Pants on Fire Chronicles (Updated)

Chávez’s latest issue ad looks like it’s trying to sell you shoes or sportwear more than like an election spot, so its obviously targeted at the young crowd. It has great production values and a good concept behind it, even if feels a little bit underdeveloped. The pitch is “Chavez ended illiteracy, made it possible for everybody to go to college and our education system will reach all Venezuelan children soon”.

Those are bold statements. Alas, they don’t hold up to a serious fact-check.

First: The Chavernment insists that illiteracy has been completely erradicated since 2005, with the confirmation of UNESCO. Specialized NGO Education Assembly doubts about the reliability of that declaration, given that more recent official reports pointed that there’s still illiteracy in our schools. Another UN entity, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicated in its 2011 index that illiteracy in Venezuela is still present in almost 5% of our overall population over 15 years old.

Mision Robinson, the first of the social programs known as Misiones, has been questioned for being very expensive and inefficient to actually achieve its goals. For the record, UNESCO has not made any written statement or report on the issue or done a visit in situ to follow up its original announcement of more than six years ago.

Second: Chavismo has said over and over that access to higher education has increased three times since they’re in charge. This is somewhat accurate, but the means used to do so could be considered questionable.

The Chavernment has created new universities (like the Bolivarian University of Venezuela) and expanded others (like opening the military-oriented UNEFA to civilians), widening the college offer spectrum. But those universities are becoming centers of ideological education and students are feeling the pressure to involve in political activities.

They have attempted to change the entire admission process, like proposing the elimination of all internal tests. Meanwhile, autonomus universities like the Central University of Venezuela have witnessed a progressive deterioration of their finances in recent years. Even their constitutionally-protected autonomy has been continuously violated either by TSJ decisions or violent actions of small groups.

But all those actions have not increased the number of Venezuelans who go to college. As I wrote in an earlier post, the number of students entering higher education is decreasing and available posts in some careers are ending up empty.

If the first two statements are what Chavez promotes as suceesses of his rule, the last one is a pledge for the future: Giving quality education to all kids across the land. Sadly for him, looks like he will have a lot of work because of his own governing mistakes.

The Arturo Uslar Pietri Foundation presented its annual report on education and its findings are revealing: Almost 4 million kids were left out of the Venezuelan school system during the 2011-12 period. There’s more. The number of children outside the school system hasn’t changed much since the 2007-08 period. The average is 3.9 million for the last four school years in a row. A bleak picture that light painting can’t hide.

UPDATE: As reader Juan indicated, a UNESCO official sent a response to Alek Boyd in 2006 denying that Venezuela was declared free of illiteracy. Yet, the Chavernment’s Education Minister insisted on the claim earlier this month. Pants on fire indeed.

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