From Exclusive Meritocracy to Differential Inclusivity: What Has Changed in Venezuelan Higher Education?

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Jesus Humberto PINEDA OLIVIERI , University of Goettingen, Germany

Since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999, a constant comparison between the so-called “4th Republic” and the rise of the Bolivarian Revolution has divided the history of Venezuela into two major periods. When it comes to the education system, since 2003 the government has implemented a variety of educational programs and a constant process of unprecedented expansion has taken place. At the higher education level, the system has been expanded through the municipalization of higher education. This process occurred in the framework of a political system that aimed at tackling social inequality and its educational repercussions. These reforms and initiatives worked under the assumption that the previous organization of the educational system was meritocratic and exclusive. Although some official statistics suggest that the participation of students in higher education in Venezuela has been widened for all, I argue that the inequalities have not been addressed, given that the current higher education system is divided into two parallel systems of education with different quality standards and student conditions. This paper will reconstruct the creation of Venezuela’s Mission Sucre and will analyze the paradox of inclusion in the Venezuelan context from a sociological perspective using insights from Bourdieu's work. I conclude that the implementation of a parallel offer to include students from disadvantaged environments or backgrounds may exacerbate the educational gaps, as well as, the social and political polarization in a system like the one under consideration. This analysis is based on my ongoing doctoral research and presents some reflections coming from the literature review, as well as my empirical work in Venezuela.