Haitian Immigrant Students’ Access and Linguistic Inclusion in Chilean Schools

Acceso e inclusión lingüística de los inmigrantes haitianos en la escuela chilena

Gloria Toledo Vega


Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


Andrea Lizasoain


Universidad Austral de Chile


Karina Cerda-Oñate


Universidad de Talca


Daniela Ibarra Herrera


Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso


Citación: Toledo Vega, G., Lizasoain, A. y Cerda-Oñate, K. (2022). Haitian Immigrant Students’ Access and Linguistic Inclusion in Chilean Schools. Logos: Revista de Lingüística, Filosofía y Literatura, 32(1), 393-409. doi.org/10.15443/RL3223

Abstract: This paper discusses Haitian immigrant students’ access and inclusion in Chilean Schools. For this purpose, we conducted a survey with both in-service and pre-service teachers from different school subjects to explore the relationship between the Haitian immigrant community and the Chilean public-school environment; notably, our research questions were oriented to explore the level of inclusion of Haitian students into Chilean schools, and the provision of access to education for Haitian students in Chile. In-service and pre-service Chilean teachers answered the survey. Both groups were asked about immigrant students’ access and inclusion in Chilean schools. Their answers show that despite Haitian students having access to Chilean schools, there are low levels of inclusion among them. The most frequently observed categories of participants’ answers to the survey point to the need for the Chilean state to become more involved in the issue of interculturality in public schools and the need to learn Spanish as an additional language for Haitian students to not fall behind in their school training or their socialization in Chilean society.

Keywords: immigrants - school - interculturality - Spanish as an additional language

Resumen: El presente artículo examina el acceso y la inclusión de los estudiantes inmigrantes haitianos en la escuela chilena. Para este propósito, se realizó una encuesta a profesores en formación y en ejercicio de diferentes disciplinas con el objetivo de explorar la relación entre la comunidad haitiana inmigrante y la escuela pública chilena. Específicamente, las preguntas indagaron sobre el nivel de inclusión de los estudiantes haitianos en la escuela chilena y el acceso a la educación para los estudiantes haitianos en Chile.

Tanto profesores en ejercicio como en formación respondieron la encuesta. Ambos grupos fueron consultados sobre el acceso y la inclusión de los estudiantes inmigrantes en la escuela chilena. Sus respuestas indican que, si bien los estudiantes haitianos tienen acceso a educación, existe un bajo nivel de inclusión. En las respuestas de los participantes las categorías que emergieron con mayor frecuencia fueron la necesidad del Estado de Chile de involucrarse en los desafíos de la interculturalidad en la escuela pública chilena y la necesidad de aprender español como lengua adicional por parte de los estudiantes haitianos para no retrasarse en su trayectoria escolar o su socialización con la sociedad chilena.

Palabras claves: inmigrantes - escuela - interculturalidad - español como lengua adicional

1. Introduction

Although the immigration of Haitian people to Chile has increased markedly in recent years, the Chilean state has made sparse efforts to integrate Haitian students into the school system. In 2019, the government issued a document compelling public schools to accept these students and allow them to enter the grade level corresponding to their age (MINEDUC, 2018). In 2018, there were 10,863 Haitian students in the Chilean school system; in 2019, the number decreased to 8,605, likely because of the social crisis in Chile; and in 2020, the number dropped to 6,146 students amidst the pandemic (Centro de Estudios MINEDUC, 2021). In fact, Haitian enrollment has decreased by approximately 28% during the past two years. Full data is not available yet for 2021, but most public schools remained closed during the pandemic. Consequently, Haitian children and youth have remained with their families, which has resulted in reduced contact with Spanish speakers. When these students do return to school, they will have to restart the process of learning Spanish as an additional language; moreover, the question exists of whether they will return at all, considering that school drop-out rates have increased dramatically in Chile since 2019 (MINEDUC, 2021a).

Attending a public school in Chile without speaking or understanding Spanish means sitting at a desk looking at one or two teachers and 40 classmates pointing at people or things, changing classes and subjects, going in front of the class, taking school objects out of a bag, and many other daily activities, while listening to words that you do not understand well or at all. Someone might approach you, placing a hand on your shoulder, to ask loudly and slowly whether you are okay. But scarce help is available beyond this point. Some schools can afford “mediators,” or bilingual Haitian individuals who come to schools (not necessarily possessing teaching skills) to mediate between the school system and the students and help the latter face the learning process better.

The core problem is that Chile promotes the idea of inclusive education but instead offers integration (Hogar de Cristo et al., 2020; MINEDUC, 2018). That is, all students are allowed to be part of the public school system, but their specific needs are not necessarily met—they often cannot genuinely become part of the collective learning process. Haitian students in Chile need to be part of an intercultural learning environment; that is, a learning environment that allows individuals to understand both their home culture and the culture of the society in which they now live. Interculturality can also provide students with tools to interact with different cultures apart from being able to mediate with different members of the new culture in which they find themselves living (Byram, 2007; Toledo Vega et al., 2020 2021a, 2021b). In this sense, intercultural and/or interpersonal communication within the classroom is understood as a strategy to create meaning in cross-cultural communication (Shiyab, 2000). When Haitian Creole- and French-speaking students arrive in Chile, they must learn Spanish as an additional language, but without access to government-funded programs for formal instruction in Spanish. In this scenario, the opportunity for intercultural learning is foreclosed, and the students in question are “lost in multilingualism.”

In the present article, we explore the relationship between the Chilean public school system and the Haitian immigrant community through the experiences of Chilean in-service (IS) and pre-service (PS) teachers. Notably, our goal is to answer the following questions: (a) What is the level of inclusion of Haitian students in Chilean schools? and (b) How is the provision of access to education for Haitian students in Chile? The teachers’ perceptions were collected through a survey, which was answered by 69 IS teachers and 34 PS teachers in the Chilean educational system. Interculturality is a multifactorial phenomenon, and this study aims to contribute to its understanding.

2. Immigration, Language, and School

Hawkins and Cannon (2017) report that by 2013, there were 83 million minor and young adult immigrants in developed countries and 107 million in developing countries like Chile. These figures reveal a trend in which developing countries attract the youngest migrant population. This phenomenon is coupled with the fact that there are few places where these young people receive a comprehensive education in their respective mother tongues. The problem in this context is that while the United Nations, for example, has set the goal of promoting access to universal primary education, schools in developing countries suffer from large and overcrowded classrooms, ineffective pedagogical practices, and scarce to nonexistent preparation for the reception of students who are not speakers of the main language of the community in question (Gove & Cvelich, 2010). For these reasons, applied linguistics addressing language teaching and sociocultural justice is concerned with educational access and equal opportunities for immigrants beyond merely being able to attend school. This framework proposes that learning occurs in the negotiation of meanings, understood as ideas, concepts, and languages interrelated in specific contexts (Hawkins & Cannon, 2017).

Within the school system, the language of instruction is a challenge for immigrants who do not have the necessary proficiency in that language. This situation is further compounded in the case of students who live in poverty, whose school trajectories have been interrupted, whose families have limited education or low literacy, or whose language and culture are not highly valued in the school or the new social environment in which they live. These factors are clearly identifiable in the case of Haitian immigrant children and youth in Chile, and as Hawkins & Cannon (2017) point out, they increase the risk of academic failure or dropping out for these students. Kanno (2003) likewise warns that this situation encourages less privileged students to interact only with the less privileged communities of the host country. These combined factors foster a vicious circle of poverty and the preservation of prejudices regarding certain types of “immigrants” in opposition to the concept of “foreigners.” While immigrants tend to imply people with limited resources from foreign countries, foreigners are those who come from abroad with a better socioeconomic situation. This manner of discrimination is risky because immigration not only involves the displacement of people, but also the “translation” of ideas, cultures, languages, and different visions of life that, according to the imposition of certain sociocultural hegemonies, may end up being empowered or, on the contrary, strongly marginalized (Hawkins & Cannon, 2017).

In general, there are two main trends for the schooling of immigrant students: (a) one of a bilingual nature, which considers both the L1 and the target language; and (b) another that aims for the teaching-learning of the target language only in a monolingual context. Kanno (2004) reports on the use of reductionist instructional techniques in monolingual education, such as removing non-native speaking students from class to teach them the new language in place of the subjects that would normally correspond to their age and educational trajectory. This practice can be harmful, and above all, it is unnecessary since there is no need to separate the immigrants from the rest of the native speakers in each class to teach the host community’s language. Language classes can be carried out as workshops, and this will be beneficial if the teachers who give these workshops are trained in teaching foreign languages and if there is good coordination and mutual respect between these educators and the teachers of other disciplinary contents in the school. This strategy can also help to avoid the simplification of content (based on the idea of the deficit on the part of the learner) and improve feedback for students related to their mistakes (Lizasoain & Toledo, 2020; Toledo Vega et al., 2020; Toledo Vega et al., 2021a; 2021b). Indeed, two frequent problems in multilingual classrooms are oversimplification and lack of teacher feedback. Therefore, linguistic policies are important when the immigration of non-native speakers is a reality in the school system; indeed, the state must clarify the language programs it will offer to immigrant children according to its resources and the linguistic context in question.

3. Education in Chile

According to the current Constitution of Chile, which has been in force since 1980, education is compulsory from 1st to 12th grades, and it is the role of the state to finance it. The public and subsidized school systems (the latter includes private schools that receive state funding) account for approximately 95% of Chilean schools, while roughly 5% are fully private institutions. The public and subsidized systems lack infrastructure, are overcrowded, and consistently overwork teachers, while the reality in fully private schools tends to reflect the opposite. One of the reasons for this is that the Ministry of Education delegates the administration of school funds to municipalities. Thus, the nature and quality of school administration can vary hugely depending on the municipality and its administrators at a given time.

One clear indication of the disparities in Chilean education is the PISA exam (OECD, 2018), on which students from socioeconomically advantaged schools score consistently higher, often by very wide margins than those from the publicly-funded system (Gajardo, 2005; OECD, 2019). In effect, Chile is a country where a high-quality education can only be ensured by socioeconomic resources, which leaves most Haitian immigrants with access only to subpar educational opportunities in a school system that fails to address their inclusion.

3.1 The role of language in the curriculum

Chile does not have explicit linguistic policies; Spanish is the de facto official language, which means that access to healthcare, education, and legal services requires at least an intermediate knowledge of Spanish (Lewis et al., 2017). Most Chileans speak Spanish as their first language, although there is a small percentage of citizens who are bilingual and speak indigenous languages, such as Mapudungun, Aymara, Rapa Nui, and Quechua. These languages have a very limited presence in the national curriculum, amounting to four elective courses that aim to teach the most frequently spoken languages in primary school in the areas where these languages are supposedly most common . For example, Aymara is offered in the north of the country, while Rapa Nui is only offered in Easter Island (MINEDUC, 2020).

Concerning foreign languages, the greatest effort on the part of the state, by far, has been to develop English as a foreign language. In fact, it is a compulsory subject from 5th grade onward. The state highlights that learning English has economic benefits; it is not a surprise that the visual icon of the English subject is a little piggy bank on the national curriculum website (MINEDUC, 2021d). Studies have suggested that higher English proficiency correlates to higher salaries in Chile (Lizasoain, 2018; Radnic, 2015).

3.2 Interculturality in the Chilean public school

For immigrant children, accessing intercultural education is a way to become part of the host culture without losing their own culture in the process (Gundara, 2000). Interculturality is a concept that scholars define and revise often, and indeed it has risen in prominence during the decades of the new millennium. In general terms, it is understood as the interaction among several cultures, which influence each other without any presupposed hierarchy (Gundara, 2000). UNESCO (2021) defines it as equitable interaction among cultures and the possibility of creating cultural expressions together through dialogue and respect. The Comisión de Ayuda al Refugiado de Euskadi (CEAR, 2021), meanwhile, defines interculturality as a social model based on respecting social diversity as well as promoting healthy and positive coexistence among cultures.

Concerning interculturality in the Chilean public school system, it is important to note that there are two documents from the Ministry of Education that are meant to guide the teaching practices of both pre-service and in-service teachers, as well as the curriculum of initial teacher training programs at Chilean universities: (a) The Standards for Initial Teacher Training Programs (MINEDUC, 2021e); and (b) The Framework for Good Teaching (MINEDUC, 2021f). The Standards for Initial Teacher Training Programs include three cross-curricular dimensions: (a) interculturality, (b) inclusion, and (c) gender equality, which are all new concepts for Chilean education (MINEDUC, 2021e). The Framework for Good Teaching (MINEDUC, 2021f) defines what instructors must know, be able to do, and represent as teachers. In this document, interculturality is defined as the following:

…meeting and coexistence in the classroom of students’ different cultures. Through respect on the part of the whole group, egalitarian relationships are modelled beyond any type of political, economic, or social asymmetry. (...), focusing education in such a way that the relationships between them are one of exchange, learning, etc., since they are formed in diversity and for diversity, but also in social cohesion and democratic coexistence (Giménez Romero, 2003, cited in MINEDUC, 2021f, p. 69).

In principle, the inclusion of the concept of interculturality in both guidelines is indeed a step forward in acknowledging this phenomenon in Chilean classrooms. However, the construct is only found in the most recent documents, and there seem to be no accompanying policies related to implementation. In other words, the Chilean school system urgently needs critical reforms to address interculturality in the classroom realistically and pragmatically.

4. Methodology

This study aims to inform the international educational community about Haitian immigrant students’ access and inclusion in Chilean Schools through the lens of their educators from an intercultural perspective. Our case study is focused on pre-service and in-service teachers from different school subjects and their judgments about the access and inclusion of Haitian immigrant students into the Chilean education system.

4.1 Data collection tools

We adapted an interview protocol designed by Gkaintartzi et al. (2015) to assess Greek teachers’ language ideologies concerning their multilingual students. The survey includes five subdimensions, of which we will include three in this study: (i) relationship with the immigrant community; (ii) immigrant students’ inclusion into Chilean schools; and (iii) immigrant students’ access to education. The survey was shared on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) and was also sent via institutional emails to in-service and pre-service teachers from several different schools and institutions across the country. It was challenging to find participants to answer the survey due to the stressful circumstances that teachers had been under since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

4.2 Participants

The survey was answered by 69 in-service teachers (IS group) and 34 pre-service teachers (PS group) from different school disciplines and grade levels. The IS group had an average of 9.1 years of experience while the PS were still students. In the IS group, 42% were elementary school teachers, and 40.5% were middle school teachers; the remaining 17.5% worked in preschool, special education, adult education, technical education, or as private tutors. Regarding their disciplines, 33% of this group were English teachers, 13% were mathematics teachers, 7.2% were Spanish language teachers, and 7.24% were social sciences teachers. The remaining 30.4% were distributed across various other subjects. In the PS group, 70.5% were training to be secondary school teachers, 32.35% to be primary school teachers, and the remainder to be special education or preschool teachers. Among pre-service high school teachers, 47.05% were English teachers, and 43.35% were Spanish language teachers. It is important to note that all the teachers in service had some degree of experience with Haitian students in their classes.

4.3 Data analysis tools

Due to the question types included in the survey, which were nine information questions, five dichotomous yes/no questions, and 11 open-ended questions, the survey yielded both quantitative and qualitative data. A description of the survey is included in Table 1 (below).

Table 1

Description of the survey

Type of question

Type of data

Type of analysis

Number of questions

Question number

Information questions

Teaching and linguistic profile data

Descriptive qualitative analysis



Dichotomous yes-no questions

Quatitative: nominal: 2 levels (yes-no)




Open-ended questions


Content analysis


16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

As mentioned before, in this paper, we report the results from three dimensions, whose question categories are introduced in Table 2 (below).

Table 2

Subdimensions and respective questions


Immigrant students’ access and inclusion into Chilean schools

Subdimension number

Subdimension name

Question number


Relationship with the immigrant community

15, 16, 17


Immigrant students’ inclusion into Chilean schools

18, 19, 20


Immigrant students’ access to education

22, 23, 24

In terms of the quantitative data, the only yes/no question from this dimension, which was question 15, was analyzed using descriptive statistics. Concerning the qualitative data, the eight open-ended questions were analyzed through Content Analysis. This type of analysis allowed us to explore and understand the experiences and perspectives of the participants from an emic point of view, that is, one of introspection (Creswell, 2009; Dörnyei, 2007).

4.4 Data analysis

In the following sections, we will introduce the data from this dimension, Immigrant students’ access and inclusion in Chilean schools. Specifically, this data corresponds to responses falling into Subdimension 1: Relationship with the immigrant community; Subdimension 2: Immigrant students’ inclusion in Chilean schools; and Subdimension 3: Immigrant students’ access to education.

It is important to note that many participants (47%) in the PS group were training to be English teachers, so some categories may have emerged due to their specific training in L2 acquisition; meanwhile, in the IS group, English teachers accounted for 33% of the participants. However, participants from other disciplines also answered the survey—these constitute most respondents—thus, we believe the findings are relevant at a broader level in understanding the viewpoints of in-service and pre-service teachers on the issues in question.

5. Results

5.1 Subdimension 1: Relationship with the immigrant community

Within this subdimension, we asked one dichotomous yes-no question and two open-ended questions: these were questions 15, 16, and 17, respectively. Concerning question 15, which inquired about having contact with the parents of immigrant students, we found that 44.9% of in-service teachers and 2.94 % of the pre-service teachers had established a relationship with the parents of non-Spanish-speaking students in their classrooms. These results suggest that 55% of in-service teachers and 97.05% of pre-service teachers did not have any contact with the parents of their non-Spanish-speaking students. However, the results from the pre-service and in-service teachers that reported having no contact whatsoever need to be examined carefully because of two factors: a) first, many of the intern teachers were not head teachers of the Haitian students (and therefore had no contact with their parents); and b) pre-service teachers in Chile do not conventionally interact with students’ parents.

Question 16 inquired about any pieces of advice given to the parents of non-Spanish-speaking students concerning the language used at home or the development of Spanish as an additional language. In this question, most of the answers were from in-service teachers since this was a follow-up question from question 15. The relevant categories that arose in this question were a) beliefs about the use of the L1 at home; b) beliefs about the use of the L2 at home and the development of the L2; c) beliefs about non-Spanish-speaking students’ language and their cultural identity; and d) linguistic barriers and the role of mediators/interpreters.

Regarding the first category, a) beliefs about the use of the L1 at home, we found that many in-service teachers promoted the use of Haitian Creole at home because they believed that school was the place where children should acquire Spanish as an additional language. In the second category, b) beliefs about the use of the L2 at home and the development of the L2, we observed that some in-service teachers considered that Spanish should be practised at home and that it should be the only language spoken at home; furthermore, some believed that their students’ parents should support their children’s learning process and try to use information technologies to practice the additional language at home. About this point, some teachers recommended emphasizing the production of meaningful output instead of focusing on forms such as grammatical structures to boost students’ confidence when interacting in Spanish. Notably, and concerning the development of productive skills, many teachers mentioned that since students were not attending school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they lacked meaningful and comprehensible input or opportunities for immersion in Spanish. Many also pointed out the importance of learning the target language to be part of the host society. A group of teachers also noticed that their students’ process included developing literacy both in their L1 and L2.

In terms of category c) beliefs about non-Spanish-speaking students’ language and cultural identity, in-service teachers mentioned the importance of non-Spanish-speaking students maintaining their culture and language. As for the final category, d) linguistic barriers and the role of mediators/interpreters, some teachers mentioned that it was hard to communicate with parents because they did not speak Spanish; however, their children spoke Spanish with greater proficiency and could act as mediators. In this category, the role of the Haitian cultural mediator also acquired relevance because some teachers reported not interacting directly with the parents and communicating with them through the mediator only. Even so, it seems that this option is not available at all schools because some teachers reported the use of information technologies such as translation mobile applications to communicate with students’ parents. Finally, some in-service teachers reported receiving support from the school system to establish a relationship with students’ parents but also indicated that the parents from the immigrant community tend to support one another rather than looking for help elsewhere.

Lastly, question 17 was also a follow-up to question 15 and explored the reasons for the lack of contact with the parents of non-Spanish speaking students. The relevant categories that arose in this question were a) parental absence and b) lack of opportunities. Concerning the first category, a) parental absence, some in-service teachers reported that the parents of their non-Spanish-speaking students could not actively participate in the school community due to their socioeconomic circumstances. In the second category, b) lack of opportunities, teachers reported being limited by not being the head teacher, having insufficient time to establish a relationship with students’ parents, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated circumstances, and the conditions of emergency remote teaching, which greatly restrict the ability to form relationships with students and their families. Pre-service teachers reported not being in touch with their students’ parents.

5.2 Subdimension 2: Immigrant students’ inclusion in Chilean schools

This subdimension comprised three open-ended questions: numbers 18, 19, and 20. Question 18 was focused on non-Spanish-speaking students and their problems in terms of school inclusion and educational trajectories, and the relevant categories that arose were the following: a) discrimination and interculturality issues; b) socioeconomic vulnerability; c) state, school, and teacher responsibilities; d) linguistic and social barriers; and e) problems with school trajectories.

Concerning the first category, a) discrimination and interculturality issues, both pre-service and in-service teachers expressed the belief that children mirror the prejudices of adults about Haitian immigrants, resulting in discrimination against these students by their peers. Additionally, some teachers reported a sense of fear and defensiveness from Haitian students and indicated that they believed this was related to the conditions they had experienced in Haiti and their immigrant status, which might make them feel vulnerable. In a similar vein, some teachers commented that they felt as if there were “ghettos” in their schools because Haitian students only interacted amongst themselves. In this category, the lack of tolerance from the target culture and the lack of instances to learn about the others’ cultures were also mentioned as problematic.

As for the second category, b) socioeconomic vulnerability, both the pre-service and in-service groups mentioned the socioeconomic vulnerability of the Haitian community and its impact on their access to education. Furthermore, they indicated that the pandemic had widened this gap. In the third category, c) state, school, and teacher responsibilities, both pre-service and in-service teachers reported a lack of resources at schools and a lack of professional development programs to acquire pedagogical practices to deal with interculturality at school or to learn Haitian Creole. In addition, in-service teachers mentioned the need for translators, while pre-service teachers described the ethnocentrism in the Chilean school system. In-service teachers indicated that the national curriculum is not adapted to the requirements of children from other cultures and that it does not address the teaching of Spanish as an additional language. Likewise, they reported a lack of public policies to serve non-Spanish-speaking students in the Chilean school system and the challenges this new wave of immigration has presented them with as teachers.

Regarding the fourth category, d) linguistic and cultural barriers, both pre-service and in-service teachers mentioned that students face inclusion problems due to their low competence level in Spanish as an additional language. They also emphasized that non-Spanish-speaking students’ parents cannot help their children with their academic work due to their low proficiency in Spanish. Furthermore, they stated that the language barrier also causes problems related to interaction with local students. On a similar note, in-service teachers claimed that a lack of knowledge about Chilean culture on the part of immigrant students and their families might lead to problems at school.

The fifth category that arose from this question was e) problems with school trajectories. In this category, teachers mentioned that many Haitian students had not had a continuous school trajectory due to their immigrant status and associated difficulties in including them in the local school system, which is not prepared to serve these students.

Regarding question 19, which focused on the difficulties that Haitian students or non-Spanish speaking students face in schools in general, the relevant categories that arose included the following: a) knowledge of Spanish as an additional language; b) state responsibilities; c) school and teacher responsibilities, and d) problems associated with socioeconomic conditions and inclusion.

Concerning the first category, a) knowledge of Spanish as an additional language, both pre-service and in-service teachers mentioned that language was a barrier to the acquisition of new knowledge and understanding instructions, as well as socialization with other students and teachers and the motivation to be part of the target culture. The teachers mentioned that this obstacle tended to be greater for older students, especially adolescents, and had reverberating effects on the students’ families and the overall school community. Concerning issues associated with the L2, the participants indicated that non-Spanish-speaking students do not have access to any programs to learn Spanish as an additional language. Neither the education system, the curriculum, nor the schools address this problem effectively. As a result, many non-Spanish-speaking students are discriminated against in their school communities.

In terms of the second category, b) state responsibilities, pre-service and in-service teachers agreed on the lack of resources, support, and public policies available to confront the need for the education of non-Spanish-speaking immigrant minors. For example, they mentioned the absence of professional development programs to teach Spanish as an additional language. Furthermore, both groups stated that the national school curriculum is very rigid and requires educators to develop skills and deliver knowledge that does not consider the new multicultural reality of Chilean schools.

Regarding the third category, c) school and teacher responsibilities, the main concept that emerged was the lack of support for teachers, especially for those who oversee teaching Spanish to non-Spanish-speaking students. In this sense, it was pointed out that teachers from the Spanish language subject do not coordinate with the teachers from other disciplines. In addition, participants expressed that there should be programs to train teachers for multilingual classrooms.

As for the fourth category, d) problems associated with social conditions and inclusion of the migrant community, both pre-service and in-service teachers brought up the different issues the Haitian community faces in Chile. These included the lack of knowledge about Haitian culture and language within the Chilean society, problems of inclusion due to the challenges brought on by immigration, and adaptation to the teaching methods used in Chilean schools. Some in-service teachers mentioned that Haitian students are somewhat afraid of the freedom they enjoy in Chilean classrooms; some teachers also reported that Haitian students find it strange when included in activities. In this category, both groups emphasized the socioeconomic hardships that Haitian families face in Chile and the lack of involvement of Haitian parents in their children’s schooling. Additionally, in terms of inclusion, pre-service teachers brought up the racism and prejudices the Haitian community faces in Chile.

Regarding question 20, which was focused on the relationship between non-Spanish-speaking students with Spanish-speaking students and teachers’ observations of the interaction between the dominant and the minority group both inside and outside the classroom, the relevant categories that arose included the following: a) social interaction; b) knowledge of Spanish as an additional language; c) state, school, and teacher responsibilities; and d) games and inclusion.

Concerning the first category, a) social interaction, most of the answers were from in-service teachers, although some pre-service teachers also commented on their experiences. Both groups reported that the social interaction between local and immigrant students was positive among children; the adjectives used here were good, satisfactory, welcoming, solidary, normal, respectful, collaborative, considerate, pleasant, empathetic, appropriate, friendly, and cordial. However, these answers seemed to refer primarily to children as opposed to adolescents because several teachers indicated that among children, there had been no issues and that in primary school, they usually did not encounter any acts of racism or bullying. However, with progressing grade levels, they noticed a gap that, according to them, originated from cultural differences. Also, some teachers indicated that while inclusion and interculturality had been achieved on certain occasions, these represented the minority of cases and had occurred only in primary school.

The other categories that arose from this question included b) knowledge of Spanish as an additional language and c) state, school, and teacher responsibilities. In-service teachers reported the importance of learning Spanish as an additional language. Likewise, they emphasized the role of the state in changing the curriculum and available methodologies and the responsibility of schools and teachers in achieving a higher level of interculturality.

The final category that arose from this question was d) games and inclusion; notably, games were seen by some teachers as playing an important role in classroom inclusion. Many in-service teachers claimed that the highest inclusion levels were achieved during classroom game activities. In this regard, the teachers also commented on the detrimental effects of the pandemic, which diminished the opportunities for students to engage in ludic activities. Concerning games and inclusion, pre-service teachers also mentioned the value of these activities in promoting interculturality.

5.3. Subdimension 3: Immigrant students’ access to education

By access to education, we refer to the understanding and learning of the disciplinary contents of the school: mathematics, science, history, etc. In this subdimension, we asked three open-ended questions: questions 22, 23, and 24. Question 22, which was focused on how teachers can help their non-Spanish-speaking students during their schooling, produced the following categories: a) knowledge of Spanish as an additional language; b) social interaction through cultural exchange; c) learning Haitian language and culture, and d) teaching through interculturality and the role of the state.

In terms of the first category, a) knowledge of Spanish as an additional language, both pre-service and in-service teachers mentioned the importance of learning Spanish as an additional language on the part of immigrant students and parents and the role the school system should take in offering them opportunities through workshops or special tutoring. Meanwhile, concerning the category b) social interaction, in-service teachers pointed out the importance of creating intercultural spaces, such as fairs, games, and learning opportunities within the classroom, in which teachers act as facilitators with the support of schools. In the third category, c) learning Haitian language and culture, the main concept that arose from the answers of both pre-service and in-service teachers was the need for training and professional development program opportunities to enable educators to more effectively include and welcome students from other cultures and mediate cultural differences.

In the final category, d) teaching through interculturality and the role of the state, in-service teachers emphasized the need for state support and involvement to promote effective intercultural solutions. They also indicated the need for more educators and other professionals in intercultural relationships to help and work with non-Spanish-speaking students and the importance of including the parents of immigrant children in the educational community. Finally, both pre-service and in-service teachers brought up the need for different teaching methods to teach from a perspective of interculturality in the classroom. For example, some teachers indicated that it was crucial to be more attentive to immigrant students’ needs and to design their classes using different types of teaching strategies in turn. Meanwhile, some mentioned that teachers should not make any distinctions when addressing non-Spanish-speaking students during class and that they should opt for providing non-Spanish-speaking students with additional materials so they can learn Spanish as an additional language autonomously. Some teachers expressed that using information technologies could help in this matter, a topic that was often connected to the value of including games in the classroom to achieve social inclusion.

Regarding question 23, which was focused on gauging whether our participants considered the pandemic to have affected their Spanish and non-Spanish-speaking students in the same way and why the relevant categories that arose were a) precarious access to education; b) socioeconomic vulnerability; c) social interaction; and d) emergency remote teaching.

Regarding the first category, a) precarious access to education, some teachers indicated that they believed the COVID-19 pandemic had affected all students in the same manner. However, some pre-service and in-service teachers claimed that the most affected students were those from immigrant communities since they had lost touch with their teachers and classmates, causing their Spanish language competence to stagnate. Furthermore, they indicated that even those immigrant students who did have regular access to emergency remote teaching experienced problems understanding their teachers and classmates and did not receive feedback.

In the second category, b) socioeconomic vulnerability, we found that in-service teachers consistently reported that immigrant students’ families, especially Haitian students, lacked the material and economic resources to access emergency remote teaching; many did not have an internet connection or a computer at home. Furthermore, since most Haitian children attend chronically underfunded institutions, their schools do not have the necessary resources to solve their Internet connection problems. In this regard, some teachers believe that school establishments should provide students with the resources needed to participate in emergency remote teaching. Additionally, teachers reported that many families lost their livelihoods and their means of generating income because of the pandemic. In some cases, this has caused adolescents to drop out of school to work or to take care of their younger siblings so their parents could work or look for new employment.

Concerning the third category, c) social interaction, pre-service and in-service teachers mentioned that opportunities for socialization had been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and that this had affected all students in the same manner, considering that building a relationship with peers is crucial for social and cultural development in general. Meanwhile, concerning d) emergency remote teaching, in-service teachers reported that students were often distracted during remote teaching and that this method did not allow for effective or stable communication. Even so, some teachers reported that when students did have access to an Internet connection and a computer, technology could help mitigate teachers’ workload.

In terms of question 24, which was focused on a solution for the problems of the pandemic in school, especially for the most vulnerable students, the relevant categories that arose were a) teacher, school, and parent responsibilities; b) connectivity; c) state responsibility; and d) mental health. Concerning the first category, a) teacher, school, and parent responsibilities, pre-service and in-service teachers mentioned the need for building teams of different professionals to address the inclusion of Haitian students, which the school community should likewise integrate. Some also stated that it is important for clear guidelines to exist in teaching and learning and that the people in charge should act upon the different situations they face instead of resourcing to bureaucracy. Teachers also discussed the need for collaborative networks to ensure effective and engaged educational processes. In addition, they mentioned the need to adjust their teaching practices, as well as the necessity of implementing remedial programs and the inclusion of Haitian Creole and Haitian culture in the school system. In addition, pre-service teachers highlighted the need to encourage parents to have greater responsibility for their children’s education.

In the second category, b) connectivity, pre-service and in-service teachers both declared the need to have access to material resources such as software, free Internet connections, computers, and other relevant digital devices and services.

Concerning the third category, c) state responsibility, teachers indicated that the role of the Ministry of Education should be to deliver resources to students and adjust the school curriculum to focus on what is important in today’s context. In this respect, some teachers stated that the solution must come from the state, not from educators, contradicting the perspective of others mentioned previously. Specifically, some teachers insisted that the state should assume its responsibility concerning plurilingual classrooms and the effective inclusion of non-Spanish-speaking students in schools nationwide. This should result in inclusion programs, improved initial teacher training, and the creation and enforcement of better public policies. According to these teachers, the state should begin to genuinely take on this issue, which has so far been left unresolved and at the discretion of each educational institution.

Finally, relative to the fourth category, d) mental health, teachers indicated that academic pressure and mental health were something the state and the school system must address following the COVID-19 pandemic. In this sense, teachers mentioned the new political constitution currently in preparation in Chile and the need to consider quality and equality concerning access to education, especially considering immigrant communities. They also mentioned the need to focus on key issues that correspond to childhood and adolescence.

6. Conclusions

We must first note that our findings exhibit an emergent reality in Chile, but one that is not yet global. These results can be viewed as good news because they show that we still have time to make changes before the situation becomes even more critical regarding the shifting school environment and interculturality. We identified key issues through three emergent categories: the relationship between the teachers and the immigrant community, immigrant students’ inclusion in schools, and immigrant students’ access to quality education. In sum, teachers and immigrants strongly desire to communicate. However, the lack of a common language is a barrier that nobody knows how to overcome. In this line, students are integrated into schools, but – although teachers do their best to include them effectively – the current circumstances do not smooth the way. The most challenging issue is the lack of education in-service teachers have received to educate immigrant students, let alone students who do not speak the language of instruction. In consequence, access to quality education is nothing but a chimera.

Notwithstanding, it is encouraging to discover that many Chilean teachers and teachers-to-be think that Haitian students’ L1 must be respected and valued positively, contrary to what Gkaintartzi et al. (2015) found in Greece. These results show respect for the culture of origin and, consequently, are a good basis for interculturality. Besides, they help Haitian students build a positive self-image in a context that makes it difficult for them to learn at the same pace as Chilean students.

In relation to interculturality, another encouraging finding is teachers’ awareness of their need for more training in L2 teaching and learning. Many recognized that interculturality allows for access to different cultures and, consequently, different languages. This, in turn, facilitates the learning of the second language. In concrete, some teachers, especially pre-service teachers, thought it would be desirable to know more about the Haitian language(s) and culture, which is in line with proposals for interculturality in CEAR (2021), Gundara (2000), and UNESCO (2021). Knowing their language(s) would facilitate communication and, therefore, learning. However, teachers cannot train themselves; quite on the contrary, Chile needs to develop sound educational and linguistic policies to respond to immigrant students and take steps to offer quality education to all students whether they speak Spanish or not. Universities must also take action to update their curricula and prepare teachers to face an increasingly difficult school context.

Teachers’ perceptions coincide with our positioning that Haitian students must learn Spanish. First, it is impossible to access new knowledge in a monolingual classroom setting without speaking the language of instruction, and institutionalized knowledge is fundamental in any society. Interaction is essential for learning, especially for learning a language; therefore, if students or teachers cannot interact, language will not be developed. The opposite produces discrimination, poverty, and isolation. Spanish, then, is of utmost importance to participate in the host community (Lewis et al., 2017; Hawkins & Cannon, 2017; Lizasoain & Toledo, 2020; Toledo Vega et al. 2020, 2021a; 2021b).

The study also reveals that one of our intuitions was true: young children have fewer problems with acquiring the host language and social interaction than adolescents, which was why we chose to work with the latter in our macro-project (Lizasoain & Toledo, 2020). Adolescents have a more urgent need to be included effectively in school since they are close to leaving the school community and facing adult life. Without the host language, they will probably be doomed to social and economic exclusion (Hawkins & Cannon, 2017; Kanno, 2003; 2004).

To sum up, Haitian students are integrated but not included in Chilean schools. That is, they are allowed to be in the classroom and sit on a chair, but they have few opportunities to participate in classroom interactions to develop knowledge and skills. The main obstacle is language: teachers do not speak students’ language(s), and students do not speak Spanish, which is the language of instruction at Chilean schools. Understanding is key to being included. Interculturality needs to become a reality in Chilean classrooms, and for this to occur, we need both linguistic and social policies and training for the entire educational system.


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