Literacy is formally high, upward of 95 percent, but many more Chileans may be functionally illiterate, unable to understand instructions, prescriptions, warning labels, and even classified advertisements. Education is free through high school and compulsory to age 12, but more than 20 percent of the labor force of five million have not completed secondary school. Many schoolchildren lack complementary educational resources, such as books and computers, at home, and scores on international math and science tests are low.
While university education is generally of high quality, it traditionally generates too many high-status degrees in fields such as law or intellectually stimulating—but less clearly practical—subjects such as sociology. Meanwhile, there are shortages in fields such as engineering and computer science.
At the same time, there is little respect for technical or vocational skills, even when those jobs pay more than white-collar positions or office work. Many workers lack initiative and require supervision to go beyond narrowly prescribed duties.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition