Thursday, 27 December 2007

Are Venezuelan brains being trained as needed? Part I

I am going to add this data to the set of IDEAS I am writing about sustainable development for Venezuela later on, together with more data I am working with.


Venezuela MUST take part in the PISA testing programme. Our government avoids like hell any kind of real accountability on anything including its work on education. This must change. Venezuela must participate in the PISA studies, as other non-OECD countries are already doing.

The first results will show our education levels are disastrous, even for Latin American standards. The education minister must commit himself to raise the position of Venezuela within 3 years. If she or he does not accomplish that, she or he must be sacked.

More to follow...


  1. I don't think PISA participation is the most important thing the VE education system needs right now.

    What would really be important is IMHO to implement a "multi-tiered" education system, such as for example Germany has. Thus, people will be able to get the education most in line with their capabilities and interests.

  2. Hi, Sire.

    I am not saying it is the most important thing, but it would definitely be a big step forward. In Venezuela people despise accountability. They need to accept it and love it.

    With PISA we would be forced to see how competitive we are and everybody would see it as well.
    I read somewhere (I will look for it later)
    the only tests in which Venezuelans took part at non-university level was something in the eighties where we were at the bottom of Latin America.

    To check progress we need to measure ourselves. That is why I have put it as one of the first musts.

    Of course, there are many other things we need to do.

    I studied at a German university and found it a great experience. Everyone coming to the university had to do a Gymnasium, which is over the preparation most of our liceos offer. We had a lot of freedom
    and most knew how to use it (although too many took too much time studying).
    Still, I am not so sure the German system is the best.

    What I do not like is that it becomes a very elitist system . I understand once people are on one path, it is very hard for them to "upgrade" (Hauptschulen are not the most exciting places, I have heard from someone who teaches there).

    What I do like of the German system
    is that technical institutions away from the university tend to be very good and let many people focus on what they can do best (for instance, Fachhochschulen or universities of applied sciences or technical universities).

    Perhaps we can introduce a system that is not as inflexible as the German for the "upgrading".

    By all means we need to improve the level of our technical schools. Many people in Venezuela go to the university because they think a technical study is just too little.

    Now, one of the interesting things of PISA is to look at the people who are on top (not precisely the Germans now) and why.
    I will come later to that point

    What would you concrete propose for Venezuela? At what stage do you think the school should branch?

  3. I agree that evaluation, benchmarks and accountabilities are key ingredients that go a long way towards building a well-performing educational system.

    Still, I feel that a reform is necessary - whose effects could then be tested using PISA or any other evaluation system.

    Regarding your question, I would like a three-tiered system, similar to the one I many European countries have, where the 'branching' would take place after primary school, i.e. at about the age of twelve.

    There, you could divide the students into three groups, the first ones doing a Baccalaureate (giving access to University unconditionally), the second ones a superior secondary education (giving access to higher-qualified apprenticeships or to tertiary education leading to access to University and/or Universities of applied sciences), and the third ones an education focused on practical skills and general stuff, leading them to more basic apprenticeship. Obviously, pasarelles should exist between the branches.

    I just feel that nowadays where basically anyone in VE can study at a 'University' after the bachillerato (with some exceptions, such as the UCV and a few more) is not conducive to extending a decent education according to each own's profile for everybody's benefit.

  4. Sire,

    I agree: there are lots of people arriving very unprepared to universities in Venezuela and universities do not have the resources to put cope with them and bring them to a decent level.
    I also think not everyone anyway needs to go to university (even if the State needs to provide for means of making universities materially accessible to all if they prove they are fit).

    I have friends who teach at the USB. As you probably know, they also have an admission exam.
    The government made them accept lots of students from poor sectors who otherwise would not have made it. These friends told me they introduced new courses for those students and many of them do a whole preparatory year to improve their maths skills. Although those students had a disgraceful level at the beginning, many of them ended up being more prepared at the end of the year than those students who had entered into the USB without any aid, those who came from private schools. So far so good. The problem is, my friends said, that they are working
    beyond their capacity: they do not get enough money nor do they have enough teachers for so many extra classes. The government asks from the teachers a lot but it is not providing the USB with more resources for that. That is bad.

    Let's go back to the start:

    The State needs to give the means for people to access education if they merit (i.e. financial means if those people need that and they prove they are using the means well).

    I think we must begin very early:

    - Make non-university careers more attractive by improving the skills people can learn there and the prospects of those. If we did, less people would waste their time at the university when what they really need in life is something very practical

    - Improve by all means PRIMARY school quality

    I think the State needs to meet
    the private sector (as it does in Europe) and ask them what they think the market needs.
    This does not mean they are going to be dictated by the private sector about what to do, but they do need to know what that sector needs.
    The State is not going (and should not) offer state jobs for everyone. The private sector should be the main job provider. They are needed to say what they need.

    I do not like the Bolivar adoration most of my compatriots have, but I remember I read somewhere in his writings something about Venezuela needing more technicians than military or lawyers. That was the case almost 200 years ago and it is much more the case now.
    We have a set of highly qualified engineers who mostly work in selling or installing foreign equipment (as there is no local production) and lots of very unskilled workers.
    There are very few good technicians and those are the ones badly needed.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
    I will be incorporating more stuff in
    when I have time.

    My hope is to get in some months to
    a couple of hundred of proposals - as concrete as possible - that might be considered someday by people in Venezuela who just want to improve the country.

    I think politicians in general are so incompetent and in Venezuela so incredible bad that we, the normal
    people, need to propose the things
    they cannot figure out because they are either too thick or too selfish or too lazy to think or all three.
    I wish other people could come in and help in making some kind of guide for stupid politicians to follow and finally implement something useful for Venezuela.

    I really wish Venezuela would one day stop being a Third World country.


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