antiago, February 21: Chilean Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre has said the government will start providing free higher education in 2016.
"President Michelle Bachelet has clearly said that free education will begin in 2016, and we are going to honour that promise," Eyzaguirre said Thursday.
"We are going to present to Congress sometime this year a bill to finance and regulate higher education," Xinhua quoted Eyzaguirre as saying.
Regardless of the outcome of the legislative debate, "what is given is that in 2016 completely free education will begin", the minister said.
On Thursday, two weeks before the start of the 2015 school year here, the minister was supervising the distribution of textbooks, which are provided free to more than 11,300 public and private schools in the country.
Secondary and university students in Chile first protested the high cost of education in 2011, during the administration of former president Sebastian Pinera. The protests, the largest the country has seen since the demonstrations that put an end to the military dictatorship in 1990, led Pinera to leave office in 2014.
His successor, Michelle Bachelet, made the students' demands for accessible quality education a major priority of her government programme.