Education in Colombia

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November 21, 2022


1. At the end of the chapter, the readers should:[edit | edit source]

  1. understand the general history of the Colombian Education System
  2. develop an understand of the stages in the Colombian Education System
  3. become aware of the Public Education System in Colombian and its challenges
  4. gain an appreciation for the Colombian Education System that exists in the 21st century

2. Historical Overview of Colombia's Education System[edit | edit source]

The Colombian Education System dates back to its colonial years when Spanish settlers sought to teach the indigenous about Catholicism. The 16th century dawned a new day for Colombian natives when Spanish settlers officially introduced a school system with emphasis on reading, writing, language learning (Latin) and the Catholic faith ("History of Education in Colombia...", 2022).

Prior to Colombia's independence, education was seen as a privilege that was attainable mainly by the "white" male Spaniard descendants who would become professionals in the fields of law, education and medicine. Post-independence in the early 1800s ushered in a new era reform attempts were made to move the country's education system forward. Notwithstanding, steps taken to improve Education for Colombians was not without challenges. There were hurdles to overcome, one of which was the political differences that existed. This was evident in the tug of war between political parties (Hauver, 2021).

1821 - Congress of Cùcuta

A literacy test was written into the constitution Monasteries were abolished Lay author Jeremy Bentham was fused into the curriculum

1828 - Bolĺvar's Dictatorship

Monasteries were reinstated Jeremy Bentham was banned

1832 - New Constitution

Literacy test requirement extended Monastery assets confiscated Jeremy Bentham reinstated Primary school enrollment increase to 20,000

1843 - New Constitution

Jesuits who were expelled in 1767 were invited back to start private schools Jeremy Bentham removed from curriculum Shift from humanities education to technical education

1860s and 1870s

Universidad Nacional de Colombia was founded - 1867 Primary education was made free, mandatory and non-religious - 1870 Government allocated 4% of budget towards education German educators introduced to train teachers Primary school enrollment increased to 84,000

1886 - New Constitution

Religion once more playing a significant role in Education as it was again aligned to the Catholic Church Expansion of Education dwindled

1930s Liberal Rule

University admissions opened to women - 1935 Encouragement of co-education and nullifying of religion-education alignment - 1936 Approximately two-thirds of secondary students attend religious affiliated schools 90% of public schools were found to have not met basic hygiene standards At least 50% of teachers were deemed incompetent

(Adapted from Hauver, 2021)

3. Stages in the Colombian Education System[edit | edit source]

Columbian Education - Stages. Created using

4. Public Education in Colombia and the Challenges Faced[edit | edit source]

Statistically, Colombia's Public Education systems can be represented as follows:

  • Only 37.2% of Colombians continue education after high school.
  • 45.4% of students dropped out of tertiary education as of 2010.
  • By the time children reach age 17, 75% drop out of the education system.
  • About 37% of students start school late and about 41% repeat at least one grade by age 15.
  • There are only 7.1 Masters of PhD degree holders per 1,000,000 inhabitants” (Mouttet, 2017).

Funding source or approach for Public Education:

Most of the funding for school education in Colombia is public funding. Statistics has shown that between the period of 2010-2017, the state financed between 73.2% and 76.1% of the total expenditure. “4.6% of annual GDP has been invested in education, but only .5% of this expenditure has gone towards rural areas. Because of this, there is a huge disparity between children in urban and rural areas” (Mouttet, 2017).

How is Public Education Governed?

In Columbia, the  Ministerio de Educación Nacional (MEN) which is located in Bogotá, is responsible for monitoring the quality of education provided. They also set the overall educational policy and school curricula. At the local or administrative level, Certified Territorial Entities (CETs), implement educational policies and oversee public and private schools within their jurisdictions. They also autonomously manage funds and teaching staff.

Admittedly, stakeholders in Education have indeed made strides in improving the Education system in Colombia. There is still much to be had as Colombia faces the challenges of low participation, 'dropouts', and drug use and trafficking.

"Even though educación media was made tuition-free at public schools in 2012 and attendance rates have been rising steadily in recent years, participation remains low by international standards. The upper-secondary net enrollment ratio—the percentage of enrollments within the relevant age group—stood at only 42.5 percent in 2018." (Carroll, 2020). Additionally, large number of students drop out of school, especially in the rural areas and among the upper secondary group. As a result, adult learners are given the opportunity to earn a diploma by sitting an equivalency exam as that of grade 11 for which they can prepare in adult education school and continuing education programs. The negative impact of drug use and trafficking on the Colombian children and Colombians in general cannot be overemphasized. Colombia is said to be the largest producer of cocaine accounting for 5% of the consumption of all drugs (Zuleta, 2022). Colombia has a history of drug production, drug trafficking, gun for drugs trading and ‘empires’ governed by drug lords/ cartels. No doubt, the drug trade has impacted various spheres of the lives of the people in Colombia with guerrilla warfare, ruthless killings and other forms of violence and crime. Education is no exception. Many children families and communities to include Guacamayal, a community located north-west of Bogota, face this issue of drug use, destroying their hope and putting their lives at risk (Drug education and prevention in Colombia, 2018). As a result, the Stand By Me Emmanuel Care Centre in Colombia, engaged parents and children in a workshop to increase their knowledge and awareness on the effects of drugs.

5. Colombian Education in the 21st Century[edit | edit source]

Despite the many challenges, Colombia, continues to make progress it's educational system. The country, today of over 90% of its population and there are approximately 9 in 10 of primary enrollment and 8 in 10 of secondary enrollments. Internationally assessments have shown that over half of 15 years old have basic literacy skills and 35% have basic numeracy skills. There seems to be, however, gaps between genders, between rural and urban students as well as between income levels. Private institutions account for around 20% of primary and secondary schools that have been deemed to provide better education than public schools. Of note is also, the advocacy for every educational institution to establish a "Chair of Peace" in response to the degree of violence experienced by children and family and also to present a lively hope for the future (Hauver, 2021).

6. Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The Colombian Educational System has developed tremendously over the years. Though there are challenges, with consistency and the support and cooperation of political authorities, law enforcement agencies, educational stakeholders and communities, transformational improvements can be made.

7. References[edit | edit source]

Carroll, L. (2020). Education in Colombia. Retrieved from: Education in Colombia (

Colombia: Higher Education. (2022). Retrieved from: Colombia - Higher Education - Students, Universities, Institutions, and University -

Drug Education and Prevention in Colombia. (2018). Retrieved from: Drug education and prevention in Colombia - Stand By Me

Hauver, J. (2021). A Brief History of Education in Colombia. Retrieved from: A Brief History of Education in Colombia – Justin Hauver

History of Education in Colombia: Characteristics, Development – History – 2022. (2022). Retrieved from: HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN COLOMBIA: CHARACTERISTICS, DEVELOPMENT - HISTORY - 2022 (

Mouttet, C. (2017). Columbia’s Education System. Retrieved from: Colombia's Education System - CHILDREN BEYOND OUR BORDERS (

Paris, M. (2022). Stages used in the Education system in Colombia.[jpg]. Concept Map.drawio -

Zuleta, D.L. (2022). The war on drugs: 50 years of death and failure. Retrieved from: Colombia: The war on drugs: 50 years of death and failure | International | EL PAÍS English Edition (