For most Chilean children, school starts with nursery or preschool (preescolar), from before the age of one. Compulsory education (escolaridad obligatoria), termed the basic general education (enseñanza básica, EGB), begins at six years of age in a primary school (escuela primaria) and lasts for eight years.
At the age of 13 (equivalent to Year 8 in the UK and sixth grade in the US), pupils move on to secondary education (enseñanza media) for the next four years. Once in secondary school, students can choose the path they prefer: Scientific-humanist (regular), technical-professional (vocational) or artistic. The first two years are the same for all three kinds of schooling, while the last two years are different, according to the orientation of the school.
Students can also opt to go to a Liceo. Students who attend a Liceo generally go on to university, as the education received there gears them towards sitting their PSU (Prueba de Selección Universitaria), the test which all Chileans have to sit in order to enter university. While attending a Liceo, students can also choose to go to vocational school and receive training for a professional career instead of preparing for university.
Special needs pupils
There are also special state schools for pupils with special educational needs, e.g. learning difficulties due to psychological, emotional or behavioural problems and slow learners or those with disabilities of some kind. Pupils are usually taught in special educational units or schools. Lately however, special needs kids are being integrated more into mainstream schools.
There is a large number of schools with these different possibilities. In order to get more information, a guide-brochure is sold in bookshops named “Guía para entrar en los colegios”, in which the comuna (region) is specified, with all the options for schooling. Also, by visiting the Ministry of Education website, you can find all the information you need about term dates, state schools, private schools, etc. (only available in Spanish).