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Department of Geography


Intercultural Bilingual Education in Chilean classrooms: Exploring youth identity, multiculturalism and nationalism

Mapuche flag Chilean flag

PI: Sarah Radcliffe, PDRA: Andrew Webb

Dr Andrew Webb is now based in Sociology, Universidad Católica, Santiago de Chile. email:

This interdisciplinary research project (August 2011-July 2014, ESRC Funded) drew on human geography and sociologies of young people in Chilean secondary schools. It considered how education represents a window onto contested relations between ethnicity, nationhood, citizenship, and indigenous rights. Racism is a historically ingrained element of Chilean society and the government’s resistance to a multicultural stance on indigenous affairs raises the question of how identifications, life opportunities and political outlook of Mapuche youngsters are affected.


Over twenty years, Latin American indigenous social movements have become increasingly active, calling for national and international recognition of political, territorial and cultural rights. Chile has been no exception, and the Mapuche – the largest indigenous population in the Southern Cone – publicly campaign for rights to land, water, political representation and culturally sensitive education and healthcare, among others. However, relations have been strained under recent democratic governments with the introduction of anti-terrorism laws used to prosecute indigenous activists represented as threats to national security.


Chilean schooling in particular came under scrutiny in recent decades for its inequitable maintenance of socio-economic hierarchies and ethnic exclusion. One government response has been the implementation of an Intercultural Bilingual Education (IBE) Programme, from 2000, in an attempt to meet with international norms and indigenous demands for multicultural policies society. Our project researched the extent to which this process was effective and evaluated its influence on young people’s sense of civic and ethnic participation within society.


Research was conducted in four rural/semi-rural secondary schools in the Araucania Region of Chile between 2012 and 2013 (two with intercultural curricula, two without), with a total of:

  • 103 pupils participating in two rounds of focus groups
  • 16 teacher/head-teacher interviews
  • 17 follow-up pupil interviews
  • 30 hours of classroom observation
  • Textbook analysis.

National and municipal administrative processes and policies were assessed via policy document analysis, interviews with 19 government officials involved in the IBE programme, and an additional 10 stakeholders/academics involved in IBE implementation.

Publications and conferences

  • Webb, AJ and Radcliffe, S.A. 2015 Indigenous citizens in the making: Civic belonging and racialized schooling in Chile. Space and Polity 19(3): 215-230.
  • Webb, A. & Radcliffe, S. 2013 “Mapuche Demands during Educational Reform, the Penguin Revolution and the Chilean Winter of Discontent”, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, Vol.13(3): 319-341.
  • Webb, A.J. and Radcliffe, S.A. 2016 Mapuche Youth between Exclusion and the Future: Protest, civil society and participation in Chile. Children’s Geographies 14(1): 1-19.
  • Webb, A.J. and Radcliffe, S.A. 2015 Indigenous citizens in the making: Civic belonging and racialized schooling in Chile. Space and Polity 19(3): 215-230.
  • Webb, A.J. and Radcliffe, S.A. 2015 Unfulfilled promises of equity: Racism and interculturalism in Chilean education. Race, Ethnicity and Education 19(6): 1335-1350.
  • Radcliffe, S.A. and Webb, A.J. 2015 Subaltern Bureaucrats: Indigenous professional registers of engagement with the Chilean state. Comparative Studies in Society and History 57(1): 248-273.
  • Webb, A.J. and Radcliffe, S.A. 2015 Whitened geographies and education inequalities in southern Chile. Journal of Intercultural Studies 36 (2): 129-148, Co-author AJ Webb.
  • Webb, A.J. and Radcliffe, S.A. 2017 ‘La blanquitud en colegios segregados: el racismo institucional en el sur de Chile’, Antropologías del Sur 4(7) online
  • 2nd international conference on Geographies of Education, Loughborough University, “Indigenous youths, nation and identities: Examining the secondary IBE agenda in Chilean classrooms”, September 2012.
  • Society of Latin American Studies Conference (SLAS), Manchester University: “Positioning interculturalism in Chile’s Intercultural Bilingual Education Programme: Neo-liberal constraints and failed practices of pluralism” April 2013.

Impact plan for final 12 months

  • Further updates of publications to be added in 2014.
  • British Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference, University of Sussex, “Racialised experiences of education in Chile: Mapuche pupil responses to mono-cultural classroom practices and curricula”, Sept 2013
  • I Congreso Internacional de Pueblos Indígenas, Oaxaca, “Mapuche youth between exclusion and the future:Youth, civic society and citizenship in Chile”, Oct 2013.
  • Paper ‘Young Mapuche between exclusion and the future: Youth, civil society and citizenship in Chile’ (in Spanish) presented at 1st international Congres ‘Indigenous peoples of Latin America 19th -21st centuries: Advances, perspectives and challenges’, Oaxaca, Mexico, October 2013.
  • Paper presented at panel discussion on ‘The impact of education on ethno-political stability: Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN), London School of Economics, January 2014. [Poster]
  • Paper to be presented at the British Sociological Association annual conference, April 2014, entitled Intersectionalities of youth and indigeneity in Chile.’
  • Paper ‘Mapuche Youth at the crossroads: Between community, schooling and citizenship’ to be presented at the Panel ‘Entering into community or experiencing exclusion: The promise and perils of growing up indigenous’, at the Latin American Studies Association congress, May 2014 in Chicago.
Local Impact:
  • Seminars and round-table discussions planned at universities in Santiago, Temuco, Valdivia and Villarrica.
  • Presentations to be given at research site schools, and to officials within the Ministry of Education and related organisms in Santiago and Temuco, March – April 2014.