Chavez Appoints Presidential Council for Venezuelan Education Reform

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appointed the Presidential Council for the education reform initiative “morals and enlightenment” (Moral y Luces) yesterday, the third of five “motors” that are set to propel the new era in the Bolivarian process.

Caracas, January 26, 2007 (— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appointed the Presidential Council for the education reform initiative “morals and enlightenment” (Moral y Luces) yesterday, the third of five “motors” that are set to propel the new era in the Bolivarian process.

“Education, morals, and enlightenment in all spheres, everywhere, at all times,” declared Chavez at the event which took place in the Teresa Carreño theater in Caracas. Chavez urged everyone to join the campaign, saying, “there will be no Revolution without revolutionary ideology, there will be no socialism without a socialist conscience, without a community conscience, or a social conscience.”

In his speech, President Chavez stated that the third motor was vital for the beginning of the “new revolutionary era” taking place in Venezuela and signaled that 2007 would be the year of “morals and enlightenment.”

The five motors aimed at driving Venezuela towards what Chavez has termed “Socialism of the 21st Century” were first announced in early January during the swearing-in of Chavez’s new cabinet. The first motor is the “enabling” law currently being considered by the National Assembly, the second is around constitutional reform, the third, “morals and enlightenment,” activated yesterday, involves a change in the educational system, while the fourth motor, “the new geometry of power” deals with the reconfiguration of state power, and the fifth motor relates to the explosion of communal power in the Communal Councils.

According to Adán Chavez, the recently appointed Minister of Education, who spoke minutes before the swearing-in ceremony began, the main objective of the third motor is to create an authentic Bolivarian education system, rooted in the writings of Venezuelan historical figures such as Simón Bolívar, Simón Rodríguez and Ezequiel Zamora.

During yesterday’s ceremony Chavez stressed that socialism was not a utopia, or impossible to achieve. The Presidential Council will be presided over by Adán Chavez and is made up of fourteen members including representatives from various educational, cultural and communicational bodies as well as the Minister of Higher Education, Luis Acuña, the Minister of Science and Technology, Héctor Navarro, and the Minister of Culture, Francisco Sesto.

Adán Chavez said that the new educational plan would be distributed all over Venezuela in the form of leaflets, books, videos, and talks. Chavez explained that the idea is to “transform the educational system that was hijacked for years” and said “we are sure that the new model will offer the Venezuelan people an authentic version of history, as well as an understanding of our reality, something the old Republic did not do.”

President Chavez called on the Communal Councils to promote popular power and popular participation, saying they “must actively participate in the third motor, in this great national campaign of morals and enlightenment for the conscience,” to turn it into one of the biggest motors, adding, “These are weapons of liberation.”

The measure has not been free of detractors. According to the website of the Venezuelan daily, El Tiempo, José Luis Farías, Secretary General of the political party, Solidaridad (Solidarity), harshly criticized the launch of the new council, claiming that its only objective is to reinforce a cult of personality around Chavez.

In contrast, Michael Lebowitz, a Canadian economist currently head of the Human Development Program at the Centro Internacional Miranda, a Ministry of Higher Education think-tank, told, “There are few things more essential for human development and the development of capacities than education.” He added that it was “a mistake to think education occurs only in classrooms. “We learn everyday and in every way through our activity and through the way we relate to others. That’s why it is essential to understand that the process of educating and developing new human beings must occur everywhere—in workplaces, communities, and in society as a whole. The transformation of people occurs only through practice—the Revolution is education.”

Data on government spending on education would seem to support the Chavez government’s commitment to education. According to Ministry of Planning and Development figures, real per capita spending on education increased by 80% between 1998—the year before Chavez came to power—and 2005. During this period, public spending on education reached more than 4% of GDP annually.

At yesterday’s event, President Chavez said that the Presidential Commission in charge of the fourth motor, which deals with the reorganization of political power in Venezuela, would be sworn in soon.