Mérida, November 14, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– Venezuela's improvements in educational access and enrollment over the past ten years have put the country on track to meet the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, according to the United Nations Science, Education, and Culture Organization (UNESCO).
While visiting the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) campus in Venezuela, UNESCO's representative for Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, Edouard Matoko, said Venezuela ranks among the best countries in Latin America in educational access.
"Venezuela's school enrollment levels are close to 100%," said Matoko. "We believe that in the struggle against inequality in education, Venezuela will reach this goal in 2015."
Venezuela's ELAM facilities, in which students from Latin America and Africa study tuition-free with grants for living expenses from the Venezuelan government, is exemplary of successful South-South cooperation, Matoka commented.
"For the politics of cooperation that we want to advance, we can count on full support from Venezuela, which is one of the strong advocates of South-South integration," said Matoko.
While commending Venezuela's "important qualitative leap in recent years," Matoko referred to an UNESCO report titled "Overcoming Inequality: Why Governance Matters," which is scheduled to be released to the public during a conference in Geneva on November 25th.
The report is produced by ongoing working groups from the UNESCO's Education for All project, in which 164 governments participate to improve literacy, youth and adult education, and decrease the disparity in education between sexes.
During the administration of President Hugo Chávez, which began in 1999, pre-school enrollment has increased from 40.3% to 60%, according to UNESCO. The government has built 388 new pre-schools called "Simoncitos," named after Latin American independence leader Simón Bolívar, who is also the namesake of the "Bolivarian Revolution" that Chávez leads.
Also, elementary school completion increased from 78% to 93% for males, and from 85% to 98% for females. High school graduation rates have increased from 47% to 66%, and university enrollment has increased from 676,515 students to 1.8 million students.
Venezuelan Higher Education Minister Luis Acuña, who attended the event with Matoko, said, "Venezuela maintains its firm commitment to fight against exclusion, create an ethic, a culture of liberatory education that guarantees the greatest happiness and eradicates poverty."
He also mentioned Venezuela's new university admissions system, which eventually intends to admit every high school graduate who wishes to study in the university, and the government's plan to begin constructing ten new universities in the coming year.
However, Acuña said "there is still much to be done," especially to improve educational infrastructure in rural Venezuela.
Earlier this week, Venezuela hosted a University Fair of Technologies in Support of People with Disabilities in Caracas, to improve technologies, educational methods, and inclusion of people with disabilities in universities.
"We have a program to reduce all forms of exclusion so that people can access the centers of higher studies and enjoy all the benefits of the Venezuelan educational system without any type of restrictions," said Acuña during the fair.
According to the national budget proposal that the Finance Ministry submitted to the National Assembly last month, Venezuela plans to spend nearly 20% of its budget on education.