In Ecuador, free higher education is a constitutional right; in Chile, it is protested on the streets

University students in Chile and Ecuador both seek quality education. Photos: Agencia Uno (Chile) and Victor H. Asencio / Andes

Quito, April 15, Andes – Ecuador’s current constitution dictates that higher education in the country is free, which is why access to upper-level education has experienced growth since the approval of the referendum in 2009 in which the constitution was reformed.

Free admittance to public universities is one of the high points achieved by the Secretary of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (SENESCYT, Spanish acronym), the government agency in charge of upper-level education in Ecuador.

“The Academic Adjustment and Admission System, part of SENESCYT, is far from restricting access to educational opportunities; it has actually increased them. For example, admittance to universities went from 52,781 students in 2009 to 71,995 in 2012,” René Ramírez said, Secretary of SENESCYT.

The opposite is occurring in Chile. University students are currently marching and protesting almost daily in request for Sebastián Piñera’s government to develop a constitutional reform in order for higher education to be free.

Regulating profit and free, quality public education are the main objectives of the massive amounts of student protests that began in 2011. In an article on the last protest that occurred last Thursday, April 11, the newspaper El Tiempo from Chile wrote that protests demand a deep reform of the educational system inherited from the time of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990).

In Ecuador, the government has not only offered free higher education but is also working towards the quality of its education, an example being the closure of 14 universities due to a lack of academic quality. As a result of these closures, SENESCYT and the Higher Education Council (CES, Spanish acronym) implemented the Contingency Plan.

The Contingency Plan, in addition to the children of families receiving the Human Development Bond, consists of more than 75,000 individuals that can continue their studies in higher education. “Of the 35.878 citizens that joined the plan, an investment of $60 million, 16,452 are in the process of graduating,” Ramírez informed.

All of the programs and projects that contribute to higher education has been done with an investment of more than $1.3 million, which is the equivalent of 1.9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “A quality democracy must be sustained in the truth,” RenéRamírez stated.

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