The Lifelong Learning and Training Project (Programa de Educación y Capacitación Permanente, Chilecalifica)

Country Profile: Chile


17,620,000 (2012)

Poverty (Population living on less than 1.25 USD per day)

2% (2000 – 2007)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

4.6% (2012)

Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance

92% (2013)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

Male: 98.9%
Female: 98.9%
Total: 98.9%

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over)

Male: 98.6%
Female: 98.5%
Total: 98.6%

Official Language


Recognised languages

Mapudungun, Quechua, Rapa Nui, Huilliche


Programme Overview

Programme TitleThe Lifelong Learning and Training Project (Programa de Educación y Capacitación Permanente, Chilecalifica)
Implementing OrganizationMinistries of Education, Economy and Labour; National Service of Training and Employment (Servicio Nacional de Capacitación y Empleo, SENCE); Chile Foundation (Fundación Chile)
Language of InstructionSpanish
FundingFederal government and the World Bank
Date of Inception2002 – 2010

Background and context

For the past 20 years, Chile has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and one of the most stable and prosperous countries in Latin America. Yet in 2002, there were still more than 4.4 million people in the country with no schooling or incomplete primary and/or secondary education. There were also almost 500,000 illiterate adults, which corresponded to 4.3% of the population. Chile has moreover faced other challenges, such as no articulation between the formal, non-formal and informal education modalities, weak links between formal education and the labour market, as well as the lack of an informational system that updates individuals on the demands of the productive sector and the offers of the educational system.

During the military dictatorship from 1973 to 1989, the government paid little attention to adult education. Rather, the federal financial investments were mainly focused on basic services targeting children and youths. Although there have been positive changes in the investments regarding adult education since the re-establishment of democracy in the country in 1990, they are still limited when compared to formal education of children and youths. The current educational system is organised in a 12-year compulsory period comprising primary and second-ary levels, and tertiary non-mandatory services. Primary schooling has two 4-year cycles, and secondary has two years of basic education, followed by two additional years where students can choose between regular (scientific-humanist), artistic and vocational training.

In order to improve Chile’s human resource development and solve some of these educational shortages, the federal government developed, in 2002, a six-year pilot project known as The Lifelong Learning and Training Project (Programa de Educación y Capacitación Permanente, Chilecalifica), which was extended until 2010. Chilecalifica was an unprecedented programme in that it integrated education, work and economy by combining the efforts of three ministries – the Ministries of Education, Economy and Labour – as well as effective previous experiences from youth and adult education and job training initiatives. Its efforts were also innovative, since they went beyond the government and incorporated elements from civil society as well as from the private sector. Chilecalifica was a broad initiative that included many actions, such as adult education and a certification process to recognise labour skills.

To date, the initiatives that were designed under Chilecalifica are being implemented as part of different ministries’ actions. Particularly the educational upgrade (nivelación de estudios), which was strongly promoted by the programme, is being carried out by the Ministry of Education.

The programme Chilecalifica

The main strategy of Chilecalifica was to implement innovative actions and promote transformations within the three different learning modes, that is, formal, non-formal and informal learning, by integrating education, work and economy. Thus, the programme set the basis for the establishment of several initiatives:

Chilecalifica was characterised as being a multi-stakeholder and decentralised programme, since the implementation of its initiatives was located at national and regional levels, and involved public-private partnerships. The national level was organised into two courses of action. First, the political and strategic action established the guidelines and policies on which the programme would be based, and involved the input from the highest level, such as the ministry level. Second, the coordination and execution track was in charge to coordinate, support and follow-up the implementation and give coherence to the execution of the programme through the work of units of execution. At the regional level there was the involvement of the secretaries, who put into action the guidelines and plans previously designed. This level also included the provision of services offered by vari-ous providers, such as private schools, vocational institutions and non-profit organisations, which were selected in annual calls for tenders.

Aims and objectives

The primary aim of Chilecalifica was to enhance Chile’s social and economic development by improving employability and promoting active citizenship, i.e. facilitating the involvement of individuals in all aspects of economic and social life. More specifically, Chilecalifica endeavoured to enhance the opportunities for lifelong education and training, especially for youths and adults living in poverty, and to improve the quality and access to vocational-professional learning by:

Programme implementation


The educational upgrading initiative was the key youth and adult educational component of Chilecalifica. It was created with the main objective of increasing coverage and educational opportunities free of charge for youths and adults. Contigo Aprendo was a national literacy campaign launched in 2003 aimed at enhancing students’ social integration by teaching the basic competencies in reading comprehension, writing and mathematics. It was designed to address the educational needs of illiterate individuals who remained marginalized in the education system. To date, the campaign is a non-traditional literacy programme that serves as an entry door for the other two adult education programmes, the regular and flexible adult education programmes. The flexible modality, established in 2002, is an acceleration programme for the completion of primary and secondary levels, created as an alternative programme to the regular modality, in order to address the working and personal needs of its participants, by providing services with a higher degree of flexibility in terms of schedule, location, and duration.

Recruitment and training of facilitators

The minimum requirement to be a facilitator for the literacy programme Contigo Aprendo is to have at least a secondary degree, and be 18 years of age or older. Facilitators are volunteers, who receive a monthly monetary incentive of US$ 120 that covers transportation expenses. They are required to attend a pre-service three-day training, called Jornada de Formación, where they learn about the literacy process, youth and adult education, and methodologies on literacy and numeracy, and take part in an ongoing training aimed to deepen their knowledge and teaching skills. The majority of facilitators are university students and teachers, but there are also professionals from other fields, for instance community leaders. In the flexible modality, the facilitators are required to have a tertiary degree in teaching. However, there is no pre- or in-service teaching training, and in general they have no previous specialisation in adult education. Their ages range from 25 to 81 years, and the great majority of facilitators are females (55.2%). Also, most of facilitators teach at the primary level, and the fewest of these teach mathematics and philosophy.

Enrolment of learners

Contigo Aprendo targets individuals 15 years of age or older who cannot read or write, or those with less than four years of schooling. Participants are recruited within their communities through direct invitation from facilitators, and they have two months to enrol (April and May). The flexible modality targets youths and adults, aged 15–65 years, who have an incomplete primary and/or secondary education, and who seek an opportunity to improve work competencies, employability, self-image and quality of life. This modality was particularly designed to attract workers in need of educational upgrading, especially those in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The age requirement for enrolling for primary education is 15 years or older, and 18 years or older for secondary. Potential participants are mobilised through the mass media (TV, radio and internet), and regional partner organisations. The majority of participants of both the literacy programme and the flexible modality are employed youths and adults, part of the three lowest income deciles of the Chilean population, and come from urban areas. Also, an unusual characteristic of the participants is that the majority of them are females, which contradicts the trend of the regular modality and other educational services which are marked by a strong male presence. The average annual enrolment in the literacy programme and the flexible modality is 20,000 and 60,000 participants, respectively. Additionally, Chilecalifica also reached populations from the rural zones through local radio programmes using course contents from the flexible modality.

Teaching-learning approaches and methodologies


For the literacy programme, classes are held in places that are conveniently located close to the students’ residence, such as community centres, schools and churches. On average, classes have the ratio of one facilitator per fifteen students. They use literacy and numeracy text- and workbooks, as well as materials such as dictionaries and stationery which are provided by the government. Students are required to attend classes for a minimum of six hours per week, two to three days a week during six months (June to December), but the schedule varies among different cohorts since the arrangement of the timetable is made between the facilitator and his/her students. The programme is divided into three levels, and through an initial diagnostic assessment, the facilitators assign students to the level that is in accordance with their initial skills and knowledge. When teaching literacy, the facilitators systematically work to develop four complementary abilities: oral communication, reading, writing and vocabulary expansion. When teaching numeracy, the facilitators focus on teaching numbers and the idea of quantity, grouping and interpretation of measurement units, arithmetic operations, special forms and orientation, and content interpretation, such as reading tables and graphics.

For the flexible modality, classes are offered by educational establishments, organisations providing capacity training, governmental organisations, foundations, universities, etc. Students choose the location where they want to attend classes based on the proximity of their residence or place of work. The programme starts with an initial phase lasting six and eight months for primary and secondary education, respectively. Students are placed in the level according to their initial level as measured by a placement assessment. For those who do not pass the final exam, a reinforcement phase is also provided. This modality is divided into modules: the primary level contains 12 modules, and the secondary level has 11.


After the completion of both programmes, students are required to take a final exam in order to accredit their learning through the System of Evaluation and Certification of Studies. The exams are available on a periodic basis, they are offered by accredited schools, and are not mediated by the facilitators in order to guarantee quality assurance.

There are five types of written open-ended exams aimed to certify different education levels. For primary education, there are three exams which assess literacy, numeracy and integrated sciences, and can certify fourth, sixth and eighth grade degrees. For secondary level there are two exams which certify the completion of first or second level, and assess knowledge on mathematics, social and natural sciences and philosophy (the number and content of subjects varies per level). The objective of these exams is not only to provide accreditation to student learning, but also to track the programmes’ progress and quality. The Chilean System of Evaluation and Certification of Studies has become a model of educational accreditation among the Latin American countries.


The total cost of all the initiatives executed under Chilecalifica, which lasted from 2002 to 2010, was US$150 million: 75 million was a six-year term World Bank loan with a repayment period of 9.5 years, including a grace period of 7.5 years, and US$ 75 million were financed by public treasury funds.

The educational upgrade initiative, particularly the flexible adult education, was designed to employ a results-based approach, where the public and private providers of the services are paid according to student performance on the certification exam. To date, the providers receive approximately US$ 60.00 and US$ 73.00 per student per approved module for primary and secondary levels respectively. The literacy programme pays a monthly stipend of US$ 120.00 to volunteers. The cost per student equals approximately US$ 160.00, and includes the stipends to facilitators, materials, trainings and the examinations for certification.

Monitoring and evaluation


The monitoring of the educational upgrade initiative employs an information system that includes data about all students, such as class frequency and test results. The process and results indicators used in the monitoring include, among others, enrolment rate, completion rate, repetition rate, exam no-show rate, drop-out rate, student information (e.g., gender, age, socioeconomic status), class schedule, methodology, exam results. Data are stored and analysed by the Central Level of the Ministry of Education (Nivel Central del Ministerio de Educación). The data for the monitoring process are entered into the system by the staff of the institutions which provided the education services (entidades ejecutoras), including updated information about the facilitators, student and group progress and learning, didactic activities implemented by monitors with descriptions and goals, and a monthly report. The data for monitoring results come from the written exams which students take after the completion of their studies, and are entered into the system by the accredited schools that carry out the examinations.

The evaluation is external, and designed to determine the overall effectiveness of the projects. So far, there are two available impact evaluations:


Impact studies on Chilecalifica show many positive achievements of this national programme, particularly as a result of the educational upgrade initiative.

Results from the literacy programme:

Results from flexible adult education (2003 – 2008):

Overall, Chilecalifica has produced many changes in the country through its various initiatives, which include:


The main challenge was to establish the Lifelong Learning System (Sistenma de Formación Permanente), a public policy aimed to generate a sustainable link between education and the labour market, as well as to better articulate the different levels of the education system (i.e., primary and secondary schools, and secondary vocational schools and tertiary institutions). The primary goal of this system was to allow people to have flexible learning opportunities and to provide additional alternatives to the regular training sessions. However, by the end of Chilecalifica, this system was not institutionalised.

Other challenges include:

Lessons learned

The following key lessons have emerged from Chilecalifica, and particularly from the educational upgrade initiative:


The initiatives designed and implemented under Chilecalifica are now being carried out by specific ministries, a fact which indicates how sustainable this programme was. Chilecalifica established two different systems which contributed to the sustainability of the programme. The systems set the basis for a conceptual framework which addressed the Chilean educational and labour challenges, as well as proposing new solutions and actions:

A particularly sustainable initiative implemented under Chilecalifica was the provision of educational upgrade programmes, which included the literacy campaign, flexible adult education and the certification system. These actions are now part of the adult education programme offered and financed by the Ministry of Education according to the legal decrees passed in 2009: Decrees number 211 and 257.


Documents: - Ministerio de Educación: La modalidad flexible de nivelación de estudios : una aproximación a sus principales características y resultados 2003 - 2009. 2009 - Ministerio de Educación: Sistematización Campaña de Alfabetización : “Contigo Aprendo” 2003 - 2009


Maria Verónica Simpson
National Coordinator of Adult Education
Ministry of Education
Av. Libertador B. O'Higgins, 1371
Santigo, Chile
Telephone: +56 2 3904000

Last update: 9 September 2011