Students throw up their graduate caps during the 11th celebrations of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitaet on July 4, 2015 in Bonn, Germany. (Photo : Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
Education has won in Chile!
Chilean students are off to a good start this year.
Finally, the hard work of thousands of students in Chile who have been fighting for their right to free university education has paid off. Around 165,000 aspiring professionals will be able to get free education in 2016.
With Gratuity 2016, 30 universities in the South American nation will be providing free schooling to college students. Educational institutions that had the most number of applicants include the following:
1. Valparaiso University
2. University of Concepción
3. University of Santiago
4. Austral University of Chile
5. Federico Santa María Technical University
6. University of Bio Bio
Courses with the most enrolees are medicine and obstetrics, with commercial engineering, civil engineering, dentistry and construction trailing behind.
Education Minister Adriana Delpiano said that second year students under the government's financial aid will also benefit from Gratuity 2016.
According to the Latin American Post, Gratuity 2016 is President Michelle Bachelet's first major feat since she took over the country in June 1, 2006.
As they say, it's never too late to make a change.
"We always believed that education is a right, and the fact that we are moving ahead strongly in that direction fills us with joy," said Bachelet.
From 2006 to 2010, the now 64-year-old leader's first presidential term, university students from all over the country were prompted to host rallies after Augusto Pinochet enacted the Organic Constitutional Act of Teaching (LOCE) on the last day of his 16-year rule.
Students wanted LOCE abolished.
When Pinochet took office, the education sector was privatized and a drop of 20 percent in the budget happened. There was a reorganization on the entire process of privatization of universities. In addition, the budget cuts resulted to public universities having to require tuition from their students.
As a result of the changes in the education sector, on May 30, 2006, 790,000 Chilean students marched all over the country in protest. To date, the "Penguin Revolution," named after the protesters' uniforms, remains the biggest student strike in decades.
President Bachelet therefore announced new regulations in the Chilean educational system the day following the march. However, most students were left dismayed as their demands have not been met still.
Elitism was still an issue, as it remained slightly dominant with the new changes at the time.
In 2009, the LOCE was modified and renamed the General Law on Education (LGE), but many students and teachers said it has failed to "reform the government's basic financial strategy for a more equal educational system."
It seemed that economic profitability in Chilean education still remained. Inequality between poor and rich students remained.
With Gratuity 2016 though, real hope is possible.
Hopefully, Chile will start seeing some real change.