Venezuela changes education system

Ideas of 19th-century pro-independence activist form backbone of new curricula.

    Chavez is accused by opponents of trying to impose a socialist agenda in Venezuela's schools [AFP]

    But those opposed to the plan have said that teaching Bolivarian ideals in schools is an attempt by President Hugo Chavez to increase long-term support for his policies.

    "They don't use the word 'socialism,' but that's what they want to introduce in our schools," Ray Gonzalez, a 59-year-old engineer, said of the legislators who passed the law.

    Opposition walk-out

    National assembly members opposed to the bill's most contentious articles left the assembly hours before the final vote in protest.

    "We decided to withdraw because they did not accept our proposals or recommendations"

    Juan Jose Molina, legislator opposed to
    the education bill

    "We decided to withdraw because they did not accept our proposals or recommendations,'' Juan Jose Molina, a politician opposed to the bill, said.

    The 67-seat assembly was filled entirely with pro-Chavez polticians after his opponents boycotted 2005 elections.

    A dozen legislators have since dropped their support for the president and the ruling Fifth Republic party, alleging that Chavez has become increasingly authoritarian.

    But supporters of the law say that students will learn to be socially responsible under the new curricula.

    "It is not about imposing a single form of thinking. On the contrary; it is about respecting the diversity that has characterized this country since colonisation," Yajaira Reyes, a teacher who heads a pro-Chavez group called Educators for Emancipation, said.

    A day before the law was passed, rival demonstrators clashed outside the assembly building in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

    Police in riot gear used tear gas and water cannons to break up the protests. At least a dozen people were hurt.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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