Foreign Policy Blogs

Education Reform in Venezuela: Turning Students into Model Socialists

Last week Venezuela’s National Assembly pushed forward on a law to extend the socialist nature of the country’s educational system. At the local level this gives greater control over curriculum development to the country’s Communal Councils, which are strongly pro-government.

Many members of the Assembly who support the legislation say they do so in order to expand educational access for every citizen. President Hugo Chávez declared that the changes would break the “colonial culture” and enable the creation of “a new woman, a new man, within the socialist society”.

There have been demonstrations against the education reform over concerns of “indoctrination” of the country’s students. When a group of journalists handed out pamphlets counter to the changes, however, they were attacked by alleged sympathizers of Chávez and the government. Located in the center of Caracas, they were told that they were in a “Chavista zone”. Twelve were beaten or injured. A major march against the new legislation is planned for August 22nd.

As for the university system, it too will change. The law gives the government power to determine enrollment numbers at not only public, but also private universities. It will also have the power to control the admission and promotion of professors. During informal conversations with a number of students at the private universities many described their desire to leave Venezuela. I know a number who are now studying or working in Mexico, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and cannot help but thinking that Venezuela is losing some of its brightest minds to emigration.

During my time in Caracas I was also able to see first-hand the reality of a shifting educational curriculum. I sat in on a class at the Central University in Caracas in which the professor described positive aspects of socialist economic principles by using capitalism as a debased and defective alternative. An acquaintance of mine studied for a Diploma titled “Government and Citizen Power” that included classes such as the “Fundamentals of Socialist Economic Thought”, “Theoretical Foundation to Understanding Capitalism and Socialism”, as well as one which compared Bolivarian and liberation theory.

Will the education reform allow Venezuela to eventually arrive at a comprehensive socialist education system? It appears possible, and through personal experience I believe that the country is already well on its way.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.