Home Institution

Brandeis University

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


This paper looks at how gender norms and thus gender inequality is reproduced in public schools in Valparaiso, Chile. In 2009 a study conducted by the United Nations Development Program found that 62% of Chileans, both male and female, “are opposed to full equality between the sexes” (Estrada 1). While the women’s participation rate in the paid labor fore has risen to 49% it is still behind other countries in Latin America (Estrada 1). While the country currently faces a 7.1% unemployment rate and roughly 11.5% percent live below the poverty line, women have a unemployment rate of 8.6 while men is only 6.3 (“Mujeres” 2). Women are more likely to be poor, face job discrimination, be unemployed, and have a lower income for the same job as a man in Chile (Juris). This paper focuses on the role that schools play in maintaining this gender inequality. I have looked at the process of choosing which public high school students to attend, the specialties that can be chosen there, who influences the choice, what the decisions signify for life opportunity, social mobility, and how all of those factors are affected by gender. Thus, I have looked at how gender norms are reproduced through these processes.

I have completed this study through looking at four schools in Valparaiso and conducting a variety of interviews with students, professors, guidance counselors, and directors of these schools. I have also had the opportunity to speak with a gender expert on these issues.

Through this study I have found that students in the lower socioeconomic classes who are forced to attend public school are basically forced into vocational high schools. When you combine this with the tracks mostly for women, the traditional values that many technical high schools maintain, and the fact that women are only taught values traditionally for women, there seems to be a system where women are continually oppressed. These women are being forced into gendered careers, with little to no room for social mobility. Thus school is not a vehicle for change, but rather a tool to replicate an unequal society where women are kept in traditional female roles with little economic, social or cultural capital to break out.


Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Sociology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | Women's Studies


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