Latin America Research Seminar: “Transforming the Religious/Secular Arena: The Far-Reaching Consequences of Educational Reform in Chile”
Presenter: Father Matthew Carnes, Associate Professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service / Department of Government
Abstract: When Chile adopted a policy guaranteeing “free” education for qualifying students and schools in 2016, it set in motion a set of reforms that are massively reshaping not just the university sector, but also the larger landscape of social policy and the key actors in it. In a particular way, the relative balance of religious and secular providers of education has shifted, with an abrupt emergence of new lay-run institutes of higher learning and the re-definition of many religious schools away from their earlier affiliations. Chile’s extensive reliance on religious providers for a variety of social services over the last half-century has thus experienced a fundamental shift, one that has not yet been recognized or explored in the literature. This paper gathers novel evidence, collected during fieldwork and in collaboration with local co-investigators, to explore this transformation. First, it draws on interviews with the leaders of five Chilean universities in Santiago, as well as an analysis of another 20 school’s websites and promotional materials, to understand how the new financial calculus of the 2016 law and subsequent regulations have shaped their decisions. It complements this analysis with an examination of country-wide data on enrollments, school openings and closings, and self-reported religious affiliation of over two thousand pre-primary through tertiary schools from the period of 2010 to 2022. The findings show that the new financing models entailed in the legislation are having a significant and lasting impact on the religious makeup of the educational landscape at all levels. This project shows the far-reaching effects of institutional reforms and their embedded incentives, disentangling the effects of broader social trends toward secularization from the impacts of the new law. It ultimately shows how deeply embedded social policy design, which in Chile’s case displayed a particular reliance on religious organizations, can be transformed in a relatively short period of time and produce new institutional frameworks that had not existed before.
Bio: Fr. Carnes’s research examines the dynamics of labor and social welfare policy in developing and middle-income countries. A specialist on Latin America, he has conducted extensive field research in Argentina, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, and he has worked on development projects in Honduras, Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador. He is the author of Continuity Despite Change: The Politics of Labor Regulation in Latin America (Stanford University Press, 2014), and numerous journal articles. He served as the Director of the Georgetown Center for Latin American Studies from 2016-2022. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame (Spring 2009) and a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University (Academic Year 2011-2012).
LARS will meet twice a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (see schedule below). Lunch will be served.
To see the full LARS schedule, please visit: https://clas.georgetown.edu/research/latin-america-research-seminar-lars/