Chilean police arrested more than 70 students in Santiago in the biggest protest so far this year over the country's education system.

The students were joined by parents, professors and labour union members, who took to the streets of the capital to protest over the country's education system.

As the protesters marched, chanting and holding banners, clashes soon erupted with the country's security forces.

Police responded by using water cannons and tear gas, with reports suggesting that at least 70 people were arrested.

Unions said at least 100,000 protesters took part in the demonstration, while police estimated the turnout to be around 20,000.

Protests were also reported in other parts of the country.

Despite a crackdown, students have pledged to continue to protest until the Chilean government, led by conservative president Sebastian Pinera, passes reforms that guarantee free, quality education for all Chileans.

Under the regime of Gen Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile by a military dictatorship from 1973-1990, funding for public higher education was slashed by more than half, as the development of private, for-profit universities was encouraged. Students have continued to incur debts as a result ever since.

Although Pinera had promised to introduce university reforms, the students lost patience with the growing inequality that they saw instead.

Tensions between protesters and police have continued to escalate since mass demonstrations began last year, with the police increasingly accusing students of being violent and aggressive.

Last year there were more than 40 demonstrations calling for the reform of the country's education system.

The government has proposed to create a state organisation to administer student loans, with provisions to reduce interest on loans to 2 percent and for students to pay back a maximum of 10 percent of their annual salary once they start work.