Education in Venezuela

Education in Venezuela is regulated by the Venezuelan Ministry of Education. In 2010, Venezuela ranked 59th of 128 countries on UNESCO's Education for all Development Index.[1]

Nine years of education are compulsory. The school year extends from September to June–July.

Under the social programs of the Bolivarian Revolution, a number of Bolivarian Missions focus on education, including Mission Robinson (primary education including literacy), Mission Ribas (secondary education) and Mission Sucre (higher education).


Education in colonial Venezuela was neglected compared to other parts of the Spanish Empire which were of greater economic interest. The first university in Venezuela, now the Central University of Venezuela, was established in 1721. Education at all levels was limited in both quality and quantity, and wealthy families sought education through private tutors, travel, and the study of works banned by the Empire.[2] Examples include the independence leader Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) and his tutor Simón Rodríguez (1769–1854), and the educator Andrés Bello (1781–1865).[3] Rodríguez, who drew heavily on the educational theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was described by Bolívar as the "Socrates of Caracas".[3]

Free and compulsory education for ages 7 to 14 was established by decree on 27 June 1880, under President Antonio Guzmán Blanco, and was followed by the creation of the Ministry of Public Instruction in 1881, also under Guzmán Blanco.[4] In 15 years from 1870, the number of primary schools quadrupled to nearly 2000 and the enrolment of children expanded ten-fold, to nearly 100,000.[5]

In the early twentieth century, education was substantially neglected under the dictator Juan Vicente Gómez, despite the explosion of oil wealth. A year after his death, only 35% of the school-age population was enrolled, and the national literacy rate was below 20%.[6] In 1928 a student revolt, though swiftly put down, saw the birth of the Generation of 1928, which formed the core of the democracy movement of later years.

Educational stages

Primary and secondary education

In 2007 primary education enrollment was around 93%.[1] Many children under five attend a preschool. Children are required to attend school from the age of six. They attend primary school until they are eleven. They are then promoted to the second level of basic education, where they stay until they are 14 or 15. Public school students usually attend classes in shifts. Some go to school from early in the morning until about 1:30pm and others attend from early afternoon until about 6:00pm. All schoolchildren wear uniforms. Although education is mandatory for children, some poor children do not attend school because they must work to support their families.

Venezuelan education starts at the preschool level, and can be roughly divided into Nursery (ages below 4) and Kindergarten (ages 4–6). Students in Nursery are usually referred to as "yellow shirts", after the color of uniform they must wear according to the Uniform Law, while students in Kindergarten are called "red shirts".

Basic education comprises grades 1 through 6, and lacks a general governing programme outside of the Math curriculum. English is taught at a basic level throughout Basic education. Students are referred to as "white shirts". Upon completing Basic education, students are given a Basic Education Certificate.

Middle education (grades 7-9) explores each one of the sciences as a subject and algebra. English education continues and schools may choose between giving Ethics or Catholic Religion. Students are referred to as "blue shirts". Venezuelans cannot choose their classes.

Once a student ends 9th grade, they enter Diversified education, so called because the student must choose between studying either humanities or the sciences for the next two years. This choice usually determines what majors they can opt for at the college level. Students are referred to as "beige shirts". Upon completing Diversified education (11th grade), students are given the title of Bachiller en Ciencias (literally, Bachelor of the Sciences) or Bachiller en Humanidades (literally, Bachelor of Humanities). Some schools may include professional education, and instead award the title of Técnico en Ciencias (literally, Technician of the Sciences).

Socialist learning

Under the Bolivarian government, the Venezuelan Ministry of Education proposed an educational curriculum that would help establish a socialist country.[7] On 14 May 1969, the President Hugo Chavez approved lists of books for schools to educate young citizens on socialist ideology. The "Revolutionary Eating Plan" was to feature theorist Karl Marx, revolutionary Che Guevara, and liberator Simon Bolivar. According to Venezuela's culture ministry, the compulsory book list is being designed to help schoolchildren eliminate "capitalist thinking" and better understand the ideas and values "necessary to build a socialist country."[8]

In 2011, the governments "Bolivarian" textbooks began to use socialist learning.[9] According to the Associated Press, pro-government messages were "scattered through the pages of Venezuela's textbooks".[9] Math problems included fractions involving government food programs, practiced English by "reciting where late President Hugo Chavez was born and learn civics by explaining why the elderly should give him thanks".[9] The Venezuelan government released 35 million books to primary and secondary schools called the Bicentennial Collection, which have "political content" in each book, that over 5 million children had used between 2010 and 2014.[10]

According to Leonardo Carvajal of the Assembly of Education in Venezuela, the collection of books had "become a vulgar propaganda".[10] Venezuelan historian Inés Quintero stated that in all social science books, "there is an abuse of history, ... a clear trend favoring the current political project and the political programs of the Government".[10] Geometry professor Tomas Guardia of the Central University of Venezuela stated that "the math textbook is so problematic, there's a good chance this book is also full of errors and propaganda" after he spent months observing math textbooks noting simple errors, such as calling a shape with four sides a square when it could also be a rectangle or a rhombus.[9] According to the Center of Reflection and Education Planning (CERPE) from a 2014 study by Alfredo Keller y Asociados, 77% of Venezuelans rejected the implementation of education based on a socialist ideology.[11]

State of Miranda within the PISA programme

The government of the state of Miranda joined the PISA programme in 2010 and the first results were published in December 2011. Initial results show pupils in schools managed by the regional government achieved a mean score of 422 on the PISA reading literacy scale, the same level Mexico got.[12]

Higher education

Murals by Alejandro Otero, declared world heritage,[13] at the Central University of Venezuela, the largest University in the country.

Venezuela has more than 90 institutions of higher education, with 860,000 students in 2002. Higher education remains free under the 1999 constitution and was receiving 35% of the education budget, even though it accounted for only 11% of the student population. More than 70% of university students come from the wealthiest quintile of the population. To address this problem, instead of improving primary and secondary education, the government established the Bolivarian University system in 2003, which was designed to democratize access to "higher education" by offering heavily politicised study programmes to the public with only minimal entrance requirements. Autonomous public universities have had their operational budgets frozen by the state since 2004, and staff salaries frozen since 2008 despite inflation of 20-30% annually.

Higher education institutions are traditionally divided into Technical Schools and Universities. Technical schools award the student with the title of Técnico Superior Universitario (University Higher Technician) after completing a three-year programme. Universities award the student with the title of Licenciado (Bachelor) or Ingeniero (Engineer) amongst many others, according to the career and after completing a five-year programme in most of the cases. Some higher education institutions may award Diplomados (Specializations) but the time necessary to obtain one varies.

Post-graduate education follows conventions of the United States (being named "Master's" and "Doctorate" after the programs there).

According to the QS Latin American University Rankings 2014 the top 5 universities in Venezuela are: #1 "Universidad Central de Venezuela", #2 "Universidad Simon Bolivar", #3 the Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, #4 "Universidad de Los Andes" in Mérida and #5 "Universidad Metropolitana de Caracas".

In 2009 the government passed a law to establish a national standardised university entrance examination system, replacing public universities' internal entrance examinations. Some universities have rejected the new system as it creates difficulties for planning. The system has still not been formally implemented by the State.[14]

National Intake System reform

In 2015, Venezuela reformed the National Intake System and gave the government total power to award positions to students in public universities. Also with the reform to the system, other variables were introduced by the Bolivarian government that made it more difficult for students who do not have a lower-class background to find a position in a public university. The reform proved controversial, with protests and accusations that the reform was ideological in nature resulting. According to Quartz, the Bolivarian government reform "disregards several Venezuelan legal precedents", including constitutional laws.[15]


In the 1970s when Venezuela was experiencing huge growth from oil sales, the literacy rate increased from 77% to 93%.[16]

In 2007, of Venezuelans aged 21 and older, 95.2% could read and write, one of the highest literacy rates in the region. The literacy rate in 2007 was estimated to be 95.4% for males and 94.9% for females.[17] In 2008, Francisco Rodríguez of Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Daniel Ortega of IESA stated that there was “little evidence” of “statistically distinguishable effect on Venezuelan illiteracy” during the Chávez administration.[18] The Venezuelan government claimed that it had taught 1.5 million Venezuelans to read,[19] but the study found that "only 1.1m were illiterate to begin with" and that the illiteracy reduction of less than 100,000 can be attributed to adults that were elderly and died.[18]

Exodus of education professionals and graduates

For more details on this topic, see Bolivarian diaspora.

Educational professionals

In 2014, reports emerged showing a high number of education professionals taking flight from educational positions in Venezuela along with the millions of other Venezuelans that had left the country during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, according to Iván de la Vega, a sociologist at Simón Bolívar University. According to the Association of Professors, the Central University of Venezuela lost around 700 faculty members between 2011 and 2012 with most being considered the next generation of professors. About 240 faculty members also quit at Simón Bolívar University. The reason for emigration is reportedly due to the high crime rate in Venezuela and inadequate pay.[20] According to Claudio Bifano, president of the Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, most of Venezuela's "technology and scientific capacity, built up over half a century" had been lost during Hugo Chávez's presidency. Bifano acknowledges the large funds and scientific staff, but states that the output of those scientists had dropped significantly. Bifano reports that between 2008 and 2012, international journals declined by 40%; with journals matching the same number as 1997, when Venezuela had about a quarter of scientists. He also says that more than half of medical graduates of 2013 had left the country.[21]

According to El Nacional, the flight of educational professionals resulted in a shortage of teachers in Venezuela. Director of the Centre for Cultural Research and Education, Mariano Herrera, estimated that there was a shortage of about 40% of teachers for mathematics and science classes. Some teachers and schools resulted to teaching multiple classes, and passing students out of convenience. The Venezuelan government seeks to curb the shortage of teachers through the Simón Rodríguez Micromission by cutting the graduation requirements of educational professional to 2 years.[22]

College graduates

In a study titled Venezolana Community Abroad. A New Method of Exile by Thomas Paez, Mercedes Vivas and Juan Rafael Pulido of the Central University of Venezuela, over 1.5 million Venezuelans, between 4% and 6% of the Venezuela's population, left the country following the Bolivarian Revolution; more than 90% of those who left were college graduates, with 40% holding a Master's degree and 12% having a doctorates and post doctorates.[23][24] The study used official verification of data from outside of Venezuela and surveys from hundreds of former Venezuelans.[23] Of those involved in the study, reasons for leaving Venezuela included lacking of freedom, high levels of insecurity and lacking opportunity in the country.[23][24] Paez also explains how some parents in Venezuela tell their children to leave the country out of protection due to the insecurities Venezuelans face.[23]

See also


  1. 1 2, 27 January 2010, UNESCO: Education in Venezuela Has Greatly Improved
  2. Sanchez (1963:12-14)
  3. 1 2 Sanchez (1963:15-16)
  4. Sanchez (1963:19)
  5. Sanchez (1963:20)
  6. Sanchez, George I. (1963), The Development of Education in Venezuela, Office of Education (DHEW), Washington, DC., page v
  7. "Rechazan padres de familia adoctrinamiento educativo en Venezuela". Yahoo Noticias. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  8. Chavez Launches Revolutionary Reading Plan in Venezuela The Financial, 15 May 2009
  9. 1 2 3 4 Dreier, Hannah (7 January 2015). "Venezuelan Textbooks Teach Math, Science, Socialism". Associated Press. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  10. 1 2 3 Clarembaux, Patricia (24 June 2014). "Denuncian adoctrinamiento chavista en la educación infantil". Infobae. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  11. "El 77% de los venezolanos está en contra de la educación socialista". Infobae. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  12. PISA Programme 2011 results
  13. "Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas". World Heritage List. Unesco. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  14., 17 March 2010, Violence and Discrimination Rise in Opposition-Controlled Venezuelan Universities
  15. Martin, Sabrina (2 June 2015). "Venezuela's new university admissions criteria favor government supporters". Quartz. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  16. Nelson, Brian A. (2009). The silence and the scorpion: the coup against Chávez and the making of modern Venezuela (Online ed.). New York: Nation Books. pp. 1–3. ISBN 1568584180.
  17. UNESCO, Education in Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
  18. 1 2 "Propaganda, not policy". The Economist. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  19. Márquez, Humberto (28 October 2005). "Venezuela se declara libre de analfabetismo" (in Spanish). Inter Press Service. Retrieved 29 December 2006.
  20. Small Carmona, Andrea. "Poor conditions blamed for Venezuelan scientist exodus". SciDev. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  21. "Capacity building: Architects of South American science" (PDF). Nature. 510: 212. 12 June 2014. doi:10.1038/510209a. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  22. Montilla K., Andrea (4 July 2014). "Liceístas pasan de grado sin cursar varias materias". El Nacional. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Maria Delgado, Antonio (28 August 2014). "Venezuela agobiada por la fuga masiva de cerebros". El Nuevo Herald. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  24. 1 2 "El 90% de los venezolanos que se van tienen formación universitaria". El Impulso. 23 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
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