Argentina, students live with host families who reside and work in the cosmopolitan downtown area of Buenos Aires known as Capital Federal. While in Argentina's capital, students broaden their perspectives on South American education by interacting with their hosts, who include professionals, academics, and university students.

Other accommodations during the program include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.

Program Dates: Fall 2015

Program Start Date:  Aug 25, 2015

Program End Date:    Dec 7, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   May 15, 2015


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $15,625

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Education and its role in promoting equity and social justice
    • Educational systems and reforms in Chile and Argentina
    • Intercultural education in the global context
    • Popular education and critical pedagogy
  • Research Methods and Ethics course and Human Subjects Review
  • Intensive language instruction in Spanish
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Temuco, Chile, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food) 
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board:$4,350

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Santiago), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly or through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay. 
  • All homestays (five weeks in Santiago, two weeks in Buenos Aires, and one week with an indigenous family of Mapuche descent)  
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly or through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $360

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $75

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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