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The Chilean K-12 Education System

The Ministry of Education administers the K-12 education system in Chile. The K-12 education in Chile starts with preschool, followed by primary and secondary education that is compulsory.

Understanding the Chilean K-12 Education System

Preschool Education (parvulario)

Preschool education in Chile is optional and is offered by preschools or nursery schools.  The preschools in Child create a social environment and focus on developing basic skills that is required for primary schools. Preschools in Chile are divided into 2 levels:
  • Sala cuna: This is for children aged 85 days old to 2 years old
  • Middle level (Nivel medio): This is for toddlers, i.e. children aged 2 to 4 years
  • Transistion level (Transicion): This is for children aged 4 to 6 years

Compulsory Education (escolaridad obligatoria)

Compulsory education in Chile lasts for 13 years. Primary as well as secondary education is compulsory in Chile.

Primary Education/ Basic Education (Educacion basica)

Primary education in Chile is compulsory to attend and is divided into two cycles of 4 years each. There are public as well as private primary schools in Chile. Public schools are run by the local municipality and the private schools obtain funding from the government.
  • Duration: 8 years
  • Ages: 6 to 13
  • Grades: 1 to 8
Primary education is split up into 2 cycles/levels (niveles basicos ):
  • Cycle 1 (primer ciclo/ciclo I) covers grades 1 to 4
  • Cycle 2 (segundo ciclo/Ciclo II), covers grades 5 to 8
Curriculum: 
Compulsory subjects: Mathematics, language and communication, natural sciences, artistic education, history, technology, Foreign language (compulsory in Cycle 2), physical education, Indigenous language, and geography and social sciences
Optional:  Orientation and religion studies

Certificate awarded: Certificate of basic education (Licencia de Educacion Basica)

Secondary Education (Ensenanza media)

Secondary education in Chile is compulsory and lasts for 4 years. Secondary education provides specialised education and prepares students for higher education, or vocational education and training. 
  • Duration: 4 years
  • Grades: 9 to 12
  • Ages: 13 to 17/14 to 18
 At the secondary educational level- grades 11 and 12, there are two educational paths-
  • Scientific-humanist
  • Technical-professional/vocational
Students are required to choose one. The first 2 years of secondary education are same, while the final 2 years vary depending on the path/orientation.

Scientific-Humanist (Regular)

This path is provided by the science and humanities schools (liceos humanista-cientificos). These schools offer general education and prepare students for higher education. The scientific-humanist field emphasize on science (physics, biology and chemistry), and humanities (philosophy, psychology, literature and history)

Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of the scientific-humanist secondary education, students are awarded a certificate of secondary education (Licencia de Educacion Media Humanistico-Cientific)

Technical-Professional (Vocational) or Artistic

This secondary education path prepares students for a particular profession. 

Concentrations: Technical and vocational schools comprises of 5 fields of study:
  • Commercial
  • Technical
  • Agricultural
  • Maritime
  • Industrial
Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of the technical-vocational secondary education, students are awarded a certificate of technical-vocational secondary education (Licencia de Educacion Media Tecnico-Profesional). Students who possess this certificate can apply for higher education institutions in Chile. 


Secondary education Curriculum: 
In Grade 9 and 10: Mathematics, technological education, geography and social science, language and communication, biology, visual and musical arts, chemistry, foreign language, physical education, and history. Religion education is optional. 

In Grade 11 and 12: There are two educational paths- humanistic-scientific and artistic or technical and vocational.

Certificate awarded: Students who successfully complete this educational level are awarded a secondary education completion certificate- Licenciado en Ensenanza Media. This certificate enables them to apply for higher education.
Also, pupils who have opted for technical-vocational path, a diploma of tecnico de nivel medio (mid level technician) in the vocational subject is awarded.

School Schedule

School hours: School hours vary, but generally schools in Chile run from 8 am to 2 pm, or from 8 am to 4 pm. There is lunch break in between.

School year: Schools in Chile begins in March and goes on until December with 2 weeks of winter vacation in July and summer vacation from mid-December to February.
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