Frequently Asked Questions

How are school years numbered in Chile? What are the stages of primary and secondary education?
Primary education is called “Enseñanza Básica” (“Basic School”). It lasts eight years.
Secondary education is called “Enseñanza Media” (“Middle School”). It lasts four years.
There are two kinds of secondary education:
  • “Educación Científico-Humanista” (Scientific-Humanistic) is like regular academic high-school in other countries, and should prepare the student for tertiary education at an University or Higher Technical School.
  • “Educación Técnico-Profesional” (Technical-Professional) is a blend between secondary and vocational/technical education. It's further divided into many sectors and specialties. Each Technical-Professional School usually teaches specialities belonging to one or two sectors.
    The most common sectors before the 1997 reform (nowadays there are many more) were the "Industrial Sector" (including Electricity and Electronics, Industrial Mechanics or Car Mechanics) and the "Commercial Sector" (including Accounting, Secretary, Administration and Sales).
    Hugo's secondary school has specialties belonging mostly to the "Industrial" and "Timber" sectors.
What's a "lead teacher" ("profesor jefe")?
The usage in primary and secondary Chilean schools is that each class remains in its assigned classroom. There's a teacher for each subject; the teacher goes to the classrooms of each class where he/she needs to teach.
The "lead teacher" (also called "homeroom teacher" and "form teacher") of a class has some additional responsibilities, including handing over the grade reports and hosting meetings with parents and legal tutors. Every class has a profesor jefe.
In some schools, during the first three years of primary school, the lead teacher was also the one who taught most or all subjects at his or her class. In Rosa, Eliana and Pedro's school's case, the first three years had a Spanish teacher, a Math teacher and a teacher who taught Plastic Arts and Crafts; all other subjects were taught by the class's lead teacher.
Morning and afternoon classes?
In 1997, Chilean law #19253 was approved. It set a deadline to the end of the school year 2002, so that every primary and secondary school in Chile adopted a whole-day school system (“Jornada Escolar Completa”).
Before that law was promulgated, schools had a system with two school half-days per calendar day. Morning classes usually lasted between 08:00 and 12:50, while afternoon classes, while afternoon classes started around 13:30⁓14:00 and ended around 18:20⁓18:50, depending on the school.
What's the academic grading system used by Chile's schools?
Grades are assigned with a numeric scale from 1.0 to 7.0, including one decimal, with 4.0 as the lowest passing grade (equivalent to 60%). Everything under a 4.0 is considered a "red mark," which equates to failing.
At what time do people eat in Chile
At least in the Martínez-Gómez house:
  • Breakfast: In the morning, after waking up. Usually consists on a cup of milk, tea or coffee, a marraqueta En la mañana, luego de levantarse. Consiste en una taza de leche, té o café, and a sandwich of fried eggs, marmalade, tomatoes, avocado, cheese, etc.
  • Lunch: The most important meal of the day, usually between 13:00 and 15:00. A main dish plus a salad and a fruit.
  • “Las once” (evening tea): Similar to breakfast, although milk is seldom drank. At the Martínez-Gómez house, it's accompanied by some cake, empanada or similar.
The children also eat some fruit or candy during recess.
What is the school brigade?
The school brigades of transit and security were officially established in 1984, though they had been around since the seventies. The idea is that a few students in some schools can help with security in the school, teach their classmates about security and good behavior, and to take note of faults against discipline, among other responsibilities. They also represent the school at parades and events regarding official holidays. They were rather militarized during the eighties, though they have since toned down, and even disappeared in many urban schools. And yes, I was once a member of my school's brigade.