Sunday, 6 January 2008

Venezuelans, math and words

One, three, two...I have advocated Venezuela's participation in international academic tests. Our country must determine how well it is really doing by comparing its pupils' skills to those of other countries. OECDE's PISA programme is, within its limitations, one of the best tools at hand now. Many other countries are already taking part in that programme. Venezuela is not.

Here you have a graph based on UNESCO's test for math and language skills carried out in Latin America in 1998. That was, as far as I know, the only time Venezuela measure itself up to other nations.

Only Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia were worse off in literacy in South America. Venezuela was at the bottom of South America in math. Cuba was at the top. Perhaps there are good things we can learn about Cuba, even if it is a dictatorship and its economy is in a mess. Could we be curious enough to find out why Cuba was doing so well for Latin American standards? And why Colombia and Chile do much better than Venezuelans?

As a whole, math results are not so great for Latin America. According to Gustavo González, from the IPS, throughout Latin America, "education in language-related subjects such as writing and comprehension is better than in mathematics"
I assume there is a reference to another region if they say "reading is better than maths", or else we actually need to find out how they were comparing math with literacy results, apples with pears. Anyway, we in Venezuela, should have been doing much better if we wanted to develop the technology and other tools we need to be more competitive. How are we now? We do not know. We haven't participated in other studies for Latin America and we haven't taken part in good global studies like PISA.

The latest PISA results have shown Latin American countries are at the bottom of the list of countries participating in the OECD programme. If those countries like Chile and Colombia are at the bottom of OECD academic results for secondary schools and we were at the bottom of South America for UNESCO's test of primary schools in 1998, in what place do you think we would appear if we took part in the PISA programme? Most likely we would be the last of last.

That would be very embarrassing. Still, I believe we must go through it and we must join the club of nations that check their skills with one another and try to learn from that. We need to know where we are and what we must change. If we take part in the PISA programme, we will be able to check how we stand compared to the following countries:

It is very unlikely that a Venezuelan government will want to participate in PISA. The reasons are obvious to Venezuelans: Results will tell us a lot about the mess we are in and our politicians do not like that. They hate accountability. Results will made us ask questions. Politicians want us to adore them instead. I do not imagine Chavez sacking his brother, the current minister of education. I am afraid that when the Venezuelan opposition gets into power, they would react similarly: let's not put ourselves to public scrutiny, let's not make ourselves too accountable.

Is someone going to prove me wrong? I certainly hope so. I hope one day we Venezuelans as a whole will be top of the class.

To find out more about PISA, go to the Wikipedia article or directly to OECD's PISA results for 2006


  1. You may be interested in the following study:

  2. Thanks, Sire. I will take a look at it.
    I wonder what the minister of education spends his day on. It cannot be all the time looking after h is hacienda, right?
    Do you have any idea why he has been temporarily replaced?


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