of the Pacific Rim Project
Symposium held in Kyoto, Japan 23-25 November 2000
intercultural education in Chile:
An unfinished project
José Tonko Paterito
past decades governmental policies in Chile pointed towards integration
and homogenization of citizens in the development process they were
working on; in this context, actions taken by groups and institutions
which carried out promotional works in indigenous communities were,
indeed, a promoting agent of national culture. Actions taken by these
agents did not pretend “to foster values and institutions of indigenous
communities, so that these may continue living as an indigenous community.
What is needed is a cultural change, to induce a process of acculturation
in underdeveloped indigenous communities, so that more sooner than later
these communities may integrate into the national community.”
all social interventions are conceived, according to my opinion, under
a paternalistic dimension. Under this policy, non-indigenous institutions
take up indigenous issues, which results in general policies or in distinct
actions, which pretend in one way or another, to assist the different
needs of the ethnic communities.
point was to foster national white idiosyncrasy, and their purpose was
that indigenous population may acquire the cultural features of the
dominant society. Therefore, the following postulate was adopted:
efforts produced the implementation of a new style of life and behavior
which caused a deep impact in roles and relationships between members
of the indigenous society.”
to this process, almost all indigenous population has lost its cultural
patterns, and this in many cases meant for some Indians to abhor the
idiosyncrasy of the indigenous world.
spite of the different transculturation processes, the strongest ideological
governmental action towards a process of integration and homogenization
was education and evangelization. These two elements acted as agents
of legitimation of formal education, as well as the official language
of the country (Spanish), answering a logic of cultural unification
of all the population of the country.
to this logic, the knowledge possessed by indigenous communities lacked
any value, and therefore there was no need to spread this knowledge.
Thus, all cultural knowledge and cultural patterns of minorities should
be ignored or wiped out.
it should be pointed out that there are other factors, which have contributed
have to emphasize that almost all indigenous communities are in rural
zones, with a subsistence economy; therefore some people from these
communities move to cities looking for better opportunities, job possibilities
and mixed marriages. All these factors have caused the loss of the mother
tongue and all its worldview.
the 90’s the indigenous theme became important because of the promulgation
of the so-called Indigenous Law, which recognizes our country as a multicultural
country. This way, the government took the compromise of showing respect,
and foster idiosyncrasy and worldview of indigenous peoples. With this
purpose the government proposed to develop several policies, which were
aimed at the promotion and conservation of the idiosyncratic values
of Chilean ancient peoples.
answer the needs and/or problems of indigenous people, a law, No. 19253
was created. Its purpose was to protect the interests of the different
ethnic groups, and to rescue, make known, and revitalize all their cultural
was also created an Institution, which agglutinated all development
policies, and cultural rescue of indigenous communities.
first measure taken by the government was to make a diagnosis of the
reality of those communities, regarding education. The results were
1. Indigenous population is congregated in two of the geographical zones
of Chile (8th and 9th Region).
2. In some cases all schoolchildren are members of an indigenous community.
3. It was established that in both primary and secondary (high school)
urban schools, children belong to poor families.
significant number of indigenous schoolchildren don’t finish primary
school, since at 13 they leave school and get a job, in order to help
aspects, which show a low level of learning, are:
1. Rurality and/or peripheral neighborhoods, which in many cases prevents
modernization of facilities.
2. Poverty condition of indigenous communities, which prevents their development.
3. Social discrimination, which brings about a low self-esteem, and personal
and cultural identity, added to an inadequate education system, with
a curriculum that doesn’t consider the cultural universe of these schoolchildren,
which is the cause that many children abandon school without finishing
reverse this situation, both the government and indigenous communities
in Chile organized a national meeting in order to discuss education
issues within indigenous communities, and to look for procedures to
make known the indigenous world to the rest of the citizens of the country.
were three conventions: one in the North with Aymaras and Atacameños;
another in Santiago with Indians living there, and a third one in the
South (Regions VIII, IX and X).
documents were elaborated in these conventions: 1. “Social Bases and
Policies for Intercultural Bilingual Education,” and 2. “Foundations
and Curriculum Bases of Intercultural Bilingual Education.”
documents were sent later to the Ministry of Education, and were used
to elaborate a program, which started in 1966 under the following principles:
Bilingual Education “must promote in students their consciousness about
political and social rights which are essential to each indigenous people
within the framework of a national society which may recognize itself
as multicultural and multiethnic, where relationships among the peoples
which constitute it be established within a framework of interculturality.”
the above principle, the aim of intercultural bilingual education is
to promote and develop indigenous languages, because they are a means
of communication, and therefore, they allow us to approach identity
components of speakers in their own worldview. Under this perspective
the Ministry of Education establishes as a general purpose that intercultural
bilingual education must be a methodological alternative to improve
education, and that it must be oriented towards the generation of a
balanced interethnic relationship, capable of giving the nation a pluralist
and multiracial character, where each ethnic group should operate within
its own cultural logic, so that each individual may be conscious of
his/her own identity.
Indigenous Movements in Chile in Search of a Reparation
of our country have been by many years sunk in silence without being
able to express their restlessness. This situation is explained among
other things by the irruption of a de facto government which lasted
17 years; during this time all social movements were forbidden, nevertheless,
between 1984 and 1986 mobilizations of workers in our country in search
of better wages burst in with force, and this continued until the end
of 1990. However, with the arrival of democracy we witnessed a new opening
for the mobilizations of masses, and the incipient indigenous movements,
which became visible through mass media making their claims, shared
this popular feeling.
With the creation of the Indigenous Law No.19,253
and with the restoration of a public organism as it is the Bureau of
Indigenous Affairs (CONADI), indigenous social movements increased and
are perceived with greater force in the national society.
The demands of the indigenous communities in democracy
are the following ones:
of their territory
Water Resources Recovery as far as concerns the ethnic group
social and cultural development, etc.
Within cultural development we can find one of
the most yearned topics of the indigenous society: the rescue, revitalization,
promotion and diffusion of the cultural expressions of the different
It is in this scope, which crosses as a transverse
axis a whole range of indigenous cultures, that we find the so-called
revitalization of indigenous languages, since according to the data
obtained in the VIII, IX, X and XII regions, indigenous languages are
in an accelerated and constant diminution, close to extinction as it
is the case of the Yaghan and Kawesqar in the southernmost zone of Chile.
the Yaghan community they are only two speakers at the moment and in
the Kawésqar community there are around 15 people. However, within the
national society we have a larger number of native speakers represented
by the Mapuche community with more or less three thousand individuals.
Due to the alarming diminution of the ancestral languages, the public
indigenous institutions together with the communities, the State proposed
to promote a program of national character, which tends to revitalize
and to foster indigenous languages.
Bilingual Education as a Proposal of an Endoculturation Process
foster and revitalize indigenous languages the government must promote
intercultural bilingual education in communities with a large amount
of indigenous children. With this aim the Constitutional Law of Education
was modified. This law establishes a norm in Chilean education, providing
a common ground to 40% of objectives and curriculum content, while the
rest (60%) corresponds to a curriculum based on local reality. This
means that curriculum must contain local knowledge: the cultural patterns
of a certain region or an ethnic group. This open view of education
allows to validate and use in curricula the idiosyncrasy and worldview
of indigenous peoples.
policy of Intercultural Bilingual Education allows to catch a sight
of the indigenous world, the promotion and rescue of the language, its
idiosyncrasy and worldview. On the whole, an intercultural bilingual
education is a dialog among cultures. This means that theoretically,
indigenous children may transit without any kind of trauma, both in
the society where they were born (the community) and in the national
society. This means mutual respect of differences, acceptation of the
other as legitimous in daily life, the permanent dialog and search for
intercultural bilingual education must be adopted as a holistic model;
this means that non-indigenous people should respect the cultural differences
of other persons and regard them as a legitimate human being with all
his/her cultural richness and virtues, and they should try to understand
that indigenous people have their own cultural logic, and a different
world view. Therefore, indigenous schoolchildren must have the opportunity
to handle their own cultural and linguistic codes at the same level
as the official Spanish language.
educational model which was adopted within indigenous communities aims
basically at the revitalization of cultural traditions of the several
ethnic groups, so that schoolchildren may act adequately without looking
down on their cultural heritage, religion and idiosyncrasy within their
educational model will generate in children a better cognitive capacity;
it will help them to grasp and acquire concepts and other abilities,
such as the reaffirmation of their own identity; it will contribute
as well, to get an appropriate development of self-esteem. The later
will strengthen their self-trustworthiness, and it will help them to
be protagonists of their own life in their quest for personal welfare.
past decades the national white society looked down on anybody belonging
to an indigenous culture. Indigenous persons were the least considered
among segregated groups. Discrimination was very strong, so the dominant
society tried to homogenize all inhabitants of the country. Therefore
in Chile there was only one “race”: Western race, and all artistic and
cultural expressions of ethnic groups were forbidden.
at school, nobody was allowed to speak the mother tongue, since it was
forbidden. The idea of the so-called assimilation to national culture
was associated to the false pretension that learning an indigenous language
was useless; it was claimed that the most important fact in the life
of an indigenous person was to be carried out within national society,
and therefore educational efforts were to be centered only in an effective
knowledge of Spanish, because this was the means of communication with
the rest of the world.
erroneous perception was shared both by teachers and parents, because
they ignored the fact that the knowledge of a second language would
be advantageous according to the following aspects:
1. Access to broader cultural horizons.
means that indigenous school children should be able to value and respect
the holistic principles, which articulate each culture. Being bilingual
allows speakers to connect themselves with what is fundamental of his/her
birth culture and at the same time, it allows them to handle the culture
codes of white society, in order to interact efficiently between both
2. A better tolerance towards diversity.
school children should know that within Chilean society there are different
cultures, which must be respected, and they must understand that no
culture is better than another; all of them have a particular richness
which allows them to perceive and explain their environment with their
own world view.
3. A better adaptability towards change.
who have been educated in a bilingual community will adopt their birth
culture together with a set of aesthetic and moral values which constitute
the particular way a people perceives the world. Furthermore, they will
adopt automatically the knowledge, which comes from the dominant culture,
and this will allow them to interact without problem within the dominant
society, since this person carries in him/herself a strong identity
load, and a strong link to his birth society. Therefore he/she will
have to move between both cultures without any problem.
order to sustain the above mentioned postulate it is very important
to consider the knowledge which is transmitted in the family nucleus,
since the socialization of their cultural heritage is generated within
the family, and since they belong to a certain ethnic group, daily interactions
play an important role, as well.
new conception of education replaces the characteristic ethnocentrism
of traditional education. This new educational modality is visualized
as a permanent process of knowledge acquisition, and development of
practical abilities for individual as well as collective life, in order
to interact both within the birth society and the global society.
bilingual education aims primarily at the solid acquisition of local
knowledge, so that indigenous communities may be the principal protagonists
in the rescue and fostering of idiosyncratic values of a people.
this topic in the indigenous communities started the implementation
of a pilot program, which was called bilingual intercultural education,
aimed at a curricular reform of education in order to reaffirm the process
of revitalization of vernacular languages.
Pilot Plan in the Process of Revitalization of Indigenous
all indigenous communities in our country are in rural areas; their
main activity is of the type of subsistence agriculture; it is here
where we can observe the practice of knowledges of a culture in its
maximum expression. Nevertheless, the proposals that emanate from the
State in their modernizing eagerness are covering all the corners of
Indigenous communities also accept this proposal
and it seems that in many cases the members of the community leave their
place of origin and move to the cities in search of a better quality
of life. Certainly, as an inherent consequence to that process, they
leave the origin culture and later they apparently forget all about
it. This way they don’t speak their language, and abandon all religious
practices, and social and cultural expressions of their birth culture.
After fieldwork in the Maquehue, Trosco and Laupulli
communities, where experiences of bilingual intercultural education
were made, it was stated that in the rural indigenous communities 95%
were Spanish monolinguals and 5% bilingual.
Due to the drastic condition in which are these
three communities, in 1995 a pilot project was made. This project was
proposed in order to awaken in indigenous children the capacity to speak
the language of their ancestors.
This first experience has an historical value,
since in these three communities for the first time the process of traditional
education-learning was interrupted, and the traditional knowledge of
an ethnic group was incorporated to the curriculum. Themes such as familiar
structure, indigenous religion, legends and myths, were new in the classroom.
When these four variables were used in the education
process, indigenous school children were able to become aware of their
people and its identity. Therefore it started an incipient process of
vindication and endoculturation in indigenous children. In this first
experience, that was called bilingual intercultural education, teachers
worked with children who were Spanish monolingual, whose ages fluctuated
between 8 and 14 years old. In this opportunity teachers worked mainly
with children of the first basic cycle fomenting the native language
This experience of interculturality does not arise
by chance: teachers who implement this project have an accumulation
of experiences in communitarian work within ethnic communities. Therefore,
teachers who worked with these children were bilingual and also they
had been trained in neighboring countries, especially in Bolivia, a
country that has much experience in the subject of interculturality.
In addition these teachers had a great commitment with their community
of origin, and they could create or also modify the contents of a subject
or any other aspect that may contribute to the insertion of indigenous
themes in the classrooms. Most of these teachers were indigenous with
a great commitment to promote the idiosyncratic values of the ethnic
of an Intercultural Education
The experiences developed in our country demonstrated
that it is possible to guide students in the search of their idiosyncrasy
and their worldview. In this first intercultural experience made in
our country we can draw the following conclusions:
1.- It is necessary to emphasize, in the first
place, the great interest on the part of the State and the representatives
of the indigenous communities, to implant a policy of education with
ethnic contents elaborated in our country.
2. - There is a strong participation of the members
of the community in the process of implementation of a bilingual intercultural
education. They are chosen in common agreement with the members of the
community as well as the teachers who will treat the topics to be developed
in the classroom.
The students were very interested in their culture; this necessity also
responds to the fact that in this process of education the children
must actively participate obtaining information, rescuing legends and
myths from the community and incorporating them to the educative process
that was developed in the classrooms.
task of successfully obtaining information together with the traditional
authorities of the community has a double purpose: On the one hand,
to extend their cultural horizon; when doing this type of exercise children
feel the necessity to learn about their own culture and, on the other
one, it entails in implicit form the reinforcement of identity.
The students during the five years that lasts intercultural education
learned a great amount of vocabulary in the indigenous language and
it was stated that they were able to communicate relatively well in
the indigenous language. One of the methods that allowed to advance
quickly in the acquisition of more vocabulary was the aid of some members
of the community that still had a good command of the mother tongue.
5. - All the indigenous movements backed bilingual
intercultural education because in their postulates they stress revitalization
and diffusion of the indigenous idiosyncrasy.
- The financial resources destined to implement this type of education
are not enough to cover the requirements needed (suitable facilities,
reasonable wages for teachers, and didactic materials, among others).
7. - The type of bilingual intercultural education
that has been proposed in our country lasts
five years, and has been implemented mainly with children of primary
schools. Therefore it is not sufficient, since it loses its continuity
when children reach the next level of education. The study of the indigenous
world is interrupted, and they no longer practice the vernacular language.
- In the exercise of intercultural education in Chile there is not any
type of didactic materials that may allow a greater reinforcement of
the learning process. There isn’t either a good planning of the intercultural
project in the classrooms, since teachers improvise the subjects they
are going to teach.
isn’t a written evaluation of such projects, for this is done in discussion
meetings at school, and the conclusions only remain in the collective
memories of those who attend. Consequently, the lack of written materials
makes evaluation and systematization of such practices more difficult,
since we do not know what aspects will be necessary to improve.
9. – The most noteworthy aspect of this practice
of bilingual intercultural education, is that
these experiences the rest of the existing indigenous communities in
our country have also started to work in order to learn and teach about
their culture; this is the case, for instance, of the indigenous community
of the Southern region of our country, the Kawésqar community, which
at present is in danger of extinction. Nowadays, this community has
a very reduced number of bilingual speakers, approximately 10 people
of old age.
a meeting summoned by the representatives and members of the community
in 1998, they expressed the necessity to spread the knowledge of their
culture to a regional and national level, and its central proposal pointed
out the necessity to revitalize the language. Consequently, they expressed
the needed to get acquainted with the culture of their ancestors, and
in addition, the necessity to speak the language. In that opportunity
some proposals for a multicultural education or an intercultural one
were proposed for the Magallanes region. These proposals covered three
main themes: a) bilingual education; b) environment; c) social organization.
a) Bilingual Education
this unit children will mainly study subjects related to the family,
the daily life of a community, folklore, etc. All the topics will be
taught in indigenous language, but the official language of the country,
Spanish, will be also used, since it is the communicational means adopted
by everybody. The purpose is to try that the children progressively
acquire the indigenous language throughout the process of teaching-learning,
as well as a suitable and permanent reinforcement of Spanish, according
to the requirements of the different learning contexts of the different
levels of formal education.
respect to the environmental subject, which nowadays is very popular,
children will be taught that indigenous people were related with their
natural environment in a dualistic perspective. In this context the
relation man-nature is visualized as magical-religious. From these views
emerge everything related to taboos, myths, and legends, where Nature
aspects play a central roll in the learning process.
this context of interculturality as an educational element, we could
make a comparison between urban reality and the one of the communities,
so that children may internalize in the best possible way, the elements
related to geographic characteristics, so that they may progressively
understand the environment, the space and the elements that surround
c) Social organization
Emphasis in this field is centered towards the
knowledge of social and cultural origin in a context of permanent interrelations
within the communitarian environment. It must be pointed out that in
these interactions an important role corresponds to old people who know
histories and legend about their forefathers. They are the persons who
with their voices transmit to younger generations the idiosyncrasy and
worldview of their people. They are the vehicle, which renders possible
to travel to the past and to return to the present with an accumulation
of knowledge from the ethnic group.
in order that intercultural education be real and with a high degree
of success, there must be a joint work, where the civil society as well
as the state and the indigenous communities play a preponderant role.
To carry out such a proposal of interculturality with solid bases, there
must be a good linguistic planning with a strong component of training
of teachers and assistants. Only thus we will be able to speak of a
true education, containing the knowledge of the indigenous communities
and appropriate for the young generations in their eagerness to know
the cultural heritage of their ancestors.
consider such ambitious goals as a bilingual intercultural education
does not appear as a goal that could be fulfilled neither in a short
or a medium term, since it is needed a good planning and teacher-training.
This is absolutely necessary in order to implement an appropriate intercultural
education, for it is also necessary that these teachers have a good
competence both in the language of their ancestors as in the official
language. Nowadays there are few professors who speak the indigenous
those communities where there are no teachers who speak the native language
it is necessary to train some members of the community who are able
to handle the two cultural codes so that they may serve as monitors
in the teaching-learning process.
methodology to be used must be active and participative in order to
stimulate the curiosity of the children, their creativity, the valuation
of themselves and the others, and a great compromise to get acquainted
with their own culture. Consequently, the present working methodology
needs to be fortified; the curriculum must be reformulated, so that
we may have a good participation of the community.
Furthermore, specialists must collaborate so that
the participants in this project may study their own methods of organization
and management. This seems necessary, since indigenous education is
associated to a perception of society which goes beyond the relations
between humans, and incorporates diverse elements and forces of nature
by means of which interdependence relations are established, in order
to maintain or to assure the projection of their culture.
agents of the culture are the elders of the community, the family and
the community on the whole; all of them are in charge of the transmission
of the cultural codes to the new generations. This way one can understand
the significant role that assumes communitarian participation in the
educative management and the reformulation of curriculum. But this process
must be gradual and its progress is obtained from diversity.
good contribution of financial resources should exist on the part of
the State in order to implement an intercultural education in its entire
dimension. This means to finance teachers and monitors, create a textbooks
for teachers and students.
education must not be conceived only for primary Education, but on the
contrary, for all levels of formal Chilean education; this way a real
benefit may be obtained, so that, on the one hand, indigenous children
can revitalize the language and, on the other, identity components of
an ethnic group can be reinforced.
the part of the indigenous institutions all proposals of interculturality
should be unified, following a logical order of the interventions, such
of a linguistic instrument such as a grammar of the indigenous language
with a standardized alphabet.
of didactic materials written as well as
audio-visual. These materials will be used both by teachers and
students, which will allow the reinforcement of the teaching-learning
finally as it has been stated above, a good training both for teachers
and assistants would allow to lead intercultural education through a
more operative and logical way, which could result in a greater degree
we want an operative intercultural education and that it may respond
to the exigencies of our time, it is necessary, then, to have specialists
in all the educative processes; good intentions do not suffice.
personal del autor)