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Comparative Education and Social Change

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

At a Glance




3 semesters Spanish, Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Feb 22 – Jun 6

On Site Component

Feb 22 – Jun 6

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Education & Social Change

Education & Social Change Icon

Identity & Human Resilience

Identity & Human Resilience Icon


Why study education in Chile?

With its large indigenous and immigrant population and strong contrasts between urban and rural areas, Chile offers the opportunity to study a variety of educational models. You will spend time in diverse schools throughout the country—including public, private, voucher, underprivileged, coed, bilingual and intercultural, and single-sex institutions—to understand forces that affect educational policies and ideologies. Excursions to different regions of the country will deepen your understanding of the complex cultural and socioeconomic realities that impact education systems.

You will also spend two weeks in Argentina, which will provide the opportunity to compare educational systems. You will see how teachers and students in Argentina and Chile are trying to make education available to vulnerable populations, including immigrants and students with disabilities.

You will also develop the formal and informal Spanish language skills to discuss and research education issues and policy through classroom learning, cultural immersion, homestays, and excursions.


  • Research education in urban and rural areas of Chile and Argentina.
  • Consider popular education as a tool for social change.
  • Live with three host families to experience diverse cultures and lifestyles.
  • Compare regional and national differences in educational systems.


Previous college-level coursework or background 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.


Población La Victoria

Visit the Chilean community of La Victoria, 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. Meet teachers, families, students, and community leaders as you visit the public school, a neighborhood association, the André Jarlan museum, and a popular television station (Channel 3 of La Victoria).

Human Rights: Uncovering Chile’s Complex Past

Visit former torture sites, secret detention centers, and clandestine burial sites used during Chile’s dictatorship. These may include 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. Meet with former detainees, relatives of victims, and Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desparecidos, and hear from prominent lawyers and human rights activists.


During a three-day excursion to the city of Valparaíso, you will visit the elementary school in Laguna Verde, a rural community to the south of Valparaíso, and Liceo Técnico Femenino A–24, a girls’ school. You will also hear members of the Valparaíso Province’s Regional Teacher’s Union talk about Chile’s current educational situation and reform initiatives.

Temuco, Mapuche Region

Study complex issues of ethnicity and diversity in education on a seven-day excursion to a rural Mapuche community. Live with a local family to enrich your knowledge of the Mapuche community and visit a school to see primary and middle school instruction and intercultural bilingual education. Engage in community activities such as helping construct a ruka, a typical Mapuche house; teaching English classes to children; learning Mapudungun, and playing soccer and palin, a Mapuche sport, with members of the community.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

During a two-week excursion to Argentina, study at Instituto de Desarrollo Económico y Social, where you will examine human rights movements, popular education, and the work of local teachers. You will also meet with government officials, professors, and members of the human rights organization Mothers of Plaza de Mayo; visit schools with large migrant populations differing education systems; and see Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada, the main detention and torture center during Argentina’s dictatorship period.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Identify the educational, social, cultural, economic, and political relations existing in the Argentinean and Chilean educational systems.  
  • Compare the role of a welfare state and a neoliberal state for educational and social change and their relationship with social movements organized by various stakeholders such as students, Mapuche communities, immigrants, LGBTQI+ communities, human rights organizations, and autonomist movements in Chile and Argentina. 
  • Analyze the structure and pedagogical orientation of both educational systems based on seminars and experiences in educational communities. 
  • Explicate concepts such as popular education, critical pedagogy, critical interculturality, historical memory, Mapuche educational autonomy, decolonial pedagogy, decolonial feminism, intercultural bilingual education, decoloniality and decolonization. 
  • Explain the tensions between the relevant actors in the educational systems, such as students, teachers, and educational communities with current discussion about the role of the state and public policies in education, educative quality, native peoples’ education, non-traditional educational initiatives, and experiences of educative autonomy in Chile and Argentina. 
  • Develop and integrate Spanish skills in the writing and oral presentation of an independent research project or an internship applying critical thinking, intellectual flexibility, and reflective analysis of educational systems and social change in both countries. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of 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.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • The Chilean educational system and current education crisis
  • Regional and national differences in educational systems
  • Popular, intercultural, and bilingual education
  • The role of ethnicity and diversity in educational practices
  • Educational policies, equity, gender, and human rights 

Education Quality and Equity: Tensions and Proposals

Education Quality and Equity: Tensions and Proposals – syllabus
(LACB3000 / 3 credits)

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

Bilingual Intercultural Education and Popular Education – syllabus
(LACB3005 / 3 credits)

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

Spanish for Social Sciences and Education I – syllabus
(SPAN2003 / 3 credits) 

Spanish for Social Sciences and Education II – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits) 

Spanish for Social Sciences and Education III – syllabus
(SPAN3003 / 3 credits)

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

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

This research methods course is designed to prepare students for an Independent Study Project or internship. 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 or internship placement, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project or internship related to the program themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Independent Study Project or Internship

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

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 ISP topic areas:

  • Identity issues and intercultural education in rural Mapuche schools
  • Education and cultural identity through children’s arts
  • 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
  • LGBTQi+ populations
  • National identity in students
  • Human rights
  • Popular education and social change

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


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This seminar consists of a four-week internship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Chile with a local community or social organization, school, university, union, or federation of students or teachers, research organization, business, or international NGO. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience on the job, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. The internship will be conducted in Spanish.

Topics and placements vary according to need and availability at our partner institutions, but examples of internships include:

  • Supporting school administration, students’ movements, gender studies, public health, and human rights at a public school in Buenos Aires, a public school in the Municipal Department of Education in Santiago, or a private school in Fundación Súmate
  • Learning pedagogy, school administration, and the relationships between school and community at a public school in Valparaíso
  • Providing intercultural bilingual education and promoting intercultural health at a private school in Chol or a public school in Chapod, both in Mapuche territory
  • Supporting human rights and historical memory at Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos
  • Focusing on economy, social welfare, and industrialization of natural resources at Cenda, an alternative development study center
  • Training, teaching, and learning educational demands at Colegio de Profesores de Chile, a teachers’ union
  • Assisting university administration and learning the demands of higher education at Alberto Hurtado University



During the first five weeks of the program, you will live with host families in Chile’s capital, Santiago, to experience urban Chilean culture, practice your Spanish language skills, and learn about your family’s experiences with education and social change.


Live for a week with an indigenous Mapuche family in the community of Chapod, Temuco, in southern Chile. Here, you will experience a rural, indigenous community and learn about the ancient traditions of Mapuche education. See the challenges of bilingual intercultural education on visits to a Mapuche school and during conversations with community leaders and teachers.

Buenos Aires

During a two-week excursion to Argentina, you will live with host families of professionals, academics, and university students in the cosmopolitan downtown area of Buenos Aires known as Capital Federal.

Career Paths

Students on this program represent a variety of colleges, universities, and majors. Many of them have gone on to pursue professional or academic experiences that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Alumni of this program are currently working in education and public policy, as teachers, researchers, administrative assistants, and directors for schools, institutions, and NGOs. Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:

  • Research analyst at Vera Institute of Justice, New York, NY

  • Legislative press aide in the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC

  • Enrollment specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, Boston, MA

  • School-based clinician at Association House of Chicago, Chicago, IL

  • Research scientist at Albany Molecular Research Inc., Indianapolis, IN

Faculty & Staff

Chile: Comparative Education and Social Change

Roberto Villaseca, PhD Candidate
Academic Director
Noemí Muñoz
Program Coordinator
Claudia Zuñiga, MA
Program Assistant and Homestay Coordinator
Juan Antonio Painecura Antinao
Program Coordinator, Temuco, Mapuche Territory
Marta Kisilevsky, MA
Program Coordinator, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

    See Full Breakdown
  • Facebook

    SIT Study Abroad Santiago Chile: Comparative Education and Social Change

  • Chile Youth Education Movement: Shara Guarnaccia at TEDxGallatin 2013

    Shara Guarnaccia, a graduate of the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study and a 2011 alum, recorded a TEDx talk about Chile’s Youth Education Movement.