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Education System of Colombia

Colombia Geographical Position

Colombia is located in the north-west part of South America, bordered by Brazil and Venezuela to the east, Peru and Ecuador to the south, and Panama to the north-west.  

Education Profile of Columbia

The Ministry of Education regulates the education system in Colombia. The education system in Colombia is organized into following levels:
  • Pre-primary education
  • Basic education that last for 9 years
  • Secondary education of 2 years duration
  • Higher education

Pre-primary Education (Educacion Pre-primaria)

Pre-primary education in Colombia is provided by nursery schools and kindergartens.
  • Children aged 1 to 5 are offered with daycare and nursery school in community homes (Hogares Comunitarios) sponsored by the National Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF).
  • Children aged 5-6 are provided with kindergarten, where they learn how to read and write.

Compulsory Education

Compulsory education in Colombia is of 9 years duration, for all children aged 6 to 14. 

Basic Education (Educacion Basica)

Primary education in Colombia is compulsory to attend and is of 9 years duration. This level of education is split up into 2 phases-
  • Basic primary education (educacion basica primaria): This level of basic education is of 5 years duration.
  • Basic secondary education (educacion basica secundaria): This level of basic education is of 4 years duration. 

Secondary Education (Educacion Media/Secundaria)

Students after completion of the basic education are qualified for secondary education in Colombia. Secondary education in Colombia is of 2 years duration. This level of education prepares students for university-level education. 
Secondary education in Colombia is divided into 2 tracks:
  • Academic: This secondary educational track provides basic instruction in arts, sciences or humanities.
  • Technical/vocational tracks: This track offer following specialization areas: agriculture, industry, commerce, and finance. This track prepares students for the workforce, or they can even enter higher education via a state exam. 
Certificate awarded: Bachillerato (Academic or technical, depending on the track chosen). This qualification enables students to apply for higher education in Colombia. 

Examination: Students who receive a Bachillerato Acamedic (Bachiller Academico) certificate are allowed to enter higher education through 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).

Higher Education (Educacion Superior)

Higher education in Colombia is offered by public as well as private institutions of higher education.

Higher Education Institutions

Higher education in Colombia is offered by universities, technological institutions, university institutes or technological institutes, and technical training institutes.
  • Universities (universidades) in Colombia provide study programmes up to the PhD/doctorate level
  • University institutes or technological institutes (Instituciones universitarias or escuelas tecnologicas) offer only undergraduate programmes and under some conditions can offer postgraduate courses of study.
  • Technological institutions (tecnologicas) provide higher professional education and upper secondary vocational education programmes.
  • Technical training institutes (Instituciones tecnicas profesionales) offer upper secondary vocational education programmes.

Higher Education Qualifications

The higher education qualifications in Colombia are classified into 2 levels:
  • Pregrado (Undergraduate)
  • Posgrado (Graduate)

Undergraduate (Pregrado)

Pregrado leads to the qualification of Licenciado. This level also includes professional qualifications. 

Postgraduate (Posgrado)

Postgraduate programmes include specialisation (especializacion), master (maestria) and doctorate (doctorado) programmes.  
  • Specialization (Especialista) programme: These programmes are of 1 to 2 years duration. These programmes provide further specialization in a particular professional or field of study. 
  • Master (Maestria):  These programmes are of 1 to 2 years duration, and conclude with a dissertation. This degree provides access to the doctorate programmes. 
  • Doctorate (Doctorado): This degree is of 2 to 4 years duration. Students must hold a master’s degree for admission into the doctorate programme. This degree requires preparation and submission of a doctoral thesis
For detailed information on the Colombian education system, read the post "Colombian Education Overview". 

Admission Requirements

Students must have completed secondary education in order to enter higher education in Colombia. Students must pass an entrance exam- the State examination-ICFES (El Examen de Estado) for admission into the higher education institutions in Colombia. 

For more details on the admission requirements for higher education in Colombia, click here

International Students

Entry requirements: International students who wish to study in Colombia must have a Colombian student visa

Study and Living: Cost of study varies by programme and institution. Colombia is an affordable study and living destination.

Scholarships: Scholarships are offered to international students by the ICETEX- a Colombian government entity for for graduate studies in Colombia.  
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