SCHOOL COMMUNITY AND EXPERIENCES OF PARTICIPATION AND DEMOCRACY: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY IN THE CHILEAN EDUCATIONAL CONTEXT
Abstract: Abstract Chilean education is still in the process of overcoming a dark period of dictatorship where the school was governed by repressive, controlling and antidemocratic regulations. In 2009 a new general law for Chilean education was enacted that included several values suggesting a more active participation for all the members of the school community. Additionally the law states that schools must provide inclusive environments based on tolerance, mutual respect and awareness of current cultural diversity. The inclusions of these values are aimed to democratize education of Chilean schools. The purpose of this study is to inquire, from the experience and perspectives of the school community in two Chilean schools, the current state of democracy within these educational institutions according the theory of democratic education proposed by John Dewey among other authors. The research has a qualitative nature and uses school ethnography as the main method for investigation. The process of data collection included the use of fieldnotes, interviews and participant observation in the context of schooling. In both schools, the study evidenced the efforts that some students and teachers make in order to create meaningful interrelations were individuals can active participate, having a significant communication based on mutual understandings and respect and being part of the process of decision-making. Nevertheless major transgressions to democracy in education were observed from school authorities and part of the teacher staff. These transgressions influence the social life of the school community and represent forms of unnecessary formalism, conservatism and militarization of the character. The study concludes that the members of the school community perceive democracy in several different ways; most of these perceptions reflected contextualized exertions of power, control, repression and fear over different school situations which are not consistent with the nature of what a democratic education constitute.
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