Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges
In the initial and continuing preparation of Mathematics teachers in Venezuela
some factors exist that have a positive impact (strengths), such as:
- 1. The existence of public policies concerning teacher preparation. As a part of political tradition, the Venezuelan Constitution has established what can be called the “Teaching State” in which the State has the power to establish rules for general action in teacher preparation that are of a compulsory nature. Also, currently the Venezuelan government is implementing projects such as CANAIMA, LEER and LIBRES, that are providing computers and textbooks. These should have repercussions in teacher performance and the teaching of Mathematics.
- 2. Graduate programs that have led to the development of diverse groups that have carried out and maintain an interest in doing research on the problems associated with Mathematics Education.
- 3. The existence of organizations for Mathematics teachers, such as ASOVEMAT, that have sustained efforts to improve teacher preparation in the country. Ties and agreements between teacher preparation institutions have been established both nationally and internationally. This has permitted fruitful interchanges and the presence in Venezuela of well-known researchers from various parts of the world.
Also, factors have been identified that have a negative effect (weaknesses) on the
preparation of Mathematics teachers:
1. Much of the curricular structure of teacher preparation programs dates from the 1990s and therefore lags behind current knowledge and results from research in Mathematics Education. They also suffer from a deep fragmentation between content and pedagogy. This is also the case with some graduate programs. Additionally, the Elementary teacher preparation curricula have a weak mathematical component with only two general Mathematics courses and one geometry course.
- 2. Work conditions: The salary level of teachers obliges them to teach many hours of classes thus leaving little time for continuing preparation. However, the main incentive for taking courses or studying for a graduate degree is that such study leads to changes in classification that often imply salary increases. Also, there is very little follow-up of teachers by their universities or the Ministry once they take teaching positions.
- 3. There is a large shortage of secondary Mathematics teachers and the situation is getting worse as enrollments in secondary Mathematics teacher preparation programs have been falling.
In this context, the main threat is that current problems will become worse if corrective actions are not taken. Also, since the problems are more than just quantitative, it is possible that the numbers will be improved without improving the quality. It is even possible that quality will worsen if inadequate actions are taken.
Taking into account the strengths, weaknesses and threats that are mentioned above, the main challenges that confront the Mathematics Education community in Venezuela have to do with: collecting reliable data to accurately quantify the teacher shortage and other parameters; determining with precision the weaknesses in current Venezuelan teacher preparation programs; encouraging more secondary school graduates to study to become teachers, particularly at the secondary level; promoting a profound renovation of the curricula for teacher preparation so that the mathematical component is sufficient and corresponds to the work that graduates will do in classrooms, as well as achieving an internal consistency among the various components; promoting mechanisms for continuing teacher preparation; contributing to a decrease in the gap that exists between educational reforms and the changes necessary in teacher preparation; developing follow-up and support mechanisms for teachers who enter the workforce; producing adequate materials that contribute to the improvement of initial and continuing teacher preparation; and incorporating teachers into projects related to research, innovation and development of teaching materials.