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Snapshot of Colombia Education System

The Ministry of National Education (Ministerio de Educacion Nacional) administers the education system in Colombia. Education in Colombia is compulsory until the basic secondary/lower secondary education level. Since 2012, the compulsory education is free of charge and funded by the state. 

Snapshot of Colombian Education System

The stages of education in Colombia are :

  • Preschool education (Educacion Preescolar)
  • Basic education which encompasses primary/ elementary education (educacion primaria) and basic secondary education (educacion basica secundaria)
  • Secondary education (educacion media/secundaria)
  • Higher education (educacion superior)

Preschool Education

Preschool education in Colombia is optional, and is offered by nurseries and kindergartens.
  • Nursery and day care: These cater to children aged 1 to 5 years.
  • Kindergartens and preschools: These cater to children aged 5 to 6 years

Basic Education

Basic education in Colombia is compulsory and free of charge. The basic education in Colombia has duration of 9 years. Basic education is divided into two levels:
  • Primary/elementary education
  • Basic secondary/lower secondary education

Primary Education 

Primary education in Colombia is compulsory and is for children aged 6 to 11. This educational level covers grades 1 to 5.

Curriculum: Mathematics, social studies, physical education, arts education, Spanish language, natural science, and moral and religious education.

Certificate awarded: Students who finish this level of education are awarded the Certificate of Fifth Grade of Primary Education (Certificado al Quinto Grado de Ensenanza Primaria)

Basic Secondary Education/Lower Secondary Education

The lower secondary basic education is compulsory to attend and is for children aged 11 to 15. This educational level covers grades 6 to 9. 

Curriculum: In the first 2 years of lower secondary basic education, same curriculum is followed by all the students as used in primary education.  During the last 2 years, i.e. grades 8 and 9, a foreign language and vocational studies are included in the basic curriculum. 
Core Curriculum (Grades 6 to 9): Mathematics, social studies, physical education, arts education, Spanish language and literature, natural science, vocational instructions (Grade 8 and 9), and moral and religious education.

Secondary Education/Upper Secondary Education (Educacion Media/Secundaria)

Secondary education is Colombia is not compulsory, and is divided into 2 streams:
  • Academic Secondary Education
  • Vocational / technical secondary education
The length of upper secondary education in Colombia is 2 years, and covers grades 10 and 11. 

Academic Secondary Education

Academic secondary education deepens the knowledge in a particular field of humanities, science or the arts. 

Curriculum: Biology, Foreign language, mathematics, religious education, art education, physics, earth science, philosophy, biology, general chemistry,  physical education, Spanish language and literature, organic chemistry, and social science. 

Vocational and Technical Secondary Education

Vocational and technical secondary education prepares pupils for employment in one of the sectors-service and production. Vocational field includes social studies, academic, industrial, agricultural, and commercial education. 


Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of the upper secondary education, students are awarded the title of Bachillerato in their specialized area. 

Examination: Students who receive a Bachillerato Acamedic must undertake a “State Exam” (Examen de Estado) that is managed by the Colombian Institute for Educational Evaluation (Instituto Colombiano para la Evaluacion de la Educacion, or ICFES) in order to gain entry into the higher education sector in Colombia.

Higher Education

Higher education in Colombia is offered by both public and private higher education institutions. Higher education institutions in Colombia are university, university institutes, technological institutes, technical training institutes and professional schools.  Universities in Colombia offer undergraduate and graduate degree programmes. 

University Level

Undergraduate (Pregrado)

Admission in the undergraduate programmes is based on the secondary school completion certificate and the result of the state exam. Undergraduate studies leads to the qualification of Licenciado. This level also includes professional qualifications. The duration of the pregrado stage is 4-5 years, depending on the field of study. 

Graduate Studies (Posgrado)

Graduate degree programmes lead to professional degree:
  • Title of Specialist (Titulo de Especialista): This qualification can be obtained after 1-2 years of study
  • Master’s degree (Grado de Magister): This qualification required 2 years of study
  • Doctor (Titulo de Doctor): This title can be obtained after 2-5 years of study, depending on the discipline. 

Non-University Level

Technological and technical institutes in Colombia offer technological education. These studies are of 2 to 3 years’ duration, and lead to the title of Tecnico Profesional Intermedio.

There are also programmes that last for 4 years offered by the technical institutions. These programmes lead to the title of technologist (titulo de Tecnologo).

To know the structure of education in Colombia, read the post "Colombian Education Structure".
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