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Venezuela - Secondary Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceVenezuela - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


The Ministry of Education has begun a thorough revision of the whole educational system in Venezuela, intending to comply with the regulations approved by the Ley Orgánica de Educación (1980). At the same time, the Ministry of Education goals include redesigning the curriculum to make it more cohesive, in order to prepare students for the challenges of the twenty-first century. Most critics consider the old system to be obsolete and outdated.

According to article 12 of the Law of Education(Ley de Educación 1940), education in Venezuela was divided into Preprimary, Primary, Secondary, Normal, Especial, Technical, Artistic, and Higher Education. Secondary education was divided in two cycles. The first cycle had a duration of four years and provided students with general scientific and humanistic education. The second cycle, which was considered a pre-college cycle, had a duration of two years and intended to have a complete curriculum, including philosophy and literature, physics and mathematics, or biology. Upon completion of this last cycle, the student was eligible for a high school diploma, bachiller. In 1969 the government entered a revision process of the whole educational system called La Reforma Educativa. During the period of the educational reform two decrees were approved—the 120 decree and the 136 decree.

The 120 decree regulated secondary and technical education and established that these levels would have two cycles: a common cycle lasting three years and a second diversified cycle with a minimum duration of two years. As a consequence, less emphasis was placed on the Technical Schools, a project that the national government recaptured in 1984 and 1989 respectively. The first cycle was called Ciclo Básico Común" and provided students a general cultural background as well as vocational training. The second cycle, called Ciclo Diversificado, had among its objectives to continue training in the sciences or humanities (for students in secondary education) and to continue training in general cultural background as well as professional orientation according to their vocation (for students in the technical education track). Once the Ciclo Diversificado was approved, whether in secondary or technical education, students completing the designated program were awarded the degree of bachiller, majoring in a selected area of concentration.

The 136 decree regulated the Educación Normal and established that studies pursued through this track had two cycles: a basic cycle, which lasted two years, and a second cycle, which also lasted two years. The Ciclo Diversificado of the Educación Normal was to train teachers for preprimary school and primary education. Upon completion of the Ciclo Diversificado, a student would be awarded a degree in his or her specific concentration. This degree allowed students to continue on with their education at the university level. In 1972 a new degree was created, which established two cycles for the Educación Normal: a basic cycle, with a duration of one year and a second Ciclo Diversificado, with a duration of three years.

In 1973 a resolution was passed, establishing that the Ciclo Diversificado would include secondary, normal, and technical education. This cycle had two areas: 1) a common area, which included compulsory courses for all type of concentrations, and 2) a diversified area, which included specific courses according to each concentration. Following the Educacion Normal, secondary education offered two lines of concentrations: preprimary and primary education with a duration of three years. Upon completing this level of education, students would be awarded the degree of Teacher, with the major in a specific area. These degrees were equivalent to that of a bachiller in Educación Normal. That same year, a program of industrial internships was established, which targeted students in the last two years of their technical studies. In 1977 the following technical schools were created with an experimental nature: agricultural, commercial, industrial, and assistance-type. In 1978 new programs of internships were created for students in the sub-areas of study. These internships were to be extended to other majors and were to last at least six months.

In 1980 the law entitled Ley Orgánica de Educación was passed. This law established that the Diversified and Professional Education program would last no less than two years. Its objective was to continue the educational process of the student and to widen the integral cultural background by offering opportunities so that the student would be able to define an area of interest. At the same time, this level of education had a good global perspective; training was provided in the sciences, the humanities, and the technical areas. In addition, this law intended to prepare students for professional careers right after high school or for admission into the university. The curriculum for preprimary and primary education, as well as for those concentrating on music and sports, was progressively diminished after the 1981-1982 academic year.

In 1982, resolution number four established that the Ciclo de Formación Profesional de Educación Técnica had a duration of two years and an experimental nature, including the following concentrations: Agriculture, Industrial, Assistance, Commerce, and Administrative Services. Students graduated in this cycle would be awarded the degree of Técnico Medio in their specific areas of concentration. The General Regulation of the Ley Orgánica de Educación was passed in 1986. This Regulation established that the Educación Media Diversificada y Profesional belonged to the third level of the educational system. It would have a duration of two years and would include bachilleres and técnicos medios the student" area of concentration. Also, both degrees would allow students to continue with their college education.

The term "Educación Media" (secondary education) appears for the first time in the Ley Orgánica de Educación in 1948, which established that the curriculum in the second cycle included studies in the humanities and professional training. It also established that the first two years of this cycle were compulsory for all middle schools and that the schools must pay attention to vocational and/or professional training. Upon completion of these two years, students were able to pursue professional training or the regular courses leading to the bachillerato (high school course work). The bachillerato took approximately five years to complete, including the two mandatory years for all. Also, the professional training took from two to six years, according to the nature of the concentration. The artistic curriculum was taught in the first cycle as well as the second cycle, and was regulated by special policies.

In 2001 the structure of secondary education came as a supplement of the Educación Básica, which lasts nine years (from 5 to 14 years of age). The diversified secondary education (Educación Media Diversificada) level lasts two years (ages 14 to 16), and the student is awarded a high school diploma (título de bachiller). The length of Specialized Secondary Education (Educación Media profesional) program is three years (ages 14 to 17) and the student is awarded a technical degree. Secondary education (educación media) is divided into two cycles: diversified, which is a two-year program to train bachilleres in science, arts and/or humanities and professional, a three-year program to train mid-level technicians (técnicos medios).

Current Reforms: The most recent reports available on the educational system in Venezuela show that Secondary Education is in a state of crisis. This level has serious problems in relation to quality, equipment, ethics, and enhancement. Most importantly, the system was viewed as a unitary structure and did not have the tools to carry out the main educational objectives. In addition, the needs of the educational system have changed over time, therefore, a thorough evaluation of the former goals are necessary, in order to be up-to-date with the current goals and challenges. Several significant problems challenge the secondary education system. The quality of education is of concern—paticularly in the areas of language (literature) and mathematics—because students seem to lack the minimum skills to successfully continue with their personal growth after graduation. Also, students have problems adapting to different social environments and situations, i.e., students demonstrate little respect for others, poor work ethics, and negative attitudes toward peers. Additionally, the national government is aware that students need more than just exposure to current technologies; in most instances, they also need hands-on training in how to use e-mail and navigate the Internet, for example.

In order to tackle some of these problems, the proposed educational reform in Venezuela has the following goals: to place emphasis on the integral development of the individual, taking into account rationality, creativity, self-awareness, responsibility, common sense, and the contribution that the individual can make to society; to promote equal opportunities for all, regardless of sex, age, national origin, ethnic or religious background, and social status; to guarantee education for all citizens, i.e., to strengthen the good points of the educational system and to evaluate areas of concern such as desertion, failure, and so forth; to modify the approach of rote memorization and to turn the educational experience into a live process, where the mind and ethical principles are emphasized, i.e., to give students the necessary tools to develop a critical mind; to prepare students to carry out a life project, i.e, to prepare the student for life as well as to teach him or her how to have personal satisfaction from his or her achievements; to prepare the student to be an active and cooperative individual in society; to create a network of institutions throughout the country with the prime objective to execute the government educational projects coherently; to shift the supervision procedure of schools by eliminating the simple collection of data and turning the school into a permanent academic supportive entity; to reduce centralization of the educational system as a whole; and to improve the quality of education and learning by training competent teachers and creating a learning environment for those teachers, incorporating new curriculum according to the student's development, utilizing meaningful teaching methodologies, and creating a good administration center.

New Curriculum: The Ministry of Education has established a model for a new curriculum development. This curriculum is to serve as a theoretical reference for schools and teachers, so that there will be a coherent orientation and implementation across the board. The educational reform for Secondary Education is based on the notion of a holistic approach and of curriculum integration.

Underlying education reform is the belief that education is a driving force toward positive change in a society. Education reformers in Venezuela believe that it is essential to have a common curriculum in order to maintain common social practices and teach community values. Additionally, it is expected that schools should separate their goals from other social processes, such as political propaganda, commercial advertisement, and public demonstration. Furthermore, the purpose of education is to make better and more effective citizens and, at the same time, help students fulfill their goals. Finally, the learning experience should be viewed as an active process, where both students and teachers participate.

The curriculum is designed to implement the following principles: 1) as active member within the educational process, the student is looking for solutions to common problems; 2) the student is in a constant state of adaptation due to the changing internal (school) and external (society) environment; 3) the school offers courses with a strong social, political, economic, and cultural content help the student to become a critical thinker; 4) the school conceives the teacher to be important tool for social change; 5) the school implements a methodology that integrates the arts and the social and natural sciences; 6) this new curriculum demands an active, flexible, and thoughtful method, based on democratic principles that would combine practical experience along with theoretical understanding.

Upon completion of the Secondary Education reforms, it is expected that students will learn the Spanish language very well; will understand a second language and will express themselves well in a second language. Students are expected to develop powerful critical thinking skills and be able to apply analytical skills in a variety of contexts. Students will actively and ethically participate in the enhancement and transformation of society and will behave in an ethical, responsible and independent manner. Students will further be expected to become sufficiently independent to continue research and personal growth on their own and value physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual development. Students will be expected to demonstrate artistic and literary sensitivity. Finally, students will be prepared to enter the labor force.

As in the case of the "Bolivarian Schools," these educational reforms have just been recently proposed, and the data regarding their implementation and results is unavailable. But it is evident that the educational system at this level is also undergoing a sweeping process of transformation.

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