We normally hear that education is one of the most important subjects for governments. Nevertheless, reality – at least in Venezuela- shows otherwise. The country is currently going through a educational crisis at all educational levels, mainly due to issues related to budget, infrastructure and what’s even worst: lack of teachers
Currently in Venezuela, public universities are either on strike or discussing about joining it or not due to the insufficient wages teachers receive. Few years ago, university teachers earned about 8 minimum wages, the combination of a monstrous inflation and no significant raises have made that those same teachers earn less than 2 minimum wages currently.
At primary and high school levels the situation has less impact on the media but is far more worrying. At least 68% of public schools need major maintenance (according to the Venezuelan Teachers Federation-2006) and the deficit of teachers in science-related subject in public schools is above 40%, according to a report done by El Universal in October 2012.
Wages of school teachers are really low, making it a sacrificed job with a really bad remuneration and thus clearing almost any incentives for people to prepare themselves to be great teachers in public institutions. Education is commonly used as a political weapon by the Bolivarian government, including several topics and subjects with high ideological content and making education a way of transmitting loyalty and political allegiance to children and teenagers. Schools in Venezuela are no Oasis to the problems that affect our society and it is extremely common to see child or teen pregnancy, drugs and violence in schools,posing a serious obstacle to a healthy environment for education and a major cause for dropouts.
With such a troubled society, schools should offer an integral formation in both academic and extracurricular activities that can help children build a series of capabilities that allow them to develop themselves in a proper way. Reality tells us otherwise.
It is virtually impossible to expect a good outcome from institutions that receive survival-like budgets and that work without any long-term strategy or even worst, are never measured in terms of quality, or any terms at all. While most countries use PISA methodology to measure their educational quality and outcomes, Venezuela (except Miranda State) has no serious measurement and no strategies that focus in quality and that approach learning as an integral process that will form people. Education is treated more as an annoying problem for the government that as the basis of the society.
The current government has focused a lot on inclusion, which is without any doubt an important aspect in education, but it has been at the expense of quality. So, is education a priority? I would not feel comfortable saying that, especially when –according to Barrios and Morales from Harvard’s MPPID- calculated that government subsidizes gasoline in an amount equivalent to 4% of Venezuela’s GDP. That money, well invested and with a sound and serious strategy, could lead us out of this long and pathetic, educational crisis.