Chile students agree to education reform talks

Thousands of Chilean student protesters marching in Santiago There have been almost daily student demonstrations over the past few months

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Chilean student leaders have agreed to hold talks with the government on education reform after nearly five months of strikes and demonstrations.

But they said their protests, including a national stoppage on Thursday, would continue and they urged fellow students not to resume classes.

The students want wholesale reform of Chile's education system, which they say is unequal and under-funded.

The government has offered some changes and increased funding.

Student representatives met for more than 10 hours on Tuesday to discuss whether to talk to the government of President Sebastian Pinera.

"We are participating to continue our constant fight for free and democratised education in Chile," said Giorgio Jackson, one of the student leaders.

"Our demonstrations over these five months have ensured minimum guarantees for a dialogue with the government."

Another leader, Camila Vallejo, said the government must give clear details of its planned budget for 2012, in particular relating to education.

Quality education

There have been regular demonstrations in Santiago and other main cities for the past five months, often resulting in clashes between some protesters and police.

The students want the central government to take full control of education and increase spending on public schools.

They also want increased funding for universities, including scholarships rather than loans for poorer students, and an end to profit in education.

President Pinera has responded by promising limited reforms and around $4bn (£2.6 billion) in extra funding.

But he has rejected calls for full state control and free education.

Mr Pinera has said his reforms will ensure "quality education for everyone, and free education for those who require it".

But student leaders - many of them left-wing - say his proposed reforms do not address the fundamental problems of a system set up during the 1973-1990 military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

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