Friday, 16 December 2011

The truth about education in Venezuela (updated 2)

The results of the famous OECD PISA test on scholastic performance have just been published for pupils of Miranda, Venezuela (more here). For the last couple of years I have been trying, together with other Venezuelans, to promote the implementation of the PISA programme for our country. We asked the national government on several occassions to let Venezuela take part. It refused. It ignored us. It prefers to declare to the world that UNESCO certified Venezuela as free of illiteracy, even if such a statement is based on a self-assessment study conducted by the Chávez government and provided to UNESCO without independent control.  The current government hates transparency and open, real debate (it prefers parallel monologues).

Venezuelan pupils finally took the same tests that German ones take

The government of Miranda, led by opposition politician Henrique Capriles, accepted the challenge and got the pupils from Miranda-controlled schools tested by the OECD. The Chávez government tried to sabotage this by blocking the financing  (Miranda needed to pay for some fees in dollars and the central government controls the use of foreign money like in old Soviet times, unless it's money for tourism or the like).

What are the results? They are very much in line with what I expected. Perhaps they are a little bit better than my expectations, actually. Miranda pupils score well below the OECD average, but rather close to pupils of other Latin American nations like Colombia or Mexico. Venezuelan pupils do worse in maths than other Latin American pupils, which is something I very much expected, as I have written earlier. With these results you can understand to some extent what kind of problems we are facing...and start thinking about specific solutions. 

Still:  Miranda is not Venezuela. Although Miranda is a very varied region, with highly skilled people next to people with little formal education, rich and poor to very poor neighbourhoods, it is still close to the capital and thus closer to a strong flow of ideas. Miranda is also governed by civilians from the opposition and not by a military government.

This is a good start in order to bring about transparency to education in Venezuela. I will be posting a lot about this in the next weeks.

PS. I NOW got some more feedback about the problem with the standards: apparently the Chavez government did not suply the required information that PISA also needed to make a better comparison. Shame on Chavismo.


  1. congratulations, Kepler, on your efforts, and those of your colleagues, in convincing Miranda to get on board with the PISA testing.

    Question: why no byline to the post, or author's name on the blog? Doesn't that anonymity detract from establishing seriousness?

  2. Hi, Syd. My efforts were minimal. Those that need to be applauded are the team of educación in Miranda (starting with Juan Maragall) and the governor, Capriles, who was looking for the money and interested in the realisation.

    I was just putting people in contact and giving some information. Juan Cristobal put me in contact with Miranda. I also helped with the initial petition to the Venezuelan government, for which we sent an open email to it and to a lot of international organisations.

    The only national functionaries that replied were those of the Venezuelan embassy in Paris, who said they would send our idea to Caracas, but nothing happened. Soon after that the minister of education, Navarro, declared in El Universal this (Cuba "asesora").

    We asked the decanos of several universities to support an open letter to the government, but they did not join in "porque no vale la pena/porque es algo que se va a interpretar de manera política".
    The same with a federación de maestros. So: good for the government of Miranda. I hope others join in and people start discussing how it would be if this kind of tests are carried out through Venezuela.
    The PISA test is not a miracle, but it is a very useful mechanism to analyse where we are and where we want to go.

  3. Syd,
    You can help too: tell your Venezuelan friends about the PISA programme, about how great it would be if we had transparency at national level. It would be useful to find out the difference between single-state and national-government-run schools, in Miranda but also in Portuguesa or Monagas or Zulia or Carabobo.
    There are a lot of people NOT interested in this, among them bad teachers and politicos.


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