One of the most vaunted Chavez prowess among the sycophantic and not so sycophantic crowds that support him is that Chavez is making education available to all, and that through his Mision Robinson, Ribas and Sucre he allows many people to be reincorporated inside the educational system, stop being illiterate and eventually get some form of college degree. Well, maybe.
The table below, taking from today’s El Nacional Web site tells us a very different story.
Yes, even if you cannot understand Spanish well, you did see that school rolls in Venezuela decreased by 585 000, that is a 7.26% points from the highest figure of 2004-2005. Down to 7 486 191 from 8 071 959 in 2004-2005. These numbers, we are told by El Nacional, are taken directly from the accounts and justification memo of the Education Ministry.
Huh? Less kids suddenly? That many less kids suddenly? Was there a war, an epidemic or something?
The article is not very helpful in explaining why such a stunning result. The only thing it tells us is that to find such a sharp drop in education enrollment we must go back to 1994 where a 1.8% drop was observed (during the banking crisis of Caldera II, where at least there was a economic reason whereas between 2005 and 2006 supposedly we were witnessing the Chavez economical miracle, at least according to some!). It also reminds readers that Chavez in public stated that his administration was educating 16 million students, more than double of what the Education Ministry acknowledges. Will a journalist dare to ask Chavez on such a contradiction?
Some possible reasons
The most benign one, that the accounting of the ministry of education is so sloppy that it forgot to include the Misiones enrollment. Note: these misiones are supposedly designed for people who fell OUT of the system earlier and wish to come back into it; thus we are mostly talking about adults in the misiones. The ministry results are supposedly representing the “normal “ school rolls.
The worse explanation of course is that the lack of real jobs and the fake recovery can be clearly seen in the drop in school enrollment. People simply cannot afford to enroll their kids or worse, need them to help scavenge for food and survival…
A more serious charge could be that many parents are getting weary of a public education which looks more and more like a brainwashing system to create the new "socialo-bolivarian man" or some like crazy idea. Private school could become an alternative to the "Escuela Bolivariana".
I will let the reader decide and inquire further, however there is an incredible telling sign that the Venezuelan educational public system is failing, and badly failing. If we look at the figures the drop for the public sector is in fact 9.61%, HIGHER than the global 7.26% reported above. Meanwhile the private sector of education INCREASES its enrollment by 23.96%!!!!!! In a single year!!!! This stunning increase can only be explained one way: quality in public education keeps going down and/or parents refuse to have their kids brain washed in public schools.
Now, I did read this after I read and translated Milagros Socorro Op-Ed piece which I just posted below. The question is of course what would happen to these numbers once the study of Chavez thoughts from his prodigious intellect are made required course work in public education? Will parents vote with their kids feet toward private education?
No wonder a few days ago we heard again the threat of intervening private education (at least in universities but for the past two years there have been constant threats to at least force some "bolivarian" curricula in private schools). It is one way to resist chavismo, to enroll your kids in private education, if you can afford it. And as usual the victims are the poor who cannot escape public education and must leave their kids there, no matter how awful that education might be. Their other choice eventually becoming school desertion. So much for Bolivarian Schools so widely advertised during the 2006 campaign just as kids dropped out in droves.
PS: note added later. The evolution of school rolls can be found here, pre 2004 and here further in the past. These trends seem to indicate that the drop reproted in El Nacional might be a real drop if not quite verifiable as posted in the comment section. Weird!