This post is also available in: Spanish
This article was originally published in Spanish by Tal Cual on February 13, 2012.
Venezuela does not raise the issues addressed by other nations throughout the world, including our Latin American neighbors with whom we share language, culture and geography.
While you read these lines, other countries, with their successes and failures, deliberate on the quality of their public education systems and overtake us in the long race toward development.
In the Dominican Republic, civil society pressures the government to respect the norm of investing 4% of GDP in education. Colombia and Panama have endorsed initiatives in which civil society, the government, and the private sector work together to promote education quality. Brazil and Mexico created conditional cash transfer programs, Bolsa Familia and Oportunidades, respectively, which give financial assistance to families who enroll their children in school instead of making them work. Chile established an education quality measurement system that assesses student achievement and rewards effective teachers.
But above all, Latin America has understood that it must emphasize the quality of primary and secondary education because it is the academic period in which children and adolescents acquire the necessary competencies and basic skills that enable them to participate successfully in the labor market and contribute to the competitiveness of their countries. For this reason, investing in infrastructure is not enough.
While the rest of Latin America acts, Venezuela’s level of political polarization hinders clear debates among the various invested actors. In education, the parents, students, teachers unions, and businesspeople, among others, are pushed aside and the school becomes a center for ideological debate.
Thus, innovative ideas and proposals are locked away, waiting patiently for the day that we decide, once and for all, to join the race toward development.
Policies to promote education quality should not be framed as part of a naïve, philanthropic discourse. Research shows that the economic development of the so-called “Asian Tigers”, such as South Korea and Singapore, was due to their implementation of education policies intended to improve the quality of education and economic prosperity, in conjunction with demographic boons.
The New Year portends great changes that should begin with the expectation that Venezuela can join the ranks of the advanced economies. In order to achieve this, however, all sectors of society must unite efforts to ensure that the education system itself becomes advanced.
It is time to join the race and make up for lost time.
The author is a Venezuelan graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C.