Escuela Epu Klei: Money is Not Everything

Kindergarten classroom in Epu Klei

       In Chile, private schools have all the attention. Parents try to place their kids into a private school. Private schools can implement various activities as they see fit. Private schools have funds. Teachers seek to work in private schools since they have higher salaries. Private schools employ higher quality teachers.

      Public schools in Chile are a complete opposite. They struggle. They are poor. They serve the underserved. They lack funds. They tend to have lower quality teachers.


       During my time in Chile, I have visited a total of 10 schools (for now). As with anything in life, there are always things that are great, and things that need work. And then came Escuela Epu Klei in a small village of Lican Ray.



What fascinated me about Escuela Epu Klei in Lican Ray was the following:

  • the classrooms were beautiful and very creatively decorated,

  • teachers cared about their students,

  • teachers took pride in what they do,

  • teachers went above and beyond to create learning environment conducive to learning,

  • the school was clean and organized,

  • student work was everywhere,

  • both teachers and administration were extremely welcoming.

        Right away I jumped to a conclusion -->

'This is a private school.'

       Much to my surprise, it was a PUBLIC school and I was floored. In Chile, private schools have funds to invest in their students, staff, and initiatives. Parents pay tuition, and schools use these monies for learning, assessing, and other things. Private schools look, and feel PRIVATE.

In public schools the situation is different: they often struggle trying to find money for supplies, materials, and so on.

        Escuela Epu Klei in Lican Ray was a small school that simply managed with the funds it had and was doing a great job.

Creativity, professional effort, and motivation of its teachers was evident.

The United States spends more money per pupil than any other country (except Luxembourg) yet there are schools that still lack in both teacher and student performance, look dirty, and lack creativity.

Chile has private schools that can do anything they want with the resources they have-yet they also fall short.

In fact, I have visited private schools in Chile located in wealthy areas and have not seen what I have seen in the little Escuela Epu Klei. Moreover, some private schools were a complete opposite - they collected tuition yet looked and felt PUBLIC.

Money is not everything

Escuela Epu Klei showed me that with mutual effort, strong leadership, and teacher effort and creativity, any school can be transformed into a place where teachers love to work and students love to learn. 

A dentist experience

Whenever I travel, I avoid going to local doctors unless it's an absolute emergency. Usually, I'll wait after my trip and I'll go to my doctor in the States.

A few weeks ago, a piece of tooth filling came out. No big deal, happened before. Thinking: will take care of it soon. That "soon" turned into about three weeks. 

Yesterday, on a complete whim, I called a dental clinic and they said "come on down! 4:30PM." Great, now I can't turn back, I have to show up.  

So I show up. And here are the major takeaways from a visit to a Chilean dental clinic.

1. In the States, they sit your behind down in a chair and you get out when they are done with you. Then you pay your deductible and the like. In Chile, you sit down, they evaluate the work that needs to be done, then you meet with a clerk that clearly outlines the amount of work and the price, then you pay, and only then you sit down to get your tooth fixed. I liked it, there were no surprises.

2. During the treatment(and I'm talking drilling, spackling, etc.), a Chilean dentist takes a mirror, yes, a mirror and actually shows you the progress of his work. OMG. It's not for the faint hearted. I have good teeth but to see my tooth all drilled out with an opening glaring back at me and listening to the dentist explain how he will fill it, from which side and how he will continue drilling is a bit too much. Mine did it for a total of three times as he continued working on the tooth.  

3. Chilean dentist really took his time, and he did a phenomenal job. I was in the chair for about an hour and a half- for one filling. I feel like with my doctor in New Jersey I'm in and out. With this dentist, I definitely felt like he was taking his time. He also wasn't "sliding" between patients like my American doc does. So, very happy with the attention I received. 

4. I have been patting myself on the back for going soon. And here is why (here come the gory details). The cavity was forming under the filling. A piece fell out and I saw a small hole. The dentist discovered that the damage is underneath and he needs to clean out much of the tooth before reconstructing it with a new filling. Bottom line, I came scarily close to having a root canal. I have never had a root canal in my life but know people who did and they say it's not fun. Not fun at all. So, kudos to me for taking care of it before it's too late. 

5. Price: very reasonable. I need to check whether my Fulbright insurance covers dental but if it doesn't - it won't break the bank. 

6. Anesthesia. In the States, when you get a filling you get a numbing shot.  In Chile, it goes like this: 

Me: "Please make sure I get a numbing shot." 

The dentist: "Usually we numb only if it's a deep cavity."

Me: "I don't care how deep it is. I need a numbing shot."  

Bottom line: they numbed me for hours.  And I'm grateful.