VENEZUELA ( Spanish
), officially called
the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela (Spanish: Repúbl
ica Bolivariana de
βoliβaˈ jana ðe
βeneˈswela] , is a country
on the northern coast
of South America.
Venezuela's territory covers
around 916,445 square
kilometres (353,841 sq mi)
with an estimated population
of approximately 29,100,000.
According to government estimates, 92% of the population is at least nominally Roman
Catholic, and the remaining 8% are either irreligious, Protestant, or a member of
another religion. The Venezuelan Evangelical Council estimates
that Evangelical Protestants constitute 10% of the population. In Venezuela, a
population of Santería followers has been growing since 2008. The rituals can cost
40,000 bolivars and include the slaughtering of a rooster, a chicken, or a goat. Santeria
is a mixture of Christianity and Voodoo, and involves worshipping Christian saints and
various Pentecostal-style possessions.
The people of Venezuela come from a variety of heritages. It is estimated that the
majority of the population is of mestizo, or mixed, ethnic heritage.
Nevertheless, in the 2011 census, which Venezuelans were asked to identify
themselves according to their customs and ancestry, the term mestizo was excluded
from the answers. The majority claimed to be Multiracial or White —49.9% and 42.2%,
respectively. Practically half of the population claimed to be moreno, a term used
throughout Ibero-America that in this case means "dark-skinned" or "brown-skinned", as
opposed to having a lighter skin (this term connotes skin color or tone, rather than facial
features or descent); another substantial part of the population claimed to be white.
Ethnics minorities in Venezuela consists in groups that descend mainly from African or
Amerindian; a 2.8% identified themselves as "Black" and a 0.7%
as afrodescendiente (Afro-descendant), 2.7% claimed to belong to Indigenous
peoples and 1.1% answered "other races".
Among indigenous people, 58% were Wayúu, 7% Warao, 5% Kariña, 4% Pemón,
3% Piaroa, 3% Jivi, 3% Añu, 3% Cumanagoto, 2%Yukpa, 2% Chaima and
1% Yanomami nation, the remaining 9% consists in other indigenous nations.
According to an autosomal DNA genetic study conducted in 2008 by the University of
Brasilia (UNB), the composition of Venezuela's population it's: 60.60% of European
contribution, 23% of Amerindian contribution and 16,30% of African contribution.
The bolívar fuerte (sign: Bs.F. or Bs.; plural:bolívares
fuertes; ISO 4217 code: VEF) is the currency of
Venezuela since 1 January 2008. It is subdivided into
100 céntimos and replaced the bolívar (sign:
Bs.; plural: bolívares; ISO 4217code: VEB) at the rate
of Bs.F. 1 = Bs. 1,000 because of inflation.
Although the country is mostly monolingual Venezuelan Spanish (a dialect of Castilian),
many languages are spoken in Venezuela. In addition to Spanish, the Constitution
recognizes more than thirty indigenous languages, Wayuu, Warao, pemón and many
others for the official use of the Amerindian peoples, mostly with few speakers, less
than 1% of the total population. Immigrants, in addition to Spanish, speak their own
languages. Arabic is spoken by Lebanese and Syrian colonies on Isla de Margarita,
Maracaibo, Punto Fijo, Puerto la Cruz, El Tigre, Maracay and Caracas. Portuguese is
spoken, as well as the Portuguese community in Santa Elena de Uairén for much of the
population due to its proximity to Brazil. The German community speaks their native
language, while the Colonia Tovar speaks mostly Alemannic dialect of German called
coloniero. English is the most widely used foreign language and demand, and is spoken
by many professionals, academics and part of the upper and middle classes as a result
of oil exploration by foreign companies, in addition to its acceptance as a lingua franca.
Culturally, English is common in southern towns like El Callao, for the Anglophone West
Indian influence evident in folk songs and calypso Venezuelan and French with English
voices. Italian instruction is guaranteed by the presence of a constant number of
schools and private institutions, because the Italian government considered mandatory
language teaching at school level. Other languages spoken by large communities from
drawing in the country are Chinese and Galician, among others.
National Assembly of Venezuela building
The Venezuelan president is elected by a vote, with
direct and universal suffrage, and is both head of
state and head of government. The term of office is six
years, and (as of 15 February 2009) a president may
be re-elected an unlimited number of times. The
president appoints the vice president and decides the
size and composition of the cabinet and makes
appointments to it with the involvement of the
legislature. The president can ask the legislature to
reconsider portions of laws he finds objectionable, but a
simple parliamentary majority can override these
The president may ask the National Assembly to pass an enabling act granting the
ability to rule by decree in specified policy areas; this requires a two-thirds majority in
the Assembly. Since 1959 six Venezuelan presidents have been granted such powers.
The unicameral Venezuelan parliament is the Asamblea Nacional ("National
Assembly"). The number of members is variable, each state and the Capital district
elect three representatives plus the result of dividing the state population by 1.1% of the
total population of the country. Three seats are reserved for representatives of
Venezuela's indigenous peoples. For the 2011–2016 period the number of seats is 165.
All deputies serve five-year terms.
The voting age in Venezuela is 18 and older. Voting is not compulsory. The legal
system of Venezuela belongs to the Continental Law tradition. The highest judicial body
is the Supreme Tribunal of Justice orTribunal Supremo de Justicia, whose magistrates
are elected by parliament for a single twelve-year term. The National Electoral
Council(Consejo Nacional Electoral, or CNE) is in charge of electoral processes; it is
formed by five main directors elected by the National Assembly. Supreme Court
president Luisa Estela Morales said in December 2009 that Venezuela had moved
away from "a rigid division of powers" toward a system characterized by "intense
coordination" between the branches of government. Morales clarified that each power
must be independent adding that "one thing is separation of powers and another one is
Venezuela is divided into 23 states (estados), a capital district (distrito capital)
corresponding to the city of Caracas, and the Federal Dependencies (Dependencias
Federales, a special territory). Venezuela is further subdivided into
335 municipalities (municipios); these are subdivided into over one
thousand parishes (parroquias). The states are grouped into nine administrative regions
(regiones administrativas), which were established in 1969 by presidential decree.
The country can be further divided into ten geographical areas, some corresponding to
climatic and bio geographical regions. In the north are the Venezuelan Andes and
the Coro region, a mountainous tract in the northwest, holds several sierras and valleys.
East of it are lowlands abutting Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela.
The Central Range runs parallel to the coast and includes the hills
surrounding Caracas; the Eastern Range, separated from the Central Range by the Gulf
of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre and northern Monagas. The Insular Region includes all
of Venezuela's island possessions: Nueva Esparta and the various Federal
Dependencies. The Orinoco Delta, which forms a triangle covering Delta Amacuro,
projects northeast into the Atlantic Ocean.
EDUCATION IN VENEZUELA
In Venezuela, the first 9 years of education are compulsory and the school year extends
from September through to June / July. 95% of citizens are literate and more than 92%
of children attend primary school. Many attend preschool too, before enrolling for 6
primary grades through to age 11. There is little academic standardization beyond the
After receiving their basic education certificate, pupils move on to middle school to
complete their mandatory education comprising 3 more grades. Around age 14 / 15
while in 9th grade they must choose between following either humanities or sciences
under the nation’s diversified education policy.
Two years of non-compulsory secondary school may follow as the diversified education
program follows. Upon completion, students receive the title of either Bachiller en
Ciencias or Bachiller en Humanidades. Some schools include professional education
too, in which case their certificate reads Técnico en Ciencias (Science Technician).
A steadily growing industrial economy has demanded a re-think in the national
education strategy, and an increasing number of young people continue their
professional education at a range of technical schools. There they are presented with
self-improvement opportunities ranging from short courses through to full-blown trade
There are almost 100 institutions of higher education in Venezuela with a million
students enrolled at them for free. Technical institutes produce licenciate technicians
after 3 years of training, while university students take 5 years to graduate. Thereafter
masters and doctorate courses may be followed.
The largest tertiary institution is the Central University of Venezuela that was founded in
1721 and is one of the oldest in the western hemisphere. The main campus illustrated
here was declared a world heritage site in 2000.
Education in Venezuela is regulated by the Venezuelan Ministry of Education. In
2010, Venezuela ranked 59th of 128 countries on UNESCO's Education for all
Development Index.Nine years of education are compulsory. The school year extends
from September to June–July.Under the social programs of the Bolivarian Revolution, a
number of Bolivarian Missions focus on education, including Mission Robinson (primary
education including literacy),Mission Ribas (secondary education) and Mission
Sucre (higher education).
Education in colonial Venezuela was neglected compared to other parts of the Spanish
Empire which were of greater economic interest. The first university, now the Central
University of Venezuela, was established in 1721. Education at all levels was limited in
both quality and quantity, and wealthy families sought education through private tutors,
travel, and the study of works banned by the Empire. Examples include the
independence leader Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) and his tutor Simón Rodríguez (1769–
1854), and the educator Andrés Bello (1781–1865). Rodríguez, who drew heavily on the
educational theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was described by Bolívar as the
"Socrates of Caracas”. Free and compulsory education for ages 7 to 14 was established
by decree on 27 June 1880, under President Antonio Guzmán Blanco, and was
followed by the creation of the Ministry of Public Instruction in 1881, also under Guzmán
Blanco. In 15 years from 1870, the number of primary schools quadrupled to nearly
2000 and the enrolment of children expanded ten-fold, to nearly 100,000.
In the early twentieth century, education was substantially neglected under the
dictator Juan Vicente Gómez, despite the explosion of oil wealth. A year after his death,
only 35% of the school-age population was enrolled, and the national literacy rate was
below 20%. In 1928 a student revolt, though swiftly put down, saw the birth of
the Generation of 1928, which formed the core of the democracy movement of later
Many children under five attend a preschool. Children are required to attend school from
the age of six. They attend primary school until they are eleven. They are then
promoted to the second level of basic education, where they stay until they are 14 or 15.
Public school students usually attend classes in shifts. Some go to school from early in
the morning until about 1:30pm and others attend from early afternoon until about
6:00pm. All schoolchildren wear uniforms. Although education is mandatory for children,
some poor children do not attend school because they must work to support their
Venezuelan education starts at the preschool level, and can be roughly divided into
Nursery (ages below 4) and Kindergarten (ages 4–6). Students in Nursery are usually
referred to as "yellow shirts", after the color of uniform they must wear according to the
Uniform Law, while students in Kindergarten are called "red shirts".
Basic education comprises grades 1 through 6, and lacks a general governing
programme outside of the Math curriculum. English is taught at a basic level throughout
Basic education. Students are referred to as "white shirts". Upon completing Basic
education, students are given a Basic Education Certificate.
Middle education (grades 7-9) explores each one of the sciences as a subject and
algebra. English education continues and schools may choose between giving Ethics or
Catholic Religion. Students are referred to as "blue shirts". Venezuelans can not choose
Once a student ends 9th grade, they enter Diversified education, so called because the
student must choose between studying either humanities or the sciences for the next
two years. This choice usually determines what majors they can opt for at the college
level. Students are referred to as "beige shirts". Upon completing Diversified education
(11th grade), students are given the title of Bachiller en Ciencias (literally, Bachelor of
the Sciences) or Bachiller en Humanidades (literally, Bachelor of Humanities). Some
schools may include professional education, and instead award the title of Técnico en
Ciencias (literally, Technician of the Sciences)
The Central University of Venezuela, the largest University in the country. Venezuela
has more than 90 institutions of higher education, with 860,000 students in 2002. Higher
education remains free under the 1999 constitution and was receiving 35% of the
education budget, even though it accounted for only 11% of the student population.
More than 70% of university students come from the wealthiest quintile of the
population. To address this problem, instead of improving primary and secondary
education, the government established the Bolivarian University system in 2003, which
was designed to democratize access to "higher education" by offering heavily politicised
study programmes to the public with only minimal entrance requirements. Autonomous
public universities have had their operational budgets frozen by the state since 2004,
and staff salaries frozen since 2008 despite inflation of 20-30% annually.
Higher education institutions are traditionally divided into Technical Schools and
Universities. Technical schools award the student with the tile of Técnico Superior
Universitario (literally, University Higher Technician, to distinguish from Technicians of
the Sciences) or Licenciado(literally, Licentiate) after completing a three-year
programme. Universities award the student with the title of Ingeniero (literally, Engineer)
after completing a five-year programme. Some higher education institutions may
award Diplomados (literally, Diplom) but the time necessary to obtain one varies.
Post-graduate education follows conventions of the United States (being named
"Master's" and "Doctorate" after the programs there).
In 2009 the government passed a law to establish a national standardised university
entrance examination system, replacing public universities' internal entrance
examinations. Some universities have rejected the new system as it creates difficulties
for planning. The system has still not been formally implemented by the State. The
previous line is a good example of the Venezuelan Government's official line toward the
autonomous universities where democratic elections have failed to give the state party
any significant victories.
Of Venezuelans aged 15 and older, 95.2% can read and write, one of the
highest literacy rates in the region. The literacy rate in 2007 was estimated to be 95.4%
for males and 94.9% for females. In 2007 primary education enrolment was around
SCHOOL FOR BEAUTY QUEENS
Venezuela has produced many successful beauty queens, winning both Miss Universe
and Miss World five times - and Venezuelans see nothing wrong in girls as young as four
attending beauty schools to set them on the road to stardom.
Visiting Gisselle Reyes’s beauty school in the suburbs of Caracas can be an intimidating
experience. The 1960s style villa has been turned into a hot house for beauty queens, teaching
everything from how to sashay down the catwalk, to the correct way to hold a wine glass. Pupils
from age four to 24 are immaculately turned out, the older girls in five-inch (12cm) high-heels.
Venezuela has had extraordinary success in international beauty contests and clearly has a
formula for choosing contestants that appeal to judging panels the world over.
Beauty contests are treated in Venezuela much as sporting competitions are elsewhere. Many
young Venezuelan girls are groomed from an early age to compete in pageants. Of the 160 girls
who take classes at Gisselle's, the majority are between four and 11.Parents often encourage
their daughters knowing that if they can succeed as beauty queens; their future as celebrities
and public figures is assured.
Successful alumni of Giselle’s are household names in Venezuela, like Dayana Mendoza who
became Miss Universe 2008. Girls who make it to the national competition need to spend hours
in the gym and carefully watch what they eat. Dental work and plastic surgery could also be
necessary for success. In Venezuela, there is almost no criticism of the beauty pageant
phenomenon. When, in 1972, a feminist group from the country's Central University interrupted
the Miss Venezuela broadcast, it was the first and only demonstration of its kind. President
Hugo Chavez has spoken out against the culture of plastic surgery in Venezuela, calling breast
enlargements a "monstrous thing". But he has stopped short of blaming beauty pageants for the
popularity of cosmetic procedures.
Acceptance of the contests is partly a result of the country's machista culture. People are
expected to adhere to traditional gender roles - women gentle and delicate, men strong and
brave. But it's also because appearance is incredibly important here, not just for women, but for
“AND IT’S EDUCATION”
JOHN RAVEN FIDELINO
JESSICA M. GONZALES