The preliminary results of the Venezuelan government’s National Consultation for Quality in Education were released this week, underlining the advances and existing challenges facing the Bolivarian education model.
The consultation, held between April – June this year, received input from over 7.2 million individuals nationwide, including students, teachers and parents. The aim was to evaluate views and experiences of the country’s education system and how it could be improved in the future.
On Tuesday at a meeting with education professionals in Caracas, Education Minister Hector Rodriguez presented the preliminary results of the consultation.
The minister reported that overall pupils and the wider population put great value on the school and education, both as an individual, family and community benefit.
Positive feedback was given on the Bolivarian school model as a means of improving education, as well as other policies and programs employed to increase educational enrollment from pre-school to university.
“Teachers and families support the Bolivarian schools as an educational model,” tweeted Rodriguez after the meeting.
Officials also used the occasion to highlight the gains made in educational inclusion under the Bolivarian government from 1999 – present. In this period pre-school enrollment has gone from 43.4 to 70.7%, primary attendance from 85 to 92.2%, and secondary from 47.7 to 75.1%.
Meanwhile higher education enrollment has increased from under 900,000 students in 2000 to almost 2.5 million by 2009, making Venezuela the country with the 5th highest university matriculation rate in the world according to UNESCO.
Public education, including at university level, is free in Venezuela. Several social programs also exist to provide school textbooks and Canaima laptops to all schoolchildren free of charge.
The consultation also highlighted a range of areas where further improvement was needed. One was to further increase educational enrollment, with an estimated 775,000 children and young people still outside the education system, concentrated particularly in the pre-school and secondary ages.
In a speech described as “honest” by the anti-government newspaper El Nacional, Minister Rodriguez also said that there was a widespread perception that the quality of teaching in the country’s schools needs improvement. A majority of those consulted felt this was more important than changing curricula for improving education.
“Students and families want teachers and other school workers to be role models for their children. They all feel that teacher training must be improved…there are 66 universities, with a lot of dispersion and poor quality in some cases,” he said.
Other issues expressed in the consultation were the need to improve school infrastructure, do more to tackle violence and bullying, and make educational centres less “vertical” and more democratic.
Hector Rodriguez said that the consultation’s findings would be incorporated into education policy and brought to education centres so that the government could receive continued input and feedback.
“The idea is to turn this photograph into a new dynamic that allows us to change and improve things. Despite the fact that education is currently better than the 80s and 90s…we must continue to join together in moving the country toward the construction of a just, free and sovereign nation that develops its maximum potential,” he declared.