Only 11% of Chile’s Indigenous Youth Speak or Understand Their Native Language

On Monday, January 23rd, UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) and Chile’s Ministry of Social Development (formerly known as MIDEPLAN) released a study on Indigenous youth in Chile that covered a number of topics. The report revealed that economically, Indigenous youth are in worse shape than their non-Indigenous counterparts. And culturally, the study indicated that 89% of Indigenous youth can neither speak nor understand their Native languages.

The study was prepared from data collected between 1996 and 2009. It estimated that Chile has approximately 400,000 Indigenous youth under the age of 18, which would equate to approximately 8.7% of the country’s juvenile population. Of those 400,000 youth, approximately 85% of them identify as Mapuche individuals.

The data collected painted a picture of a socio-economically disadvantaged population. For instance, the poverty rate for Indigenous children is at 26.6%, which is 1.2 times the rate of non-Indigenous children. Additionally, in terms of education, only 66% of Indigenous youth complete secondary school (i.e. high school), which is lower than the non-Indigenous rate of 71%. When one looks at the numbers in college, the gap widens considerably where only 18.6% of Indigenous youth attend, compared with 30% for non-Indigenous youth.

Another new piece of data presented in the report is that only 11% of Indigenous juveniles can speak or understand their language. That number is even lower among the urban Indigenous population. In an attempt to stop this loss of culture, the Chilean government has begun to implement a bilingual education program. During this school year, any school with an Indigenous population of at least 50% is required to teach Indigenous language. In 2013, all schools with at least 20% Indigenous youth will be required to do the same.

In addition to the information listed above, the study also presented statistical information on a number of other topics, including health, access to services, and quality of life. The entire report (in Spanish) can be found here.

See the articles linked in this story and additional Indigenous headlines by clicking here (updated daily).

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One Response to Only 11% of Chile’s Indigenous Youth Speak or Understand Their Native Language

  1. Pingback: Strengthening Indigenous Languages in Chile |

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