Venezuela education study tour

By Jorge Jorquera

A number of educators here in Australia and internationally have become increasingly interested in the radical education reform taking place in Venezuela, as part the country’s march toward socialism. “Right now, all aspects of the education system in Venezuela, including its ideological basis and organisational structures, are being discussed and debated”, explained Jo Williams, a Victoria University academic and one of the organisers of a study tour to Venezuela planned for January 6-14.

“These debates”, added Williams, “are involving people within and beyond education and government institutions and are central to the broader debates about how to deepen and consolidate the Venezuelan revolution. It is clear that the changes are providing access to education for many Venezuelans previously excluded from the system, as well as new models of provision and new curricula based on the ideals of a ‘Bolivarian socialism for the 21st century’. The early outcomes of this nationwide radical reform of education are certainly inspiring.

“This study tour provides a unique opportunity to join educators and students from around the globe, in an investigative and collaborative tour aimed at learning more about Venezuela’s revolution in education. The issues and themes of access, equity, school and university community partnerships and education for social change are at the core of the work of radical educationalists and students in Australia and globally, providing a strong basis for the sharing of practice and perspectives.

“The tour will provide opportunities not only to see Venezuela’s reformed education system in action, but also to hear and engage in these very discussions. It’s very much intended as an exchange of ideas and aimed at establishing ongoing links and collaborations.”

Tour planning is well underway, Williams told Direct Action. “Already there are participants registered from Australia, New Zealand and the UK”, she said. “Another organiser of the tour, Tom Griffiths, an academic at Newcastle University, will be in Venezuela in October to finalise the details. The study tour will involve a range of seminars and visits with educational groups, institutions, and community organisations. The details of the week are being worked out in conjunction with colleagues from the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, and local schools and community organizations in Caracas.

“Activities will likely include seminars and roundtables on the Bolivarian Education System and its social, economic and political purposes, within and between sectors of formal education and non-formal educational missions; visits to Bolivarian childcare centres, primary schools, secondary schools, and to non-formal educational missions, and other social program sites incorporating ‘popular education’.”

The system-wide education reform taking place in Venezuela “is particularly exciting for radical educationalists internationally, who are frustrated at the limits of progressive critique of the failures of neoliberal education policy around the world”, said Williams. “Venezuela provides a concrete and inspiring example of how education can and must lie at the heart of developing an alternative agenda to neoliberalism.

“Lessons, debates, practical examples and questions arising from this tour will be useful for us to inject into our work here and internationally, in calling for radical educationalists to go beyond radical pedagogy and curriculum critique and reform, to a system-wide reappraisal of education under capitalism.”

For more information about the January 2009 Collaborative Exchange and Study Tour for Academics, Teachers and Students, email Tom[dot]Griffiths[at]newcastle[dot]edu[dot]au or Jo[dot]Williams[at]vu[dot]edu[dot]au.