"Music has to be recognized as an agent of social development, in the highest sense because it transmits the highest values - solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion. And it has the ability to unite an entire community, and to express sublime feelings"
The program is known for rescuing young people in extremely impoverished circumstances from the environment of drug abuse and crime into which they would likely otherwise be drawn. As "El Sistema", its goal is to use music for the protection of childhood through training, rehabilitation and prevention of criminal behaviour.
On 6 June 2007, the Inter-American Development Bank announced the granting of a US$150 million loan for the construction of seven regional centers of El Sistema throughout Venezuela. Many bankers within the IDB originally objected to the loan on the grounds that classical music is for the elite. In fact, the bank has conducted studies on the more than two million young people who have been educated in El Sistema which link participation in the program to improvements in school attendance and declines in juvenile delinquency. Weighing such benefits as a falloff in school drop-out rates and a decline in crime, the bank calculated that every dollar invested in El Sistema was reaping about $1.68 in social dividends.
Supported by the government, El Sistema has started to introduce its music program into the public-school curriculum, aiming to be in every school and to support 500,000 children by 2015.
The project has been extended to the penal system. The plan to humanize jails through music began eleven months ago under the tutelage of the Ministry of the Interior and Justice.
El Sistema is now a state foundation which watches over Venezuela's 125 youth orchestras and the instrumental training programmes which make them possible. The organization has 31 symphony orchestras, and between 310,000 to 370,000 children attend its music schools around the country.70 to 90 percent of the students come from poor socio-economic backgrounds.