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UNESCO: Education in Venezuela Has Greatly Improved

Merida, January 27th, 2010 ( – According to a recently released UNESCO report on education, Venezuela’s number of children enrolled in school has significantly increased over the last 10 years, and its Education for all Development Index (EDI) has also increased considerably. Venezuela’s education minister welcomed the findings but said some of the data was inaccurate as it did not include any of the social missions.

UNESCO released its Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2010 on 19 January. The 525 page report says that Venezuela’s EDI increased by 5.1% between 1999 and 2007 and by 2.4% between 2006 and 2007. The EDI attempts to measure progress according to access, equality, and quality of education, based on universal primary education, adult literacy, gender equality, and student survival rate to grade 5.

Venezuela’s EDI ranks it 59th in a list of 128 countries, up from 64th three years ago. It has an overall EDI of 0.956 (where 1 is the highest), an adult literacy rate of 0.942 and a rate of 0.959 for survival rate to grade five. It is worth nothing that on this list, Norway ranks first, Japan second, Cuba 14th, the United Kingdom 9th, Mexico 55th, China 62nd and Niger last at 128th. The United States does not appear on the list.

When ranking according to individual components of the EDI, Venezuela ranks 55th for adult literacy rates, 74th for gender equality, and 49th for survival rate beyond 5th grade.

Also, according to the UNESCO report, Venezuela had around 93% enrolment in Primary school in 2007, up from 87% in 1999.

Based on a survey done in 2000, 1 year after Chavez became president, Venezuelans received an average of 9.1 years of education (8.5 for males and 9.6 for females, 11.8 for the richest 20% and 5.5 for the poorest 20%), 15% of the population had less than 4 years of education – 20.5% of females had less than 4 years and 11% of males.

However, Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) reports that the poorest 20% of the population studied for 3.72 years in 1998 and for 4.68 years in 2009, while the richest 20% also increased their enrolment, though by less. In 1998 they studied for 8.57 years and in 2009 for 8.82 years.  This reflects an increased attention towards the poorest sectors, but also shows that inequality as a result of income continues.

According to the same 2000 survey, 4% of the population had less than 2 years of education, and 5.2% of women had less than 2 years education while 2.7% of men did.

Of children aged 7-16, 4.6% in total had no education whatsoever, which breaks down to 5.5% girls and 3.6% of boys, as well as 12% of rural girls from the poorest 20% of the population.

The UNESCO report also says that between 1985 and 1994, the adult literacy rate (of people over the age of 15) was 90%, between 2000 and 2007 it was 95%, and the report projects it to be 97% by 2015. The number of illiterate youth (aged 15-24) in the first period was 176,000, in the second period it was 85,000, and the report projects 65,000 by 2015.

In both 1999 and 2007 the percentage of students aged 6 to 11 enrolled in private schools was 15%. In 1999 88% of students made it to the last grade of primary school, and in 2006 97% made it. In both cases, the percentage of females making it to the last grade was higher, with 100% making it in 2006.

Total enrolment in high school in 1999 was 1.4 million students and in 2007 there were 2.2 million students enrolled. In 2007 26% of those students were enrolled in private schools.

In 2007 Venezuela spent US$ 1071 per primary student (Peru spent US$ 495 and Sweden spent US$ 8001). In the same year it spent US$ 891 on secondary education, per student.

In 1999, 45% were enrolled in early childhood care, or pre-primary education, while in 2007 62% were.

In terms of registration in University, the report says that Venezuela ranks 6th in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Only four countries, Argentina, Aruba, Cuba, and Uruguay in the region rank as EFA (Education for All) achieved. Five countries including Venezuela are close to achieving EFA, 16 countries from the region are in the intermediate category and one, Nicaragua, is far from achieving EFA.

Venezuelan Education Minister’s response to the findings

Yesterday in a press conference Education Minister Hector Navarro said the UNESCO report refuted opposition leaders’ claims that 4 million Venezuelan children are outside the education system.

Rather, despite education missions not being taken into account by the report, Venezuela advanced in all objectives; infant education, universalisation of primary teaching, gender gap, literacy of youth and adults, quality of education, and learning needs of adults and youth.

Navarro said that the report is encouraging but that he didn’t completely agree with all the data. For example, he said that while the report says the rate of pre-school enrolment went from 45% in 1999 to 62% in 2007, the Venezuelan Education Ministry’s information is that it went from 53.4% to 84.8%.

The minister said the difference in information was because UNESCO doesn’t take the children who are attended by the Senifa program (National Autonomous Service of Attention to Infants and their Family) into account. Senifa is a government institution which aims to provide early, unconventional education and assistance to children aged 0-6 through community childcare, called Simoncitos. Sometimes, it gives small monthly pensions to mothers who look after children in their community.

Navarro admitted however, that he didn’t feel proud of the number of children who remain unschooled; 195,000 children are not in primary school according to the report.

Since 2003 the government has launched a range of missions to address the issue of education, including Mission Sucre; university education for people who were previously excluded from such education, usually due to income and location, Mission Ribas to provide secondary education for returning adult students, and Mission Robinson for basic literacy. Half a million students graduated from Mission Ribas in the first three years and in 2008 Mission Sucre had 527,000 students enrolled.

Published on Jan 27th 2010 at 10.53pm