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Education System of Columbia


Types of higher education institutions:

Universidad (University)

Institución Universitaria (University Institution)

Institución Técnica Profesional (Professional Technical Institution)

Institución Tecnológica/Escuela Tecnólogica (Technological Institution/School)

School leaving and higher education credentials:


Técnico Profesional









Pre-higher education:

Duration of compulsory education:

Age of entry: 5

Age of exit: 13

Structure of school system:


Type of school providing this education: Educación preescolar

Length of program in years: 1

Age level from: 5 to: 6


Type of school providing this education: Educación Básica Primaria

Length of program in years: 5

Age level from: 7 to: 11

Lower Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Educación Básica Secundaria

Length of program in years: 4

Age level from: 12 to: 15

Certificate/diploma awarded: Certificado de Estudios de Bachillerato Básico

Technical Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Educación Media Técnica

Length of program in years: 2

Age level from: 16 to: 17

Certificate/diploma awarded: Bachillerato

Upper Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Educación Media

Length of program in years: 2

Age level from: 16 to: 17

Certificate/diploma awarded: Bachillerato

School education:

Compulsory education lasts for nine years. Basic primary education lasts for five years, preceded by one year of pre-school education. The secondary school system covers six years divided into two cycles: the basic cycle (educación básica secundaria) covers four years and the middle secondary cycle (educación media) two years. Successful completion of studies leads to the Bachillerato. Students must pass an entrance examination/test for access to universities.

Higher education:

Higher education is provided by university institutions, institutes of technology and technical professional institutions. These three institution types include both public and private institutions. In university institutions, each faculty is divided into departments. Distance education is provided by universities and regional centres. Higher education comes under the responsibility of the Ministry of National Education. The Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educación Superior (ICFES) is in charge of the evaluation of the education system. The Consejo Nacional de Educación Superior (CESU) proposes policies for the development of higher education.

Main laws/decrees governing higher education:

Decree: Decree No. 2230 Year: 2003

Concerns: Ministry of National Education

Decree: Decree No. 272 Year: 1998

Concerns: Higher Education Programmes

Decree: Law No. 30 Year: 1992

Concerns: Higher Education

Academic year:

Classes from: Feb to: Dec

Languages of instruction: Spanish

Stages of studies:

Non-university level post-secondary studies (technical/vocational type):

Non-university level:

Technological education is offered in technical and technological institutions. Studies usually last for five to six semesters and lead to the title of Técnico Profesional Intermedio. There are also eight-semester courses leading to the title of Tecnólogo.

University level studies:

University level first stage: Licenciatura:

This stage is characterized by a high level of knowledge and practical experience of the subject and lasts for four or five years. It leads to the Licenciatura or to a professional qualification (Título Profesional). A thesis or monograph and/or preliminary work in the main subjects are sometimes compulsory for the award of the professional qualification. Course work is measured in Unidades de Labor Académica (ULA). A minimum of 3,200 ULAs is required for a Licenciatura.

University level second stage: Especialización, Magister:

The entry requirement for Specialist (Especialista) and Magister programmes is the title of Licenciado and, usually, an entrance examination. A Magister is conferred after two years of study and is usually required for entry to doctoral programmes. Specialist programmes are usually offered in practical or applied disciplines and vary in length from one to four years.

University level third stage: Doctorado:

The Doctorado is awarded after two years' postgraduate specialization study in the same subject as the Magister and the defence of a thesis. It requires a complete mastery of the specialization and an effective contribution to the advancement of knowledge through extensive research.

Teacher education:

Training of secondary school teachers

Secondary school teachers are trained in the faculties of education of institutions of higher education, which also train teachers of physical education and industrial education or in pedagogical universities. They must hold the Licenciatura. There is also an experimental school for rural education which, in two years, trains certain teachers for agricultural schools.

Training of higher education teachers

Higher education teachers are mainly trained in graduate programmes leading to the award of the degrees of Magister or Doctor.

Non-traditional studies:

Distance higher education

Institutes of higher education offer distance education programmes. They are also offered by regional centres (CREADS).

Lifelong higher education

Post-secondary institutions offer specialization and upgrading courses in the framework of lifelong education. Some receive support from firms. Courses take place during and outside working hours.

Other forms of non-formal higher education

Short courses are offered by companies or vocational schools which are generally controlled by local authorities. The duration varies from one institution to another and depends on the particular course. The Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) offers special courses for technicians and office staff who are not associated with industry or firms. A Diploma is awarded to students who successfully complete the course.


Administration & co-ordination:

Responsible authorities:

Ministerio de Educación Nacional (Ministry of National Education)

Head: Cecilia María Vélez White, Minister

Administrative officer: Javier Botero Alvarez, Vice-Minister, Higher Education

Diagonal 38 bis No 39-14
Centro Administrativo Nacional (CAN)
Bogotá D.C.

Tel: +57(1) 2222800/ 3157777

Fax: +57(1) 2224578

EMail: ipacheco@mineducacion.gov.co

WWW: http://www.mineducacion.gov.co

Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educación Superior - ICFES (Colombian Institute for the Development of Higher Education)

Head: José Daniel Bogoya Maldonado, Director General

Administrative officer: Genisberto Bernardo López Conde, Secretary General

Calle 17 No. 3-40
Apartado Aéreo 6319

Tel: +57(1) 2840511/ 3387360

Fax: +57(1) 2836778

EMail: director@icfes.gov.co

WWW: http://www.icfes.gov.co

Consejo Nacional de Acreditación - CNA (National Accreditation Council)

Head: Dario Abad Arango, Coordinator

Administrative officer: Genoveva Iriarte E., Executive Secretary

Calle 19 No 6-68 Piso 17

Tel: +57(1) 3411050/ 3411052

Fax: +57(1) 2863416

EMail: cna@cna.gov.co

WWW: http://www.cna.gov.co

Asociación Colombiana de Universidades - ASCUN (Association of Colombian Universities)

Head: Jesús Ramón Rivera, President

Administrative officer: Galo Burbano Lopez, Executive Director

Calle 93 No 16 - 43

Tel: +57(1) 6231580/ 6231582

Fax: +57(1) 2185059/ 2185098

EMail: informa@ascun.org.co

WWW: http://www.ascun.org.co


Admission to non university higher education studies

Name of secondary school credential required: Bachillerato

Minimum score/requirement: 50

Entrance exams required:

Students must sit for an entrance examination.

Admission to university-level studies

Name of secondary school credential required: Bachillerato

Minimum score/requirement: 50

Entrance exams required: Students must sit for an entrance examination.

Other admission requirements: Some universities set their own compulsory examinations.

Foreign students admission

Admission requirements: Students must hold a secondary school leaving certificate equivalent to the Diploma de Bachiller and must sit for a state examination.

Entry regulations: Foreign students must hold a visa, a health certificate and warrant financial guarantees.

Language requirements: Students must have a good knowledge of Spanish.

Recognition of studies & qualifications:

Studies pursued in home country (System of recognition/accreditation): Academic programmes are evaluated by the Consejo nacional de Acreditación (http://www.cna.gov.co)

Studies pursued in foreign countries (bodies dealing with recognition of foreign credentials):

Dirección de Calidad, Ministerio de Educación Nacional

Deals with credential recognition for entry to: University and Profession

Multilateral agreements concerning recognition of foreign studies

Name of agreement: Convenio Andres Bello

Year of signature: 1970

Name of agreement: Convenio Regional de Convalidación de Estudios, Títulos y Diplomas de Educación Superior en America Latina y El Caribe

Year of signature: 1974

References to further information on foreign student admissions and recognition of studies

Title: Directorio de Estudios Superiores en Colombia

Publisher: ICFES

Title: Manueles académicos sobre cursos y programas de postgrado en Colombia

Publisher: ICETEX


Student expenses and financial aid

Bodies providing information on student financial aid:

Instituto Colombiano de Crédito Educativo y Estudios Técnicos en el Exterior (ICETEX)

Carrera 3A No. 18-24 Apartado Aéreo 5735

Tel: +57(1) 3428387

Fax: +57(1) 2838094

WWW: http://www.icetex.gov.co

Deals with: Grants and Loans

Publications on student services and financial aid:

Title: Study Abroad 2006-2007

Author: UNESCO

Publisher: UNESCO Publishing

Year of publication: 2005


Principal national bodies responsible for dealing with international cooperation and exchanges in higher education:

Oficina de Cooperación Internacional - OCI, Ministerio de Educación Nacional

WWW: http://www.mineducacion.gov.co/cooperacion/oci.asp?s=8&v=0


Usual grading system in secondary school

Full Description: 0-100 ; 1-10

Highest on scale: 100 ; 10

Pass/fail level: 50 ; 6

Lowest on scale: 0 ; 0

Main grading system used by higher education institutions

Full Description: 0 to 5; 4.60-5.00 extremely high, 4.00-4.59 excellent, 3.50-3.99 good, 3.00-3.49 sufficient, 0.00-2.99 failure

Highest on scale: 5.00

Pass/fail level: 3.00

Lowest on scale: 0.00


Data for academic year: 2005-2006

Source: IAU from Ministry of National Education, Colombia, 2006

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