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Colombian Education

The Education System in Colombia

The Ministry of Education is in control of Colombia’s education. Formal education in Colombia consists of nursery, elementary, high school, technical education, and college.

The Ministry of Education is in control of Colombia’s education. Formal education in Colombia consists of nursery, elementary, high school, technical education, and college.

Nursery schools and daycare centers are generally attended by children under 5 years old. These educational centers are commonly known as “Hogares Comunitarios” and are supported by the National Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF). The elementary level is taken for 5 years by children from 6-12 years of age. The next level is secondary education which takes also 5 years to complete and is divided into 2 components: basic secondary (6th-9th grade); and mid secondary (10th-11th grade). Before enrolling taking up any technical or college education, all students are required to pass the pruebas de estado test given by the Insituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educacion Superior (ICFES). Majority of technical courses lasts 3 years while university degrees are 5 years.




Public education

Public education Colombia is free and compulsory for students coursing Primary Studies (Basica Primaria) consisting of five years, from first grade to fifth grade. Classes begin in February and finish in November.

Students usually begin primary at age of six, and finish it at age of ten. Secondary Studies (Basica Secundaria) are not free and consists of four years, from sixth grade to ninth grade. Classes begin in January and finish in November.

Vocational Middle (Media Vocacional) is the final level, is not compulsory but required to apply for superior studies. It is composed by tenth and eleventh grade. During the eleventh grade students apply for the ICFES test, similar to the SAT test, which is needed to apply for superior studies. Public schools in Colombia usually attend only half a day, since there are so many kids and so very few schools and teachers, they divide the day in two, having one set of kids attend in the morning from 7 to 12 pm and one set in the afternoon from 1 to 6 pm, having like two schools in the same facility.

The government has started a night school program for those students who work during the day , though. Some teachers may work at two or three different schools during the day or at the same school during the whole day.The students can go to classes in the morning, from 7 AM to 12 PM , in the afternoon, from 1 PM to 6 PM,or at night from 6:30 to about 10:00( some night schools hours may be shorter).

Most students of public schools are from low income families and cannot afford superior studies. Such students can choose a free course in the SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje) or study in educative corporations (corporaciones educativas) which offer very few titles of universities, and technical degrees. There are only a few public universities where students can get an education for free or very little money.

Private education

Private education in Colombia is more reliable than public education, but is more expensive. In intermediate and small cities, mensualities can cost from USD 50 to USD 400. In bigger cities, mensualities can cost USD 300 or more, however, the most expensive is not always the best school.

The classes begin in the morning and finish in the afternoon between 12:00 and 12:30. The school year starts in January or February and finishes in November, for Calendar A schools. The school year in calendar B schools begins in August and finishes in June. Most schools expect from children to learn to read and write before beginning primary and most schools are bilingual, however, all schools, public and private must teach English as a second language.

The teaching of English is more intensive in private schools, some students are fluent before beginning middle vocational studies. Most private schools assure that all the students can apply for superior studies in a normal university. Due that most students come from middle and upper class families, they can afford superior studies. Private universities are expensive, a semester can cost USD 1500, most private universities are located in Barranquilla, Bogota, Medellin and Cali.

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