Table of Contents

  • Colombia has made education a main priority to improve the economic and social prosperity of the country and pledged more resources to this sector than any other policy area. It has already made great leaps towards providing a quality and inclusive education. It has managed to lengthen the period of time Colombian children go to school, and to ensure more are entering the system at an earlier age and continuing to tertiary education, in particular amongst the most disadvantaged. Quality assurance mechanisms and efforts to improve the teaching profession have been introduced. These are remarkable achievements considering the socio-economic challenges and regional disparities Colombia faces. Sustaining this progress will be central to realising Colombia’s ambitions to become the most educated country in Latin America.

  • Over the past two decades the Colombian education system has undergone a fundamental transformation. Access to education has been a priority, with ambitious policies to expand enrolment at every level and bring education services to every corner of the country. In just a decade, school life expectancy has increased by two years and participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC ) and tertiary education has more than doubled, to 40% and 50%, respectively. An increasing focus on learning outcomes has led to major reforms of the teaching profession and the establishment of a strong evaluation system. Improved governance and funding arrangements have laid the foundations for a system that is more efficient and meets the needs of a very diverse country. Nationwide consultations on education reform have forged a strong societal commitment to improvement. Together, these policies have brought the Colombian education system to a turning point on the eve of a post-conflict era.

  • Colombia’s transition towards peace and higher levels of development depends on many factors, but none will be more important to the country’s future than its ability to build a strong education system. Colombia has many assets: a young population, rich natural resources and an open economy. To turn this potential into the foundation for strong and inclusive growth will require higher levels of learning and skills. This chapter looks at the socio-economic factors that will influence Colombia’s transformation to a more educated country. It provides an overview of how the education system in Colombia is organised and analyses the major trends in access, quality and equity. The final section examines the structural factors within the education sector – governance, financing and use of information – and how they can be harnessed to support reform efforts.

  • Colombia has made important strides in developing and expanding early childhood education and care (ECEC) in recent years, in particular for vulnerable and disadvantaged families. However, participation rates and quality in ECEC, particularly in rural areas, remain below OECD standards. This chapter examines challenges and solutions for developing a high quality and equitable ECEC system in Colombia. It analyses the importance of upgrading ECEC provision to improve the educational benefits gained at this level. It explores how Colombia can continue to expand access and reinforce the transition to school. The chapter also identifies the need for better co-ordination between different ECEC providers, in particular the National Ministry of Education (MEN) and the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF), and looks at ways Colombia can strengthen the whole ECEC system through greater and more effective investment in the early years and improved accountability.

  • Over the last 25 years, legislative reforms have transformed primary and lower secondary education in Colombia, establishing the objectives, principles and structures which define basic education. This chapter examines the major policy developments and the main performance trends in this sector. It then proposes the significant changes in policy and practice that Colombia must undertake in order to provide quality basic education for all children. Teachers and schools need to ensure that curricula, assessments and classroom time are all being used effectively to enable the acquisition of basic skills. The skills of the teaching workforce will also need to be upgraded and investing in school leadership will be pivotal to improvement. Schools and local governments need additional support to lead these efforts, such as the right incentives, a better balance of autonomy and accountability, and information systems to enable and encourage policy reform.

  • This chapter reviews Colombia’s upper secondary education (USE) system, which lasts two years and targets students aged 15 and 16 (Grades 10 and 11). After examining the key features and trends at this level, it puts the spotlight on policy solutions to ensure Colombian students acquire the skills they need for work or further learning. The chapter highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to USE, which consolidates core skills while providing greater access to work-based learning and more effective career guidance as a means to smooth students’ transition to the labour market. It urges the need to address students’ learning gaps before they reach USE, reduce the opportunity costs of education and develop a positive school climate. The chapter also examines how Colombia can reinforce national leadership and local capacity to steer reforms and enhance the relevance of USE to the local economy.

  • This chapter covers tertiary education (TE) and the key policy issues Colombia faces as it seeks to transform a higher education sector focused on academic education into an integrated system that encompasses all institutions, including technical, technological and professional education. It explores how Colombia can continue improving the quality and relevance of TE while also attracting and accommodating a larger and increasingly diverse student body. It highlights the need for enhanced efforts to guide and support students throughout their TE career, in particular young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and address the economic and geographical obstacles to access. It also examines policies to reinforce the quality assurance system to guarantee a minimum quality of provision and foster a culture of improvement. Finally, the chapter looks at the system-level changes needed to deliver these reforms successfully, including a fundamental revision of tertiary funding and stronger local governance to connect TE institutions with the economy and labour market.