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Chile, officially known as the Republic of Chile, is a long narrow country along the west coast of South America with a total land area of nearly 292,000 square miles. The only country besides Ecuador that does not border Brazil, Chile is bordered by the Andes Mountains and Argentina to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast and the Drake Passage in the far south. With westerns shores spanning some 48,000 miles it has the largest coastline in the world. Included in the Chilean territory are the Pacific Islands of Juan Fernandez, Easter Island, Salas y Gomez and Desventuradas, as well as 480,000 square miles in Antarctica, although this claim is suspended under the Antarctic Treaty. From an economic perspective, Chile is considered one of the most prosperous and stable countries in South America, and leads all Latin American countries in terms of competitiveness, human development, GDP per capita, economic freedom and globalization.
The total estimated population of Chile is 15.1 million, and although this number has been declining in recent years due to a decrease in the national birth rate, the country’s population in the year 2050 is expected to reach well over 20 million. Chile is very ethnically diverse, and due to mass waves of European immigration in the early half of the 20th century, the majority of the population can claim at least some European ancestry, particularly Spanish, but also Italian, German, French, British, Irish, Swiss and Croatian. The official language in Chile is Spanish, spoken in a way that is unique to Chile, characterized by a distinct accent, soft consonants and the dropping of the “s” sound on all words. The overwhelming majority of the population, 80 percent, practices Roman Catholicism, with religious minorities that include Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodox Christians.
Education in Chile
Education in Chile is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15 and is administered by the national government. The educational system, which is highly-valued and well-subsidized, is divided into 4 levels: preschool, primary school, secondary school and higher education.
Preschool, while not compulsory, is for 4 and 5 year old students and boasts a curriculum of pre-reading, writing, art and music. This level of education serves as a bridge between toddlerhood and primary school and allows children to learn valuable socialization skills and cooperation.
Primary school in Chile, called Enseñanza básica, spans eight years and serves children between the ages of 6 and 13. During these grades children are exposed to a very broad curriculum, one that includes mathematics, science and the humanities. Secondary school, or Enseñanza media, spans four years, and serves teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. This level of education is further divided once students reach their third year (11th grade). At that point students can choose either the Scientific-Humanities approach, a university preparatory track for students who wish to study science, mathematics and/or the humanities, or the Technical-Professional approach, which exposes students to technical and vocational education, usually leading to certification in a number of occupations and employment following graduation.
Higher education in Chile is divided between three types of schools: universities, professional institutes and technical schools. Chilean universities offer undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degrees in a number of academic disciplines, while professional institutes offer programs leading to “professional degrees,” in many different fields leading to high-level employment following graduation. The final type of higher learning institution, technical schools, are generally private colleges at which students can study and train in the latest technology, ultimately leading to technical degrees and certification.