The School System

Find out about the education system in Colombia from pre-school to secondary education...

Pre-school education (Educación preescolar)

Pre-school education forms part of the public education service offered by the Colombian government and is free of charge in public institutions for children between the ages of three and five. Pre-school constitutes three years, the first two of which are optional, and the final year obligatory, as it is seen as preparation for primary education.

  • Parvulos - for three year olds
  • Pre-jardín - for four year olds
  • Jardín/Transición - for five year olds

Primary and Lower Secondary Education (Educación básica)

The educación básica consists of nine years of primary and lower secondary education. It is obligatory and free in all state establishments. The first cycle (ciclo de educación básica primaria) runs from first to fifth grade (primero al quinto grado) and the ages of children range from six to ten years.

The second cycle (ciclo de educación básica secundaria) runs from sixth to ninth grade (sexto al noveno grado) and the ages of children range from 11 to 14 years.

Completion of the educación básica is a prerequisite for continuing on to the next stage of education, la educación media, or to proceed to vocational training.

Upon finishing primary education, students in Colombia are awarded a certificate known as the certificado de estudios de bachillerato básico.

Secondary education (Educación media)

Secondary education, also known as la educación media formal, lasts for two years. The curriculum can be either academic or technical, and upon completion students receive the title of bachiller. Attainment of this certificate allows entry into institutes offering tertiary education (educación superior).

The academic branch (la modalidad académica) of secondary education allows students to focus on a specific area of learning, such as fine arts, the humanities, or the sciences.

The technical branch (la modalidad técnica) gives students training in vocational skills which can later be used in the production and service industries.

Students who have completed grades one to nine, educación básica, can enroll on vocational courses offered by el servicio especial de educación, which generally consist of four semesters and result in the title of artes y oficios. This is equivalent to the bachiller awarded by other institutions. This title allows students to be admitted to technical schools at a tertiary education level.