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Chilean students protest over education reforms

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Chilean students protest in the capital Santiago, demanding President Michelle Bachelet fulfill her pledges to overhaul the education system.

Tens of thousands of students marched peacefully toward the presidential palace on Thursday, demanding deep changes to the education system, which they say is suffering from poor quality public schools, unprepared teachers and expensive private universities.

The rally, however, turned violent in the end when hooded demonstrators clashed with police, throwing rocks and petrol bombs. Police officers reportedly used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the protesters.

Moderate socialist Bachelet was inaugurated for a new presidential term two months ago following a campaign of promises to finance education reform with higher corporate taxes, improve health care, and fight inequality.

Student leaders who had met education authorities, said only few reform details have been made public so far by the government.

“This is a government that is not laying out clear steps to change the course of education in Chile, that is not acting on the very catchlines and slogans it took from the social movement,” said Melissa Sepulveda, president of the student federation at the University of Chile.

Since 2011, Chilean high school and university students have been engaged in spirited protests, calling for a free and universal education system.

Protesters demand reform of the education system that would put the state back in control of the mostly privatized public universities.

To finance the educational system, Bachelet has called for an ambitious tax reform that would raise $8.2 billion, or about three percent of GDP.

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