Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Venezuela

About Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Venezuela

Venezuela, known in official circles as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a tropical country situated on the northern coast of South America, with a total geographic area of just under 354,000 square miles.  The large country shares borders with Colombia to the west, Brazil to the south, and Guyana to the east and its 1,700 mile coastline is formed by the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast, as well as numerous islands in the Caribbean Sea.  Because Venezuela is located near the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba, the country shares many cultural traits of the Caribbean islands, and its geography, which ranges from coastal plains to Amazon rainforests, is one of the most diverse in the world.  Venezuela has an estimated population of 29.1 million, a racially diverse population with a fairly even distribution of mestizos (a mix of European and native Amerindian ancestry) (33%), whites (mostly Europeans) (32%) and mulattos (a combination of black and white racial backgrounds) (21%).  Spanish is the national language of Venezuela and is used for all official purposes, including government, commerce, media and legal dealings.  It is also the most widely spoken language in the country and used as the language of instruction in Venezuelan schools and universities.  The capital and largest city in Venezuela is Caracas.

Distance Education

Distance education, at least by today’s definition, is an educational delivery method in which most or all of a university course or degree program is conducted online.   Instructors send assignments to students via email, allowing the student to work at his or her own pace when it’s most convenient for them.  Assignments are then returned to the instructor for evaluation and feedback.  Communication between students and teachers is also conducted electronically, using email, instant messaging, video conferencing and more, and while some of these programs may require minimal attendance, usually for exams or lab work among other events, in some cases the entire course is delivered via an online format.

Distance education in Venezuela, much like all higher education in the country, is under the supervision and regulation of the Venezuelan Ministry of Education.  The higher education system consists of universities and technical schools at both the public and private level, and according to the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, public higher education, including distance education, is free at the undergraduate level for all students who meet the eligibility requirements.  In recent years, distance education, which is now offered by most of the country’s universities and technical schools, has become more widespread and has led to a significant boost in enrollment.

There are over 90 institutions of higher learning in Venezuela, and by the year 2000 there were approximately 700,000 students enrolled.  Of those, over 70 percent came from the wealthiest one-fifth of the population—an alarming statistic that forced the government to act.  Since most of the institutions of higher learning are located in the country’s urban areas, students from the poorer rural areas of the country had very limited access to the higher education system.  To address this disparity in educational access, in 2003 the government established the Bolivarian University system, a program designed to democratize access to higher education by offering distance learning programs to the public with minimal entrance requirements.  This program continues to gain in popularity o this day, allowing students who were once limited by poverty and distance to take advantage of the cost-free educational opportunities offered at the countries universities and technical schools. By 2004, enrollments in Venezuela universities and technical schools rose to 900,000, an increase the government attributes to the addition and expansion of distance learning.

The distance education programs in the country’s technical schools typically span two years, upon completion of which students are awarded the title of Técnico Superior Universitario, which translates to University Higher Technician.  Three-year online programs are also available in some of the more advanced fields, with students who complete the program being awarded a Licenciado, or license.  Online education at the country’s universities typically spans five years, with successful students being awarded the title of Ingeniero (Engineer) upon graduation.  Some higher education institutions may also award Diplomados (Diplomas), but the time required to earn one varies widely depending on the school and the field of study.
A select number of universities also offer distance education at the graduate and post-graduate level—education that follows the conventions of the United States, with Master’s and Doctorate degree programs that typically span 2-3 years and 3-5 years respectively.

The adult literacy rate in Venezuela is 92 percent, a reflection of the country’s excellent system of education at all levels.

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