Education in Venezuela
The Council of Foreign Relations refers to Venezuela as a failed petrostate, or as a nation struggling economically—and, as a result, socially—due to extensive reliance on a once successful, now-fractured petroleum trade. In 2015, global prices plummeted to less than $49 per barrel of oil. Just a year earlier, the average was $93 dollars per barrel. Since then, the Venezuelan economy has experienced inflation at record high rates—the highest at 2,688,670 percent in January 2019. This led to food and vital medicine shortages across the country. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population now lives in poverty, and education in Venezuela has experienced a major decline.

The economic situation this country has experienced since 1990 is almost entirely responsible for the lack of funding and resources that the country allocates to social welfare programs—particularly those supporting electricity, running water and food security in education. Despite worldwide support for leadership change in Venezuela while it is desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and guidance, people are doing very little to address the needs of individual citizens and the currently under-covered establishment of education in Venezuela.

Why Venezuelans Cannot Stay in School

Under the current system, basic education in Venezuela is compulsory and free–in recent years, however, the Venezuelan government has failed to follow through in ensuring these elementary level schools are in stable condition to foster a learning environment. As the disadvantages of remaining in Venezuela continue to increase, a growing number of Venezuelans have begun immigrating to countries like Colombia and Brazil in search of a better life. The conditions for learning in Venezuela are so dire. UNICEF reported on May 31, 2019, that up to 3,000 Venezuelan children in one region of the country cross daily into neighboring Colombia to get to and return from their school in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta. Seven thousand more students with their families have already left Venezuela behind and migrated to Colombia to live and learn there full time.

The quality of consistent and scheduled education in Venezuela has declined drastically in recent years. Country-wide power outages that lead to the cancellation of classes for days and weeks on end discourage many people in Venezuela from trusting the educational system of their country. While the Ministry of Education in Venezuela has yet to report on the frequency of power outages in Venezuelan schools, a Reuters article found that two major blackouts in March 2019 led to the government canceling classes for a week at the beginning and end of that month. Though classes would normally end at the start of July, Venezuelan Education Minister Aristibulo Isturiz said the school would be open until the end of July to account for missed educational days.

UNESCO has found Venezuelan youth are not remaining in school as they did in years past. In 2009, the gross enrollment ratio for primary students in Venezuela was 101 percent. In 2017, that ratio became 93.37 percent. This is alarming due to the fact that nine years of education (ages 7-14) are legally compulsory by decree of 1880 Venezuelan President Antonio Guzman and solidified through the creation of the Ministry of Public Instruction and the Bolivarian social program Mission Robinson. Though there should be no obstacles keeping children of this age in school, on average 7 percent do not attend. Secondary education adolescent gross enrollment dropped from 92 percent in 2013 to 83 percent in 2017. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of out-of-school children grew by 200,000 and the number of adolescents no longer in Venezuelan schools increased by 150,000.

No Food, No School

This overall decrease in quality also has to do with the fact that children who made sure to attend for the sake of receiving at least one meal per day are no longer receiving a meal at school. At the Santo Anglo School an hour outside Caracas, the nation’s capital, schools have adjusted their protocol so that they are not responsible for feeding students anymore. They ask parents to feed children breakfast before they go to school and end school around 11:45 a.m., which is just before lunch so they do not have an obligation to provide it.

These issues persist in all parts of this country. Francy Rodriguez, a teacher in Venezuela’s capital, told an Al-Jazeera reporter that, “The children have no food at home and they come here to at least get one meal. But we haven’t had food for a year because the kitchen is broken. The children faint during physical education class because their stomachs are empty.” A Venezuelan regional president to a chapter of the National Federation of Educational workers stated that “Hungry people aren’t able to teach or learn. We’re going to end up with a nation of illiterates.”

Efforts to Fix the Crisis

In a joint effort led by the International Organization for Migration and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 95 worldwide organizations that strive to end migrant crises will be working to solve the Venezuelan migrant crisis by following the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan of 2019. This plan provided “a total of USD 738 million … for the period January – December 2019, including USD 315.5 million for Colombia, USD 117.3 million for Ecuador, USD 106.4 million for Peru, USD 56.6 million for Brazil, USD 35.7 million for the Southern Cone, USD 34.8 million for the Caribbean, USD 21.7 million for Central America/Mexico and USD 49.7 million for regional (Venezuela).”

In addition, UNICEF advocates are appealing to allocate around $70 million to the Venezuelan cause, with a focus on assisting local and national governments within that region to improve the quality of “drinking water and sanitation, protection, education and health services for uprooted children and those in vulnerable communities.” Also, the World Food Programme plans to expand its initiative supplying food in schools that are not meeting healthy standards to Venezuela. In doing so, it provides food security so that children do not feel obligated to enter the labor force at an age they should be learning and growing their intellectual capabilities.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr


Since 1999 when President Hugo Chavez came into power, more than one million Venezuelans have left their country in the hope of a better future. Within this group, 90 percent of the emigrants held a bachelor’s degree or more. The migration of these skilled individuals to foreign countries has created a significant brain drain in Venezuela. Now the country must focus on ways to stop the outflow of human capital before its skilled labor force is further depleted.

The citizens leaving Venezuela have been looking for a better quality of life and greater personal security. The International Monetary Fund is predicting inflation in Venezuela to increase by 720 percent this year and then, in 2018, by 2068 percent. Along with hyperinflation, this year the unemployment rate is expected to surpass 28 percent in 2018.

As unemployment was 7.4 percent in 2015, the significant stresses on the Venezuelan economy have led to great political unrest. Since April 1, thousands of citizens have been arrested in protests, hundreds have been injured and more than 60 people have died. In 2016, 2732 political arrests were made, suggesting high levels of state repression.

Maria Alesia Sosa, a freelance journalist in Miami who was a part of the significant brain drain in Venezuela, explains that while working 14 hour days she would earn less than $50 a month in her home country. Along with low pay, the high crime rates led to her decision to leave the country. Every 25 minutes a person is murdered in Venezuela. In 2016, three locations in Venezuela were listed in the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world, with Caracas taking the number one spot, according to a Mexican thinktank.

On top of job insecurity, weak purchasing power and significant criminal activity, one of the country’s main sources of revenue has been reduced in recent years. Crude oil output supplies Venezuela with 95 percent of its GDP. However, in 2002 and 2003, the oil strikes to overthrow President Chavez had the country facing large layoffs within the state controlled oil company, PDVSA.

This was the beginning of the large brain drain in Venezuela when many highly skilled industry workers left their home country to work for multinational corporations like ExxonMobil and Chevron. In 2013, when President Nicolás Maduro was announced as Chavez’s successor, oil production fell by 16 percent and still has not recovered. This outcome was a result of further government intervention in PDVSA which led to a drain on the expertise needed to boost production.

With these significant decreases in the nation’s skill set, emigration is harming key industries from health and medicine to banking and finance. The human capital necessary to rebuild the nation after the political turmoil ends is depleting.

With 44 percent of Venezuelans stating that they left due to personal or professional development needs, job creation becomes an important consideration. The country should consider providing more scientific research funding to create an attraction for emigrants to return to their country. Additionally, it would provide incentives for citizens within the country to pursue further education as the nation currently has stalled recruitment for new talent. With success, the investment in research would benefit the medical industry as well as many others.

In addition, the government should focus on providing better job opportunities while promoting inclusion. This would improve the opportunities for citizens to gain economic returns while also reducing the unemployment rate in the country. Additionally, by improving job prospects, Venezuela can improve the security of its nation. By increasing employment, crime and underground economic activity are reduced as can be seen in many places from Chicago to Liberia.

Providing job opportunities will not fix all the issues of poor economic conditions alone. These strides must be coupled with reductions in corruption as this negatively influences the quality and returns to education. Therefore, governments should implement anti-corruption measures by increasing transparency and enhancing bureaucratic quality.

The prospective changes in Venezuela may not bring back those citizens who have already left yet they could make the country more attractive for those remaining. While political strife has created a brain drain in Venezuela there is still hope to improve the quality of life and security within the country to bring the people back.

– Tess Hinteregger

Photo: Google

compulsory education in Venezuela

Like the educational system in the United States, the Venezuelan Ministry of Education mandates a certain number of years of formal schooling. In Venezuela, the government expects children to attend nine years of either public or private education. The results of such mandates have proved successful, as Venezuela has one of the most successful educational systems in South America.

Students in Venezuela attend six years of primary school, beginning in first grade and ending in sixth grade. After the first six years, students move on to a secondary middle education that lasts from seventh to ninth grade. These years make up the nine government mandated years of education.

Public, free education is available to all Venezuelan children, and is very popular at the primary level. More than 92 percent of Venezuelan children under the age of 11 attend school. Public education continues at all levels in Venezuela, including tertiary education. Private education is also an option, but it is more popular for secondary middle education or education beyond or before the compulsory years than it is at the primary level. About 25 percent of students attend private schools to complete secondary education in Venezuela.

After ninth grade, students have the option of continuing on to secondary diversified education. This level is much like the high school level of education in the United States, but the diversified element sets it apart. In Venezuela, pupils graduating from the secondary middle education who wish to further their schooling must choose between sciences and the humanities. Their choice defines the subjects that they will study during the two years of secondary diversified education.

The number of students that choose to continue with diversified education is a testament to the success of nine years of compulsory education. Because the government mandates years of formal school, education in Venezuela is at the forefront of many citizens’ minds. The desire to further the knowledge acquired for nine years is greater than it might be in a country that does not regulate schooling as much.

Many parents also choose to send their young children to school before they enter first grade. Preschools are very popular in Venezuela and help children acquire necessary social skills. These children can be at an advantage because they can focus on the information learned in classes without having to get used to a classroom setting.

Tertiary education, the equivalent to the American university or college level, is available to anyone wishing to pursue higher education in Venezuela. The Central University of Venezuela is just one of the almost 100 tertiary institutions in the country. There are approximately one million students enrolled for free at these institutions.

Another testament to the success of compulsory education in Venezuela is the country’s literary rate. 95 percent of citizens aged 15 years or older know how to read and write. This number is higher than all three neighboring countries’ rates. Columbia is a close second place at 94 percent while Brazil and Guyana have 90 and 85 percent literacy rates, respectively.

The educational system in Venezuela has not always been so successful. The number of students in primary schools has increased by more than seven million pupils since 1998. Additionally, the percentage of students that chose to pursue academics at the tertiary level rose from 28 to 78 in just one decade.

Former president Hugo Chávez made significant changes to the laws regarding education in Venezuela that account for this drastic leap in attendance rates. His reforms led to the creation of 13 Venezuelan universities and more accessible primary and secondary education in rural areas. By making education more accessible, the Ministry of Education could guarantee public schooling to all children and, therefore, feasibly mandate nine years of education.

Though education in Venezuela still needs more funding from the national budget, its policies are strong. The statistics regarding literacy and attendance rates from the last 15 years prove that compulsory education is beneficial to country’s educational system.

— Emily Walthouse

Sources: WENR, ClassBase, Axis of Logic, World Bank
Photo: Flickr