De-marketization and Democratization of a Chilean School: When Hard Work and Best Intentions Aren't Enough
Maria Rojas

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
This ethnographic case study is grounded in 600 hours of participant observation and more than 100 interviews. It critically analyses the ongoing journey of a school community toward becoming a democratic and welcoming space for its new population of emergent multilingual immigrant students of African Descent. Beginning in 2012 and motivated in part by its social justice principles, the San Francisco Voucher School (SFVS) made strides to break away from the Chilean market-oriented model. The SFVS community goes above and beyond to support the integration of its newcomers. In an education context historically designed to encourage actors to compete for a scarce resource (quality education), where market-based ideals of individual success and high-stakes testing mechanisms are at its core and where education is conceived as a private good, welcoming students that need extra resources to achieve academic success appears, in the language of this system, an ?unprofitable business strategy.? Nonetheless, and against all odds, a group of social justice-oriented educators is defying structural barriers and forming a system of protection against many challenges that obstruct immigrant students? integration into Chilean society. They work hard and, in some cases, risk their jobs to redistribute resources, provide extra academic support, and offer affection and care through trauma-informed practices. Despite their concerted efforts and good intentions, there remains a significant hurdle, deeply detrimental to students? well-being, that educators have yet to dismantle: ethno-racial discrimination and disparities.
About Maria Rojas
María Rojas is a Ph.D. candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Education. She earned her bachelor?s degree in social communications from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and worked as a journalist for international affairs at CNN Chile. María immersed herself in the realm of education when she served as a Spanish Language Arts teacher in a public high school in Santiago. Subsequently, María ventured to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a Master?s in Education Policy at the University of Washington, Seattle. María?s research interests lie at the intersection of school de-marketization, de-privatization, democratization, and diversification. Specifically, her dissertation examines equity-oriented education policy reforms, how school communities mediate such transformations, and their impact on emergent multilingual immigrant students of African Descent in Chile. María?s research has been supported by the National Research and Development Agency of Chile (ANID), the Center for Latin American Studies, and the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. María?s international experiences inform her intellectual curiosity. She completed her junior year of high school in South Africa, attended college in Germany, and worked in New Zealand before coming to the United States. Currently residing in California with her husband and two children, Juan Cristobal (5) and Micaela Leonor (2), María is not only focused on completing her Ph.D., but also aspires to camp with her family in as many U.S. National Parks as possible. To date, they have visited 27 parks, including four in Alaska.

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