We went back sixty years in regards of public education.
Last Tuesday at Universidad Central de Venezuela’s, the Center for Education Research of the Faculty of Education published its latest edition of “The State of the Educational Question”, an in-depth, complete analysis of the number of figures that make up the status of education in Venezuela.
Published yearly since 1993 by UCV’s School of Education, this 95-page long report compiles data since 1958 to present date and analyses extensively the facts and figures that are made available to the public by the Ministry of Education, giving an insider’s look at how the educational system of Venezuela behaves on all aspects: Insertion/desertion rate, efficacy, literacy, college, grad school and doctoral studies.
The country went back sixty years in matters of education, since all the efforts by past administrations were discarded, the educational system was reformed to serve a political agenda, and the investment made in education was inefficient, expensive and full of manipulation to serve domestic and foreign propagandistic interests with the intention to portray Hugo Chávez’s socialist venezuelan paradise as a bulwark for free, compulsory, and high quality education.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The report reads:
“Hyperinflation suffocates venezuelan citizens, blocking the possibility for access to education within a social environment that’s insalubrious and blighted by starvation and high crime rates.”
Also the report gives information on the state commission assigned by Hugo Chávez to come up with a new educational curriculum that was designed from A-to-Z with the intention of setting up a hegemonic ideological educational system inspired by the likes of Cuba, the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic. The progressive reformulation of school and technical curriculums were tailored to accommodate the most invasive brainwashing ever to be implanted in the history of Venezuela. While the report doesn’t state blatantly that the plan for cultural and educational domination of the country by means of indoctrination of its youth, the implications of this document are a key element to decode the most obscure intentions of the communist regime that holds hostage the citizens of Venezuela.
The beginnings: Misión Robinson, Fidel Castro’s plan to poison the venezuelan educational system.
The takeover of the educational institutions has always been a priority for chavismo. The early revolutionary agitation began with the inusual infiltration of marxist ideals in the barracks of the Military Academy of Venezuela, the indoctrination process of cadets and middle ranking officers were the first seeds of a Gramscian process of infiltration devised by Fidel Castro and guerrilla leader Douglas Bravo.
In 1998, a book publishing a series of interviews of Hugo Chávez by Agustín Blanco Muñoz outlined the series of steps that the former military rebel and his group that lead two bloody coups in 1992 were going to take in order to seize the reins of leadership of what was once the hemisphere’s most stable democratic system.
For Chávez and his cronies, the revolutionary process –el proceso-as he called it was partly reform and partly revolution.
Reform and revolution:
Years ago some people outlined “reform or revolution”. I think I see this process as one that moves forward and sometimes it has to go back, or sometimes it seems as it were moving, depending on where you’re positioned. It is a process indeed. It either recedes and hides, as a rising wind. […] It is a phase and it will depend on many other factors that are outside our reach, several intervening variables. […] I like to use the example of a sailor that goes with his map and compass. I don’t know anything but the map. I want to get there, and if I don’t find a way because I ran into a cliff, lacking a rope, a parachute or an alternate way, I will find a shortcut. What’s important is that I am aware that I am walking in an opposite direction for a certain time. I don’t know for how long. Until I find or make a way to seek the proper direction. This isn’t a dichotomy, it’s gradual, by phases, sequential program with different conditions that favor, delay or push forward a revolutionary process, one of transformation, which has no end.
-Hugo Chavez, september 25th, 1997. In an interview for Agustín Blanco Muñoz’s book “Habla el Comandante”
Blanco Muñoz book was written as a warning, but due to the rising popularity of Hugo Chávez the book became a best-seller amongst his followers and Blanco Muñoz, a respected historian and academic was unfairly deemed a propagandist.
After his election in 1998, Chávez set out to reform the Constitution and the structure of the venezuelan government apparatus, using the legislative branch to intervene the Highest Courts and granting himself extraordinary powers to reshape every aspect of the public office. And that’s exactly what he did when in 2001 the passed Act number 1011, an educational bill which reformed the way in which the Ministry of Education was to oversee the public and private aspects of elementary schools and high schools in Venezuela. Thousands of parents took the streets to demonstrate against what they called “a cubanization of our educational system”, chanting the now iconic “con mis hijos no te metas- don’t mess with my children” and several lawsuits were filed by angered parents and private education lobbyists.
This didn’t stop chavismo from trying to get its claws upon the most innocent.
In 2003, Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro came up with the concept of Misiones, (missions) as a “model of direct administration of revolutionary public policy” and along with the infiltration of cuban spies disguised as medical personnel into venezuelan soil, the cuban government also provided the technical aspects of a project to tackle illiteracy at all levels. “Misión Robinson” enters the stage.
An ideological curriculum was drafted by the government elite, the presidential commission was composed of five members, three of them served or were active in the military with close proximity to Hugo Chávez during his years conspiring against venezuelan democracy, as well as during his incarceration. Farruco Sexto, Teresa Maniglia, Enrique Ramos, Virgilio Lameda and Eliecer Otaiza were the initial members of that presidential commission that drafted the outlines of Misión Robinson with the help of Cubans appointed by Fidel Castro.
The work they produced was not one to help fight illiteracy, but, as the report states “it is the biggest pedagogical lie ever told” because ever since its implementation, Misión Robinson was used as a propaganda tool to spread lies and deceit regarding Venezuela’s educational programs.
On October 28, 2005, the Venezuelan government stated that the United Nations Organization for Science, Education and Culture vouched for the fact that the government had allegedly eradicated illiteracy in Venezuela.
The investigators took it upon themselves to extensively read and analyse every single publication of UNESCO’s figures and numbers to dig up the truth. The miracle of chavismo was a farce.
The following publications were taken into consideration and are available in UNESCO’s Website:
- Transforming Our World–Literacy for Sustainable Development. Selected case studies from LitBase
- Learning Families–Intergenerational Approaches to
- Literacy Teaching and Learning. Selected case studies from LitBase.
- RAMAA. Recherche-action sur la mesure des apprentissages des bénéficiaires des programmes d’alphabétisation.-Resultat de la première phase 2011-2014.
- The Evolution and Impact of Literacy Campaigns and Programmes 2000-2014.
- Lifelong Literacy. Special issue of International Review of Education– Journal of Lifelong Learning, at the occasion of ILD 2015 and with a focus on literacy post 2015.
- Action Research to Improve Youth and Adult Literacy: Empowering Learners in a Multilingual World.
- Recherche-action: améliorer l’alphabétisation des jeunes et des adultes–Autonomiser les apprenants dans un monde multilingue.
- Instituto de la Unesco para el Aprendizaje a lo largo de la Vida
None of the extensive consulted periodicals and publications that were consulted to draft the report shows the so-called “miracle of educational inclusion of Misión Robinson” that the Venezuelan regime constantly boasts about in their relentless domestic and foreign propaganda in regards to their handling of education.
As time went by, and the farce was pointed out by several researchers and journalists, the chavista regime drifted away from celebrating the charade to glorifying the geniality of the cuban pedagogic methodology.
According to the researchers and the very own UNESCO, there was no actual tackling of the illiteracy problem in Venezuela, what the United Nations did was to acknowledge the originality of the cuban method. Nothing more and nothing else.
According to the 2011 National Census, Venezuela had about 1.4 million illiterate individuals.
If the government propaganda was to be taken as true, Mision Robinson not only did it fail to teach 1.5 million people how to read in 2003, but it also created 1,3 million illiterates in 2011.
Since 2003, a total of 2.838.015 venezuelan citizens “graduated” from Misión Robinson, the bulk of them seniors over 65 years old that up until then haven’t had access to public education.
The database of Misión Robinson was later extensively used by the government to exert control over the people it educated to organize and have them vote in the 2004 presidential recall election.
Further digging through official government reports show the failure of the chavista educational model
According to the 2011 census, exclusion from the system and illiteracy are far from being eradicated, quite the opposite, they have worsened: When asked about whether or not they assist to an educational center, sixteen million out of 24.3 million Venezuelans answered “No”.
The census reveals exclusion from Venezuela’s school system and high dropout rates amongst men from 12 to 35 years old, that same census also shows that 4.9% of the population is illiterate is a far higher percentage than the UNESCO estimates by 2011 and very close to the number of illiterates that Venezuela recognized by the year 1998.
Therefore the national Census proves that very little has been done by the government to tackle illiteracy and boast blatant lies in expensive domestic and foreign propaganda campaigns.
The so called “achievements” that Mision Robinson‘s propaganda mouthpieces like to spread out have been a continuous, tedious and repetitive campaign ad in basically every election held in Venezuela since 2003. It has been the hook for electoral engagement by chavismo with its voter base as part of a series of promises that include a wide array of government programs –misiones- which are mechanisms of distributing oil rent which allegedly “solve” the needs of the poor, the bulk of the voting population.
The perversity of this electoral charade lies in pandering to the poor some sort of benefit to keep them voting for you with the uncertain promise that somehow, someday, the government will take care of them. -Trafficking faith.
Let’s use the official data:
By 2001, according to the National Institute of Statistics, a total of 1.576.441 people were illiterate. If we subtract 1.418.358, which is the number of people that chavismo claims they taught how to read, only 158.083 people were actually taught. These numbers not only debunk the government propaganda, but it also shows that millions of dollars were paid to cuban officials to provide mediocre results.
The researchers at Universidad Central de Venezuela proved that basically we have the same amount of illiterates in 2018 than the ones we had in 2003.
“According to our research, and taking into consideration the fact that the facts and figures of the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) refer to neither the declared purpose of the misiones educativas (which we share) nor to the virtues or miseries of the cuban alphabetization method, if what the NIS is saying has some degree of truthfulness to it, it is just not possible to teach 1.5 million people how to read from june 2003 to october 2005, let alone 1.7 million people alphabetized by Misión Robinson I. The Minister of Education seems to be lost after acknowledging ‘serious limitations’ in regards of public education policy results.
It is hard for us to understand that the same government official that acknowledges the shortcomings of its own work is capable from one moment to the next to return without impunity to spreading the biggest pedagogical lie ever told.
-page 85 of the report.
Chavista ministers of education blatantly cooked the books by creating contradictory, false and just plain incoherent charts that were presented in the yearly accountability report to the venezuelan legislative branch from 2002 to 2008 and then in 2012 and 2013. Not a single member of congress within the opposition coalition of the Democratic Unity Roundtable came forward to speak of this matter and there was no press coverage of what it would have been a scandal.
Chavismo made a policy of creating a parallel educational structure in detriment of the official one.
The study shows how chavismo relied on money provided by the oil rent to create a parallel educational structure with Misiones to provide for elemental education and a huge budget to create universities and teach the misioneros to become engineers that can’t read or do a complex algebra problem.
The carelessness and neglect of the official educational system ended up failing the very students it was meant to serve.
While creating low quality universities with students barely know how to read and neglecting public education, the government took it upon itself to exert a budgetary chokehold on the autonomous classic universities by freezing teacher’s wages, paralyzing and intervening internal elections and forcing universities to lower standards to increase admissions.
The effect of lowering standards to increase admissions within college education created a stagnation in university admissions, for since 2007 the amount of admissions has remained the same, with higher dropout rates in the last two years due to the economic catastrophe of hyperinflation.
The conclusions of the study
The study concludes by stating that “education is not on right track”, and it’s most certainly not when the bulk of the indicators used to assess and measure show that there has been a decrease in the effective educational attention that the government is providing.
Not only Public Education in Venezuela has become low quality at all levels, (from elementary to university), it has also become costly and inefficient.
The trends in the decline of educational quality in Venezuela have been documented by these researchers in their periodical studies far back as 1958, with a clear pattern of decline starting in 1977, after the stagnation that followed what researchers call “the fantastic explosion in scholarships that the public officials boasted with the inclusion of misiones as a privileged mechanism to educate our citizens”.
As a university professor I believe that this periodical study does a huge effort in showing it’s neutrality without taking any partisanship when it states that the researchers involved in it “didn’t want to prove that the Venezuelan State is acting deviously with a perverse pedagogical intention”. This study isn’t about assessing declared intentions. Quite the opposite, for whom can contradict that an allegedly inclusive speech that was first voiced by our founding fathers?
Far from void intentions, this study shows that it wants to show you the cold, hard facts, the practical correlation of these inclusive speech.
Not only does the study state the flaws, it also proposes a 17-point multi-approach solution to the education question that troubles Venezuela. This study also makes wide and in-depth analysis of how private education, albeit being heavily regulated by the state in the way it functions, has been the stable provider of quality education that feeds the university system.
To follow up these facts, the study quotes and extensively uses quotations from government officials which are caught on tape actually saying that they are hellbent on changing the education system to serve the purposes of the revolution. If government officials are blatantly saying that, the study can only show those who read it the effects of their public policy, only pointing out a very heavy criticism of failed public policy.
This study proves that education in Venezuela is being used by the ruling elite as an instrument of political control over its citizens, of a population that has become submissive to the idea that only the good things of public education have come out of chavismo’s mind since 1999 and due to the supreme good will of Hugo Chávez, the Castro brothers and their cronies.
Chavismo made elementary education a priority because of the basic contents that it can give out to a starving, needy, and marginalized population. In order to do so, it created the Misión as the basic formula of scholarship: Indoctrination disguised as education.
The exclusion rate of the student from the real public education system has increased dramatically since 2007 after the country saw the highest oil boom of its entire history, this fact is unacceptable, for a government that takes it upon itself to use funds from oil rent to invest in the education of its citizenship should be able to reap the benefits of said investment, when in reality what happened, due to corruption, deceit and lies was the opposite.
The state of the educational system in Venezuela is dramatic, stark and depressing, and it only shows the decline of every institution in Venezuela which is serious not only because of the magnitud in which it is being expressed by the study, but to the blatant indifference that the government has for teachers and educators. Everyone in Venezuela wants their progeny to have a good, decent education, but no one in Venezuela wants their progeny to become teachers and educators.
One of the things that our citizenship with a good education has to do is to reformulate the entire educational system after chavismo is long gone from power. And that won’t be an easy task because the level of indoctrination to which some citizens are subject to will be painful, paralyzing and severe when they take the red pill and realize that the socialist paradise they were offered by corrupt and irresponsible traffickers of faith is as real as the tooth fairy.
As a professor of Universidad Central de Venezuela I can proudly say that the work of the School of Education is very important, for my workplace and Alma Mater along with other public and private universities in the country have taken upon themselves to reach out and serve the citizens of Venezuela and the world.
The School of Education has a very nice repository of files regarding what is the continuous work of periodically examining the educational question in Venezuela, go to http://saber.ucv.ve and type “Memoria Educativa Venezolana” in the search box and there you can find the text of your interest in this extended and important list of works that are free for you to consult.