Since 2011, there have been protests in different cities of the world, demanding greater economic and social equality. There is, at the same time, wide agreement in the Chilean and international public opinion, to deem education as one of the most powerful tools to overcome social inequality.
In fact, regarding the notion of “equality of opportunities”, it is generally considered that, besides affirmative action for traditionally discriminated or disadvantaged groups, the main measures to advance on equality of opportunities are education, health care and work conditions, including a social security system.
Regarding education, every general treaty on human rights (and in particular, at a universal level, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and, at a regional level, the San Salvador Protocol, of 1988, on economic, social and cultural rights) enshrines this right. More specifically, they set forth the obligatory character, gratuity and universality of elementary education; the gradual universal access to secondary and superior education, by all adequate means, including its progressive gratuity; the freedom to teaching and the preferential right of parents to choose the education of their children. International treaties do not refer to pre-school education, perhaps because the awareness about the capital importance of education during the early years of life is relatively recent.
In Chile, the current administration has taken in the strong current of public opinion regarding the crucial importance of education. Thus, it has proposed ambitious goals on educational reform that have given rise to an intense social and political debate.
In this debate, it is usual to refer to the experiences of countries whose educational policies are deemed exemplary. The degree of social and political agreement to consistently implement public policies that need up to two decades or more to produce tangible results, that is, the duration of three or more elected governments, besides large public expenditure, depends on the level of economic development of a country, its traditions and its civic culture. That is not easy to achieve in countries of Hispanic America.
Without pretending, in any case, that technological development renders such political and social agreements unnecessary, there is no doubt that technical breakthroughs help to achieve the possible solutions.
It is for this reason that we have initiated from Universidad Diego Portales a program of free education on human rights online, directed to the world. The course is conducted in the MOOC mode (massive open online courses). By the time this lines are written (September 4, 2014), our MOOC on introduction to human rights counts 2130 students from 106 different countries. The course may be followed at http://udemy.com/introduction-to-human-rights, where it shall be available for life.