Drivers and hurdles to the regulation of education markets: The political economy of Chilean reform

Research output: Working paper


In recent decades, privatization and market policies in education have expanded globally. Nevertheless, both national and international actors have become increasingly concerned about the negative impact of these policies on social and educational equity, and point out the need for more effective regulations to attenuate market dynamics in education. In this context, a new government came to power in Chile in 2014 with an agenda for structural education reforms. One of the most emblematic initiatives of this process (Inclusion Law) consisted of a new regulatory framework for the basic education market, prohibiting selective admissions, mandatory add-on tuition fees and the possibility of schools operating for profit. The main objective of this process of education market regulation was to tackle the high level of inequalities and school segregation, which have characterized the Chilean education system since the adoption of neoliberal reforms in the eighties.

This paper aims to interrogate the process of policy adoption of this reform from a political economy perspective, identifying which drivers, mechanisms and actors have been influential in fostering or resisting the reform. The evidence presented is based on two methods of inquiry: on the one hand, a document analysis (n=30) of the most relevant policy documents produced during the reform; and on the other hand, semi-structured interviews conducted with key stakeholders (n =37) directly or indirectly involved in the process of reform. The findings show how the narratives that emerged to justify the need for reform have combined concerns about the education sector, but also how educational inequalities can affect the economic and social development of the country. Although the reform initially attracted a high level of public support, the policy formulation phase was characterized by the emergence of an important opposition movement led by a diverse range of actors, including right-wing parties and private providers but also families and a significant proportion of public opinion. The final legal reform approved was significantly influenced by the emerging opposition but also by the financial, institutional and technical restrictions that the reform faced. The discussion here will lastly elaborate on the implications of the Chilean process of education market regulation from a political economy perspective, as well as the main challenges and barriers that these processes of reform can face during policy adoption.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherColumbia University
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Drivers and hurdles to the regulation of education markets: The political economy of Chilean reform'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this