Targets, threats and (dis)trust: The managerial troika for public school principals in Chile

Carmen Montecinos, Luis Ahumada, Sergio Galdames, Fabián Campos, María Verónica Leiva


Public education in Chile has been steadily losing students as a result of the implementation, for the last 35 years, of a market model. In this paper we exemplify how a structural problem (public schools’ declining enrollment) created by neoliberal educational policies is transformed into an individual problem to be managed by the public school principal. Principals must sign a performance-based contract that specifies sanctions and incentives for meeting enrollment targets. The current paper examines, through data produced by in-depth interviews and shadowing, how 19 principals worked toward that target. Findings show that to manage enrollment principals spent, on average, 24% of their time performing marketing tasks. Principals, thus, have developed an entrepreneurial self, which is promoted by quasi-market school governance models. Through this entrepreneurship they manage various threats that represent barriers to the possibilities for meeting enrollment targets.


Politics of education; educational policy; neoliberalism; new public management; school principals; professional identity

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