Language Education Policy Studies
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Language Education Policies in Chile

Chile, located on the western coast of the continent of South America, is one of 21 countries in the world with the official language of Spanish. Ethnologue (2017) reports that there are 10 additional languages recognized within the country, including Standard German, Chilean Sign Language, and eight indigenous languages. The indigenous languages include South Bolivian Quechua, Aymara, those from the Mapuche people, Mapudungun and Huilliche, as well as the Rapa Nui language, which is primarily spoken on the Chilean territory of Easter Island in Oceania. Qawasqar and Yamana are both nearly extinct, with fewer than 10 speakers still alive, and the Kunza language is still recognized in Chile, although there are no known speakers of this language left.

Spanish is the primary language of instruction in most Chilean schools, but the country is making strides to protect and maintain indigenous languages. In 2010, it was mandated that all primary schools must offer instruction of an indigenous language within the subject of Language and Communication, but that it remain optional for families to enroll their students. Additionally, “indigenous language academies” were established in regions where there are large populations of Aymara, Quechua, and Mapuche people. The planning committees for these academies not only confronted the status and existing corpora of their language, but also ‘standardized’ it for the purposes of teaching, and met with Ministry of Education officials to assist with and help coordinate the mandated language programs in the primary schools. The National Day Care Board in Chile, under the direction and support of National Corporation for Indigenous Development, has also opened 30 intercultural pre-schools throughout the country to expose young children to the indigenous languages of the region they live in (Estrada, 2008).


The Chilean education system also promotes the learning and teaching of English as a foreign language, and the Ministry of Education’s “English Opens Doors Program” demonstrates the government’s desire for Chilean students to emerge from school with English proficiency. This program, launched in 2003, was based on the idea of English as a lingua franca and as a language of social and economic power. The Chilean government, wanting to keep up with the globalization of the English language, created the program to increase the English proficiency and improve the methodology of its country’s teachers and preservice teachers. Some of the initiatives from the program include the creation of summer English-immersion camps, visits to schools in English-speaking countries, hiring native English-speaking teacher assistants, improved English language and methodology courses, and study abroad requirements. Along with continual assessment of teacher and student proficiency, the program is also concerned with expanding its reach into Chilean communities that have been underserved by “English Opens Doors” in the past (“Country Note: Chile,” 2008).



“Chile’s School Voucher System: Enabling Choice or Perpetuating Social Inequality?”

“Scaling Up in Chile”


“Chile Continues to Push for Improved English Proficiency”


“Chile English Drive First Test”


“Indigenous Peoples in Chile”


“Ñ Don't Stop: Meet the Mapuche Rapper Preserving His Indigenous Language” (10:25)


“Chile: A Life Devoted to Education” (5:50)


“How Free-Market Education in Chile Fails the Neediest” (15:11)


“More than 10,000 Chilean students learn Chinese language” (2:01)


Byrd, Kortnee, "Reactions to English Language Learning in Chile as a Means for Personal and National Development" (2013). Master's Theses. 57.


Chile. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2017, from


Country Note: Chile. (2008, October). In Globalization and Linguistic Competencies: Responding to Diversity in Language Environments. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from


Estrada, D. (2008, September 1). Chile: Keeping Indigenous Languages Alive. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from


Ortiz, Patricio R. "Indigenous Knowledge and Language: Decolonizing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in a Mapuche Intercultural Bilingual Education Program in Chile." Canadian Journal of Native Education 32.1 (2009): 93-114. ProQuest. Web. 11 Dec. 2017.


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Ahonen, K. (2018). Language Education Policy in Chile. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved at: (insert link) 

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