Bolivarian Education in Venezuela
I never heard the words “accountability” or “high stakes testing” once in a recent educator delegation to Venezuela. As a U.S. professor of teacher education, I seldom have discussions about education policies and realities in my own country without confronting these fraught concepts. But in the schools and educational systems of Venezuela? Not part of the discussion.
The dialogue there is more about education as a human right and what the government is responsible to provide. It’s not about outcomes, as we might say, but more about access and opportunity. What our small group from the U.S. encountered was a wealth of testimonials, not testing.
We also learned about some very concrete and positive results that have occurred since President Chavez began addressing the country’s widespread illiteracy and lack of access to schooling upon being elected to office in 1998. For example, by 2005, UNESCO declared that Venezuela had essentially eradicated illiteracy, with over 1.5 million people having newly learned to read and write, primarily through a Cuban-developed curriculum and pedagogical approach. The rate of secondary school enrollment rose from 53.6% in 2000 to 73.3% in 2011. Recently, UNESCO put Venezuela in 5th place in the world for the percentage of people enrolled in higher education – in second place in Latin America, behind Cuba. Public education in Venezuela is free for all, from pre-school through university, with free meals and transportation also provided.