|Missions of the Bolivarian Revolution|
|— food — housing — medicine —|
|Barrio Adentro · Plan Bolivar 2000
Hábitat · Mercal
|— education —|
|Ribas · Sucre
Robinson I · Robinson II
|— indigenous rights — land — environment —|
|Guaicaipuro · Identidad
Miranda · Piar
Vuelta al Campo · Vuelvan Caras
|— (Hugo Chávez) — (Venezuela) —|
Mission Sucre (launched in late 2003) is one the Bolivarian Missions (a series of anti-poverty and social welfare programs) implemented by former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. The program provides free and ongoing higher (college and graduate level) education to the two million adult Venezuelans.
Mission Sucre was originally referred to as El Plan Extraordinario Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre, shortened as Misión Sucre. Named after the 18th century independence leader Antonio José de Sucre, Mission Sucre establishes as a strategy the mass education and graduation of university professionals in three years, as opposed to the traditionally mandated five or more years. The mission is thus an attempt to popularize, reform, and expand Venezuelan higher education beyond its traditional role of educating the children of a proportion of Venezuelans that can pay for collateral costs involved while studying in a college or university, due to uneven geographically distributed high education institutes (transportation expenses, housing). The program is thus geared especially towards economically excluded high school students and the poorest and most marginalized segments of society, providing an opportunity for all people desiring a higher education.
In this mission, certain matters and subjects, such as foreign languages, are mostly left out of the curriculum. The program functions mostly at the margins of the Venezuelan tertiary education system, although several key institutions, such as Simon Bolivar University, have endorsed the program. For example, thousands of non-traditional, mostly low income students are currently undergoing training to become licensed physicians in a unique and accelerated curriculum.
Mission Sucre imparts tertiary education; other educational missions include Mission Robinson (for instructing the illiterate) and Mission Ribas (for obtaining secondary studies, classes, and graduation certificates).
The objectives of Mission Sucre are officially stated as follows: 'To harness institutional synergy and community participation to guarantee access to university education for all undergraduates and to transform the condition of those excluded from the subsystem of higher education. To combine a vision of social justice with the strategic character of higher education for sustainable all-round human development, national sovereignty and the construction of a democratic and participatory society, for which purpose it is indispensable to guarantee the participation of the whole society in the making, transformation, diffusion and creative exploitation of knowledge and deeds.'
Origins of mass higher education
In the last decades of the 20th century, the Venezuelan government prior to the Chávez administration was steadily renouncing its support in areas involving education; specifically, it decreased support for tertiary education for the poor.
In fact, government funding and investment in higher education in Venezuela between 1989 and 1998 saw a marked downward trend. Chávez became president in 1999. The trend marked the government's desire to reduce resources and state support for education while furthering the project of privatization of higher education, as per the doctrines of the Washington Consensus and neoliberalism.
This brought consequences such as a large accumulated "social debt" (the sum tabulation of governmental neglect of a given area, such as the total of all funds that could have been spent on education, but instead were spent elsewhere), because the number of university matriculations stagnated, resulting in the exclusion of students originating from Venezuela's poorest sectors. Numerous studies agree that entrance to higher education predisposes students from any background to eventually earn greater incomes, both of the population of the cities and to students originating from elite private schools. On a par with this phenomenon, the tertiary education turning out official governmental managers reduced its participation in the education of private (corporate) management. From 1999, the National Government has dedicated efforts to strengthen the Venezuelan educational system, for which it has been indispensable to rescue the initiative of the State as a guarantor of high quality educational opportunities for all. With respect to the access to higher education, the National Government has achieved an expansion in matriculations to the Institutes and Schools and in good part to the Experimental National Universities, in a joint work with the authorities and the established communities of these institutions.
In addition, starting from the beginning of Chávez's presidential mandate in 1999, five new universities have been founded. These universities are: Experimental National University of Yaracuy (created by decree in the government of Rafael Caldera and opened under the Chávez presidency); Maritime University of the Caribbean; National Experimental University of the Armed Forces (UNEFA); Experimental National University of South of the Lake (that is, south of Lake Maracaibo) and the Bolivarian University of Venezuela. Also, four new University Institutes of Technology have been created; these are: the IUT of Bolívar State, the IUT of Apure State, the IUT of Barinas State and the IUT in la Fría Táchira State.
These institutions give new opportunities for study for the enormous number of college graduates who return to lower levels of education, and in addition they respond to the necessity to transform the system of tertiary education, in terms of geographic distribution, based on the construction of the Territorial Balance designed in the manner of the Economic and Social Plan of Development 2001-2007.
Nevertheless, this effort remains far short of meeting overall demand, such is the extent of the social debt accumulated by previous administrations' neglect of popularized higher education. There are around 500,000 bachelor's degree holders who remain excluded from professional tertiary education.