Populism Knocks on the Door of Education in Venezuela – Isabella Urdaneta, Venezuela

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology of Venezuela has announced a drastic change in the admission system to universities, eliminating the admission tests.

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Minister Fernandez at a meeting of the National Council of Universities (CNU). ( Credit: Photo archive webpage of the Ministry of Popular Power for Higher Education, Science and Technology)

The educational system in Venezuela is suffering a drastic change that cannot be judged as something positive. Recently the ministry responsible for technology, science and higher education in the country has announced that the admission test for public universities will be eliminated, as it is being completely replaced by OPSU, The Office of Planning of the Higher Education in English, which will count with a new modified system. According to the minister, Manuel Fernández, they want the system to be “fairer and equal”.

Originally, the admission tests were managed by the major universities to regulate the entrance system, alongside of the system of the OPSU, which managed another similar quota of admissions in these universities. The admissions tests system was mostly based in the knowledge, while the OPSU system gave prominence to high school GPA. The underlying problem is that due to the lack of budget, and probably also the mismanagement of it, the number of offered places descended slowly while the demand constantly grew with the population.

While the problem seems to be only for the amount of quotas, it must be noted that there are other universities in the country that offer a greater amount of quotas. The problem is that the demand of these universities are lower due to the lower quality of their training, their questionable admissions processes and their association with the government. The low demand could also simply be because a few other of them are private universities which are really difficult to pay for most Venezuelans, who earn a minimum wage that keeps them in poverty. Then, it begins to be clear that the issue is not just the quota of some universities, but the quality or costs in other educational institutions.

As those are the principal problems in accessing higher education, it seems unlikely that the solution was to change the admission system. Will this solve the lack of quotas in good universities? Is the quality of the universities going to improve under the total control of the government? Clearly the answer is no; this new system consist in that the admission to the universities are going to be 50% based on high school GPA, 30% on the socioeconomic status, 15% on the proximity of your home to the college and the last 5% is intended to assess participation in extracurricular activities.

This system aims to encourage the people with fewer resources, but how, and why?

In the system of secondary education, public institutions are in a big disadvantage. Students in these centers have teachers of lower quality and in some cases, may even lack them, and are unable to complete at least one entire year of content in a subject. This means that the education in the public schools is way less demanding, although it benefits having higher GPAs that will help them to get into college thanks to the new system without admission test, and will, in return, harm the public by creating a mass of students that don’t have the required knowledge to be a qualified professional.

Thanks to this lack of admission testing, they, through the ministry, have changed the entrance system to allow people with fewer resources to have preferences. They also not only allow students to achieve higher GPAs with less effort, but they also allow students to excel in studies that are much more dubious than useful. By doing so, more of these people end up coming into the major universities.

But all this raises a serious question: what reasons does the government have to do this? If it is so clear that it will not solve the problem, but will simply create the illusion in people with less resources that they will become professionals without saying to them that along the way, their level of education is decreasing, it is inconceivable to understand why the government of a country takes an action that is so bad on what is a pillar of advanced societies: quality education.

The answer is obtained through the dark logic that explains each of the government’s measures: through this new system, the education of those universities is going to decrease little by little. We will have a greater amount of unprepared students, for which is going to pair up with the quality education of those universities being controlled by the government that have a large budget but graduate a lot of people without the proper preparation. By doing so, the government not only ends up having total control of the higher education, crushing the free and “autonomous” universities as they been wanting to do since a long time, but also increasing the percentage of our population that remains in ignorance.

Thus this measure ends up being a new form of control created by the totalitarian government of Venezuela. The government is slowly destroying the pillars of values and knowledge of the country to create a mass of submissive and poor people, all for the sake of viciously enriching themselves at the expense of others.

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