The media has been awash with human discontent over the last couple of years. The Arab Spring, the Russian Winter, the Occupy movement, the anti-austerity protests throughout Europe, London riots, protests all over Asia and Latin America and so on. The global financial downturn has polarised people, and as hard times hit, those who are hurt most start to shout, thrash and wail. In this post I want to explore the Chilean student protests, and examine the neoliberal experiment that gave birth to 'Education Apartheid' in Chile.
A brief history of post-coup Chile
In 1973, at the height of the Cold War, the Nixon administration orchestrated a coup d'état in Chile. They succeeded in overthrowing the democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende and put in his place the dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet murdered and tortured over 30,000 Chileans and forced more than 200,000 into exile in order to eliminate all opposition and to secure absolute power. Nixon, and every right-wing western leader applauded the rise of another dictator. In 1999, as he was being formally indicted for violations against human rights in his homeland, Thatcher lionised Pinochet as the man who 'brought democracy to Chile' with not even a hint of irony.  Apart form the coup being a victory against Communism, it was also the first attempt at 'shock therapy' - the practice of wholesale neoliberal market transformation, which was later applied in the Eastern Bloc after the Cold War - with equally disastrous social consequences.
Chile was finally an open oyster for the US. The plan, which had been in the works for many years before the 1973 coup, was now a reality. The US State Department had devised the 'Chile Project' as far back as the 1950s with the aim of indoctrinating budding Chilean economists, who later became known as the 'Chicago Boys', with the radical market fundamentalism of Milton Friedman. The Pinochet puppet regime provided the ideal opportunity to apply these ideas with no political or ideological opposition.
Despite its vulnerability to market fluctuations, Chile did prosper - how could it not, being so warmly embraced by the global overlord. After such a long campaign of economic and political subversion Chile was now to be remade in the image of the capitalist ideal. It now had the most fertile environment for business investment - totally undermined democracy, no trade barriers, no regulations, no labour rights, no unions, scant social spending, and no political opposition to business interests. Despite the 'ideal' business conditions created by Friedman's economic shock therapy, sustainable growth did not come until fifteen years later, largely due to what Paul Krugman calls a 'softening' of 'hard-line free-market policies'.  But whatever the analysis, looking at GDP per capita alone, it cannot be denied that Chile's economy rose from being in the middle of the Latin American pack during the 50s and 60s, to becoming one of the strongest growth economies in recent times.
But the illusion of general prosperity is a thin veneer. Chile has one of the highest levels of wealth inequality in the world and the third highest level of poverty in the OECD.  The social consequences of such a sustained period of social inequity are now at breaking point. As a BBC journalist put it, 'Hardly a day goes by without someone marching down the Alameda'  chased by riot police and packs of hungry stray dogs.
It was out of this general social malaise that the current student protests arose. The Chilean education system is a paradigmatic example of the neoliberal experiment's failure. It is a system that 'offers inherently unequal opportunities for students from low-income families' , a system which created 'deep divides in education along class lines'  in which 'education became sort of a business [where] you could make money' . In 2011 the BBC reported that out of 65 countries, 'Chile ranked 64th in terms of segregation across social classes in its schools and colleges.' . A staggering '60 percent of Chilean students attend economically segregated schools' .
The program followed the neoliberal formula :
- decentralization (removing federal responsibility and funding for education)
- reduction in government support (for state schools)
- providing government subsidies to encourage privatisation (through a voucher system paid by the government to schools)
- establishing market competition (to 'weed out' under-performing schools)
- revoking teachers’ contracts and eliminating the teachers’ unions and collective bargaining
The results were predictable :
- a boom in private education
- total real spending on education falls 
- an influx of students to private schools
- an accompanying reallocation of resources to private schools
- the consequent transfer of quality teachers to private schools
- private schools are overwhelmed by demand and set selective admission processes. As a consequence, private schools become less likely to accept disadvantaged students and leave public schools 'with students that require more attention and funds to be educated' , yet without the funds to achieve this
- creating unequal opportunities for students through increased inequality in access to private education and substantial differences in the quality of education
- educational performances diverge: private schools outperform public schools - further reinforcing the trend from public to private
- Government schools attempt to skew the results of standardised tests to achieve better resuts showing that 'increased competition for funding may hurt, rather than help, these schools to provide a quality education'
 'Thatcher stands by Pinochet', BBC, Friday, March 26 1999
 Krugman, P. 'Fantasies of the Chicago Boys', New York Times, March 3 2010
 Long, G. 'Chile student protests point to deep discontent', BBC News, Santiago, 11 August 201
 Arango, A. 'The Failings of Chile’s Education System: Institutionalized Inequality and a Preference for the Affluent', Council on Hemispheric Affairs, July 30 2008
 Morris, A. 'Student Education Reform Protests Rock Chile', PBS Newshour, Aug 31 2011
 ibid. (Quoting Pedro Hernán Henríquez Guajardo, Director of Planning in Chile's Ministry of Education 2003-2006)
 Long, G. 'Chile student protests point to deep discontent', BBC News, 11 August 2011
 Gallegos, I. 'Very Low Marks For Chile’s Schools: Second-Most Segregated In World', Santiago Times, 31 January 201
 Arango, op. cit.
 Morris, op. cit.
 Gallegos, op. cit.
 OECD (2012), 'Public and Private Schools: How Management and Funding Relate to their Socio-economic Profile', OECD Publishing