Secondary Education in South America: Analyzing Expansion Dynamics in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay
Consolidated national education systems emerged in these countries due to a combination of modern educational models and distinct cultural “figuration” within each national context. These consolidated “national education matrices” derived from the particular blending of four elements: society, state, market, and education. Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay have had highly centralized educational systems typified by mass primary education, whose aim was to culturally homogenize the population, and an elitist and selective secondary education. On the other hand, educational expansion in Brazil has been much slower, characterized by development of productive forces and industrial advancement.
Secondary education expansion began to intensify in the 60s and has undergone strong transformations in recent decades. Chile and Argentina decentralized their educational systems. The former converted into an unequal market directly correlated with students’ socioeconomic levels, while the latter is clearly a fragmented system in terms of the population’s economic and cultural characteristics. Uruguay maintains a centralized, public, and secular model, which, at the secondary level, has expanded at a slower rate over the last several years. In Brazil, secondary education has experienced a strong democratization process due to a political order pushing them to reach standards consistent with the leadership role that it has acquired at both the regional and international level.