Teachers in Chile will tomorrow reach the eighth week of their strike. They are demanding improved working conditions, smaller class sizes, more time for planning and an end to precarious contracts. They are also demanding an end of the linkage of teachers pay to student 'performance'. Instead of such a system, teachers want evaluation based on collaboration, which takes into account the context in which teachers work - underfunded and understaffed schools. 

During the course of the strike teachers have been attacked by riot police using water canon. University and high school students have also been in the forefront of the struggle for public and free education, with many schools being occupied and thousands protesting on the streets. Many have been injured by police. Earlier this year two young students were shot dead as they sprayed graffiti. ' 

The present left-leaning government of Michelle Bachelet was elected as a result of the long-running protests for free education led by students and also by teachers.  Ever since the bloody coup which brought the dictator Pinochet to power, Chile has had one of the most segregated education systems in the world, with every neo-liberal 'reform' measure being trialed in the country, including especially privatisation. Bachelet promised to end all that, but students and teachers say she is moving much too slowly, as well as reviving 'reforms' such as performance related pay.

Such policies are similar to those lauded in the most recent World Bank report which praised successive Chilean governments for bringing in the whole neo-liberal playlist of reforms, including standardised testing, performance related pay and attacks on teacher tenure. The author says:  'No other country in Latin America has achieved an equally comprehensive set of policies aimed at rewarding teacher excellence and enforcing accountability for performance'. It is precisely such policies that the teachers are fighting as they hold Bachelet's feet to the fire, demanding free public and democratic education.