Cursive handwriting is the first writing style that children learn, either together with print letters or on its own. This style was traditionally taught to teachers at teacher training schools called Escuelas Normales.
Ley General de Educación, or the General Education Law, provides legal framework to the Chilean education system. It was ratified in 2009 superseding the Ley Orgánica Constitucional de Educación, or the Organic Constitutional Law on Education (LOCE). The education system has a hybrid structure where public and private institutions interact. The state provides a system of education vouchers that are paid directly to the schools based on daily pupil attendance. Schools can be public or private. Private schools can obtain partial state funding if they reserve a proportion of seats for students from low income households.
Education is divided into four levels: parvulario, or preschool (6 months– 6 years), básico, or **basic (7–4 years old), medio, or middle (15–18 years old), and adulto, or adult. School attendance is compulsory from kinder (6 years old), or the last year of parvulario, to the end of middle school.
The Currículum Nacional de Chile, or the National Curriculum of Chile, website provides a substantial amount of educational resources for students, and guidelines for teachers. Even though the importance of cursive handwriting for children’s development is emphasised on the website in a document titled La letra cursiva, or The cursive letter, the downloadable resources contain only limited samples of this style.
Cursive handwriting is the first style that children start learning. This can be as early as kinder (6 years old), either together with print letters, or on its own. Publishing companies create schoolbooks, and participate in a public bid process to obtain government contracts for the printing and distribution of millions of schoolbooks each year.
Training teachers at Escuelas Normales
The most common style of handwriting taught in Chile is the letra ligada, or joined letters. It is a slant-less derivative from English roundhand, a calligraphy style developed in England in the late 17th century that became very popular from the 18th century, when it also spread across Europe, and crossed the Atlantic to the Americas.
In Chile, cursive handwriting was taught to prospective teachers at the Escuelas Normales, or Normal Schools. Escuelas Normales were founded in 1842 with the objective of training teachers for primary schools. They were based on similar institutions established in France by Juan-Baptiste de La Salle in the early 17th century. The Escuelas Normales saw their decline and eventual elimination in 1974 due to the educational reforms that began in 1965, including the creation of a special course called Formación de Profesores Primarios, or Primary Teachers Formation, by the University of Chile and other academic institutions. But the influence of continuous cursive writing on handwriting education in the country is one of their lasting legacies.
It is unclear how and when the letra ligada letterforms lost their slant. Still, structural similarities between this style and its calligraphic precursor can be recognized. Local type designers agree that the general structure of letters remains quite similar to English roundhand, and aside from the features mentioned above, there are some differences in proportions, the ascenders and descenders are often shorter, and uppercase letters are constructed with less ornamentation. This, they suggest, is the case in contemporary typographic and calligraphic samples alike.
Private publishing companies, which participate in public bids by the government for the production of schoolbooks, usually hire education specialists and school teachers to help develop the typefaces used in their publications. These typefaces continue the tradition of handwriting that was formed at the Escuelas Normales.