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Basic Facts about Colombian Educational Systems

Internet information about Colombian educational system is contradictory and sometime outdated. Basic facts about the school system in Colombia collected here, may serve as a reference point for parents adopting older children from this country.

Private Schools
Public Schools
Fair Health Schools
Special Ed Schools
Fair Health Schools
Special Ed Schools

The literacy rate in Colombia was approximately 88% in 1987; 90% of children in the appropriate age-groups in urban areas and nearly 70% of children in rural areas attended primary school. Private schools account for 15 percent of the enrollments at the primary level, 40 percent at the secondary-school level, and 60 percent at the university level. The principal reason for the rapid expansion of the education system was the massive increase in public outlays for education (Colombia - Education). In 2004 92.8 % of adults and 98.0 % of youth are literate (UNESCO statistics). Colombian diaspora has begun to organize and channel resources to Colombia from the United States. One of the largest examples is the Genesis Foundation.

Religious focus
The constitution provides that public education shall not conflict with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church; courses in the Roman Catholic religion are compulsory. Private schools have freedom of instruction, and there are a number of Protestant schools, principally in Bogotá. The national government supports secondary as well as university education and maintains a number of primary schools throughout the country (Colombia - Education).

Spanish is the dominant language of education. There are 198 days of attendance.

Colombian educational system has three levels: preschool, primary and secondary level.

Preschool level (38 % of children are enrolled).

Children over one year old are provided with daycare and nursery school in "Hogares Comunitarios" (community homes) sponsored by the National Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF acronym in Spanish), where mothers from the community take care of their own children, as well as the children from the immediate neighborhood. There are also a large number of private kindergarten facilities, but most of the time the high fees are very restrictive to the average family (Wikipedia).

  • Day Care and Nursery (children 1 to 5 years old)
  • Preschool and Kindergarten (children 4 to 6 years old)

Primary level (84 % of girls and 83 % of boys are enrolled)

  • Grade 1 to 5. The primary education is mandatory and free; it starts at 6.
    Rates of attrition had decreased, and rates of graduation had improved since the 1960s. The repetition rate had also gone down slightly. Nevertheless, only 62 percent of those students who entered primary schools in urban areas finished sixth grade, and in rural areas the rate was just 18%. The variations were quite large, ranging from 34% to 81% in urban areas and from 9% to 41% in rural areas. The grade repetition rates were quite high, ranging from 20% in the first grade to 7% in the fifth. Students in urban areas completed an average of 3.7 primary-school grades, whereas those in rural zones completed an average of only 1.7 grades (Primary Education).

Secondary level (58 % of girls and 52 % of boys are enrolled)

  • Grade 6 to 9 - Basic secondary education. Inefficiency and low quality were also major problems in Colombia's secondary schools, although to a lesser degree than at the primary level. At the secondary-school level, 55 percent of all teachers had completed university studies, students used modern learning aids in class, and teaching materials of high quality were generally available (Secondary Education).
  • Grade 10 to 11 - Mid secondary education.
    Mid secondary school is usually refereed as Vocational school, as there is a selection of technical, arts, and academic schools to choose from. Technical schools offered specialized training in industrial subjects (mechanics, industrial chemistry, welding, farming) and commercial topics (accounting, office clerk). Other schools specialize in religious studies (Seminar schools for future Catholic priests), and teaching for preschool and elementary teaching. Traditional academic school, however, represents most of the offer in urban areas (Wikipedia).

Additional references

  1. Inclusive Education in Colombia


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