As they say, “There is no limit to what you can dream”; however, the same apathy and disinterest of the general population decrease the will. I’m not a college graduate, even if I almost did it (personal reasons), yet, due the profession I decide to follow I have always been immersed inside the academic world. On my first years people always questioned the fact that a Bachelor could tell a Technician or an Engineer how to do things, however, with the passing of time people understood that inside the IT world not everything is learned at College, not even at College, currently is not much what you learn inside a college that can prepare you to confront the actual professional world (at least in Venezuela… remember what this article is about).
On my life I have bee able to discuss with students how they would like to be evaluated, and I have also had the opportunity to have meetings with groups of College Professors about the same subject. One of my favorites so far happened at the Yacambú University, where during almost 12 hours we talk about the new Design tools and how this should now be called “Integral Design” (instead Graphic Design) so we could form a more complete artist.
Recently I did the following comment on Twitter: “What if instead doing Thesis/Internships students were asked to contribute on projects, and were evaluated based on commits…”
This simple Twit generate an interesting debate between friends (and some not that friendly) that made me write this article so maybe, someone between my readers, can generate a wider debate about how Knowledge is being evaluated in an era where Knowledge itself is anywhere you turn to look.
What if instead doing Thesis/internships, students were asked to contribute on projects. Evaluations could be based on commits…
Reinvent the actual concept of Academy
Just as Juan said, new methods and concepts must be created so students understand that Software is more than sit in an office from 8-5, and is more about the interactions we can have with people from all around the world, while we develop on an instant communication environment with our colleagues. It should also have to change the wrong concept of the current academic circles where professionalism is qualified on a scale of Thesis-Internship, without a middle ground.
One of the most disappointing things I saw during my College period was going to the University Library and read that over the 80% of the Thesis storage there were “web developments”… and I say “developments” because it was just install a Joomla instance to a friend or family and present that as a Thesis. Is that we are no longer interested on be professionals and we just care about having a paper that increase our personal ego?.
Miguel is a college professor, quite young, but with more experience than most of his colleagues on their 60’s. He’s a young that, despite having a stable work at a “f*&ing insane Start-Up” he spends time and energy on educate young people as hi,, so they can learn from his experience and can become -real- professionals and not just made of paper. Miguel said that “many of the certifications and workshops on the academic environment are not addressed to the use of tools, but just theories and concepts”, which is not adjusted to our current era where we develop even without knowing it.
The main issue exposed by Miguel is that “create a new study material isn’t something that can happen overnight, because you have to develop an analytic program, search new subjects, go through the University intern bureaucracy, so then you can go to the Ministry of Education internal bureaucracy, and all that without considering that the evaluation method can affect the current regulations, so you should adjust that too”. Somehow looks like the Venezuelan Universitary System doesn’t want to improve, since this could mean more work hours, effort and dedication. But lets be honest, Who wants to dedicate to -train competitors- for a minimal wage?
Here I have to make a pause to explain you the current currency issue. We have 3 exchange rates, two defined by Government and one defined by Black Market. To make this article easier I will define each exchange rate with letters:
- Primary Governmental Exchange Market = 12Bs per USD (PM) – This is mostly used for internal transactions.
- Secondary Governmental Exchange Market = 171Bs per USD (SM) – This is a new exchange market opened recently where Venezuelans can -buy- USD on a free fluctuate rate (Note: There have been several sales, yet, less than the 0,010% of the population has been able to acquire those preferential USD)
- Black Market = 300Bs per USD (BM) – This is the exchange rate on the streets, the only real way Venezuelans have to acquire USD. It changes on daily base.
After asking a lot (since this documentation is not at the Ministry website) someone pointed me to the document that explain the Collective Contact of 2013-2014 (since education is regulated by the Government, they stablish the salary for every teacher; yet, 2015 wage is still defined by this old document since the 2015 Contract is being discussed… and it’s May). On this document, the biggest payout to “Professors of exclusive dedication (meaning you can’t work elsewhere) was fixed on 01-01-2014 on 15.297Bs. (PM=1.274USD / SM=89USD / BM=50USD). Lets remember that Teachers salaries haven’t been adjusted since January 2014. The sad part of this story is that most of the Professors are not part of this salary, but they go on the Asistants, Asociated and Auxiliars rates, which are lower. To set a real example, a friend’s father asked for a work constancy. This person is great professional who always is up to learn more. Now I wonder, Would you be happy to work for a couple of years despite your actual work as a teacher, to create a new study program for a 5.118Bs salary? (PM=426USD / SM=29USD / BM=17USD)
Now it seems unfair to criticize this salary without knowing how much a Teacher earns outside our borders, so I also found those numbers. A Teacher earns between 30.000USD and 130.000USD a year, which indicates than regular monthly salary is near 2.500USD. The best paid professor inside Venezuela earns monthly:
Even when we calculate the highest wage on the Venezuelan salary tabulator, it barely reach half the minimum international wage. Making this calculus some questions rise up: On which Exchange Rate should Venezuelans calculate their real income? If you’re a Venezuelan Professor, do you earn 15.297Bs or are you underpaid? After knowing this numbers, Do you still think that it’s unfair that Professors get a secondary job outside the academic environment?
Real solutions in times of crisis
It’s easy to say “raise the salaries” or “work to build the homeland”, but truth is (as IT in my country say) “we don’t eat wires” so I doubt professors eat books. From my perspective, the best paid 4 professions should be Teachers, Doctors, Agriculture Engineers and Police, that way you can ensure education, health, alimentation and security for your country, however, I don’t think that the Government should assume all of that. If Government can’t pay a worthy wage to a professional, then services privatization (either full or partial) should be a solution. We see two main problems at not offering worthy salaries, first one is that those Professionals working as Academics doesn’t push students to their best (and those who say that -motivation to make a better homeland- should be enough clearly don’t have a family to support) and the second problem I see is that those new graduates rather work as a ta driver or practice a different career (or just leave the country) seeking for a salary that let them live at least, a standard life. So, How can we motivate a professional to work -for the motherland-?
Another possible solution is that, since study programs are developed completely under the Ministry of Education supervision, create a Professors team, organize a Symposium (Paid, not necessary expensive, to help with expenses and create conscience since -knowledge has a price- in our country nobody likes to pay for anything) where during a week or so these topics are discussed and some real proposals can end up enriching the current education program. But hey, to this Symposium should not only be invited those Professors with a long trajectory, but also the new ones who know the current work environment and needs, so a real debate can be made, and the current Educative Pensum can be orientated to the current productive Venezuelan environment.
Anyway, this article is more of a reflexion, analysis and a text that tries to create a bit of conscience about the University ducation in my country. Lets remember that currently, most information comes from the web (either we want it or not) and it’s there. So instead see it as the enemy (quite common on our population) lets use it as a tool to improove the preparation of the next generation.
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