History of Education in Venezuela

Education in colonial Venezuela was neglected compared to other parts of the Spanish Empire which were of greater economic interest. The first university in Venezuela, 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 years.