THE Liceo Bicentenario San Pedro is a modern secondary school in Puente Alto, a gritty district of Santiago in Chile. Opened in 2012, the school nestles amid the vestiges of a shantytown where urban sprawl meets the vineyards of the Maipo valley. Most of its pupils are drawn from families classed as “vulnerable”. Yet in national tests it ranks fourth among municipal (ie, public) schools in Chile.
The school has done well by hiring committed young teachers and by offering them more time for preparation and in-service training, according to Germán Codina, the mayor of Puente Alto. When Bello strolled around the liceo recently, he saw teachers who visibly commanded the attention of their pupils. Sadly, it is far more common in Latin American schools to see inattentive children talk among themselves while a teacher writes on the blackboard. It is schooling by rote, not reasoning. And it imposes an unacceptable handicap on Latin Americans.