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Colombia Education Facts


The school obligation covers ten years, divided into a preschool year and nine years of compulsory school. Then follows two years of high school or vocational school. Compulsory school has been free of charge since 2012. The proportion of children and young people who attend school has increased at all levels, but the quality of education is sometimes low.

The abolition of fees and cash grants to families has contributed to several children attending school. The proportion of preschool children more than doubled between 2007 and 2013, to just over 40 percent. It is still lower than the average in the region, but almost everyone is now entering the compulsory preschool year.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Colombia, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.

Children should start first grade at age six, but many will start later. Colombia also has more children attending a class than any other of the 70 countries included in the OECD’s so-called Pisa surveys: in 2015, four of ten 15-year-olds had passed at least one class. At the same time, over 70 percent of 15-year-olds lack basic writing and numeracy skills, even though most of them are still enrolled in school.

There are major differences between the city and the countryside – the children in the cities spend more years in school than those living in the countryside. Many of the rural teachers are also poorly educated. School days are short and the resource shortage is great, sometimes money is missing for teachers’ salaries. The students pay for their books.

There are over 100 universities in Colombia, both state and private. Higher education programs are subject to fees, but the state offers favorable loan terms for studies. Nevertheless, it is mainly affluent Colombians, and to some extent the middle class, who can afford to give their children higher education. The most important university is the State Universidad Nacional de Colombia which was founded in 1867. It is headquartered in Bogotá but also has campus in several other parts of the country.

  • Searchforpublicschools: Offers schooling information of Colombia in each level – compulsory, technical and higher education programs.


Proportion of children starting primary school

91.3 percent (2017)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

24 (2017)

Reading and writing skills

94.7 percent (2016)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

15.3 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

15.3 percent (2017)



Amnesty for Farc is approved

December 29

Congress adopts a law that gives the Farcrebeller amnesty, in accordance with the peace treaty.

Legislative fast-track is approved

13th of December

The Constitutional Court gives green light to changed rules in the legislative work, so that the peace agreement can be applied as soon as possible. This applies not least to an amnesty for the Farc rebels when they put down weapons. The judges vote with the numbers 8-1 for the proposal.


Congress signs the peace agreement

November 30

The new agreement is approved in both the House of Representatives and the Senate by a large majority, after the senators belonging to Uribe’s party CD left the hall in protest before the vote. The new agreement clarifies to some extent what can be expected of the special court to try ex-rebels accused of, for example, war crimes and drug trafficking, but no prison sentence is required for those who admit war crimes. It was a demand from the opposition, but the government has said that such a writing had prompted Farc to leave the negotiations.

Sentenced for presidential candidate murder

November 24

Former head of the former intelligence service DAS (see October 2011), Miguel Maza Márquez, sentenced to 30 years in prison for involvement in the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán in 1989. Galán was a big favorite for the 1990 election when he was shot dead in the midst of an election a member of the Medellín cartel. Maza is convicted of “murder with terrorist intent” as he must have cooperated with the drug cartels who opposed Galán’s demand that drug dealers be extradited to the United States (see also Modern History). The man who shot Galán was arrested in 1992 and a political rival was sentenced in 2007 to 24 years in prison for arranging the murder. Maza has been detained for three years and the trial has been going on for over a year.

A new peace agreement is signed

November 24

The government and Farc sign the revised agreement, which is then submitted to Congress for approval. The ceremony is held in a theater in Bogotá and is significantly smaller than the previous one, on September 26. The opposition under the leadership of Uribe believes that the changes made to the agreement are only cosmetic and that the guerrilla members are still too lenient.

Increased violence threatens the peace process

November 22

New outbreaks of violence that are feared constitute attempts to sabotage the peace process raise great concern. The perpetrators are believed to belong to groups with roots in the right militia that were formally disarmed in the 00s. Groups that work for social and human rights are particularly vulnerable. OAS has recently reported murders of 33 leaders for such organizations just this year. Another three have been murdered in recent days, and two have been seriously injured in what are described as politically motivated attacks.

Urabeños members arrested

November 21st

Police say they have arrested 22 members of the criminal league, which Santos has called one of the state’s biggest enemies. Two of the arrested persons must be highly regarded persons within Urabeños. According to the police, they have been guilty of blackmail, murder and forced recruitment of minors. The group controls large parts of the drug trade to the US and Russia and is suspected of planning an expansion from its base area on the Gulf of Urabá near the Panama border.

A new peace agreement is presented

November 13

The government and Farc announce that they have a new peace agreement ready. The revised peace plan includes clarifications and proposals from the opposition and social groups, among other things, it says. Congress will have to decide on the new agreement, which will not, however, be the subject of a referendum. Uribe says the proposed changes are not enough.


The UN maintains its commitment

October 31st

Despite the backlash in the referendum, the Security Council decides to stick to the plans for a UN operation with around 400 observers, of which 152 are already in place. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has argued that the effort is more important than ever.

ELN calls are postponed

October 27th

Santos announces, with just a few hours’ notice, that talks which, according to a statement on October 10, would start in Ecuador’s capital Quito are postponed. The government has made it clear that the talks cannot start until the guerrillas release former Congressman Odín Sánchez, who let himself be captured in exchange for his brother (see April 2016). Sánchez is believed to be the last person held hostage by ELN since three other prisoners were released at the beginning of the month.

The ceasefire is extended

October 13

Santos extends the truce to the end of the year. The ceasefire that expired with the referendum had already been extended to last October.

Santos gets the Nobel Prize

October 7

President Santos receives the Nobel Peace Prize for the peace agreement he drafted and signed with the Farcgerilla, despite the Colombians rejecting it in the referendum. The prize will be a strong mandate for Santos to continue the peace process. Santos also announces that he intends to donate the prize money, SEK 8 million, to the victims of the conflict.

Santos is trying to save the deal

October 3

The president appoints a group of high-ranking government representatives to hold discussions with the opposition, in an attempt to salvage the agreement with Farc. Uribe does not participate in the meeting itself, but appoints three negotiators to participate in the talks. Uribe has demanded that guerrilla members who have committed serious crimes be sentenced to prison and that some Farc leaders should be banned from participating in politics.

The referendum results in no to the peace agreement

October 2

Voters vote by a marginal margin against the peace agreement that the government has concluded with Farc and which has been applauded throughout the world. Both Santos and the guerrillas say they will still continue to work for peace. The vote figures will be 50.2 against 49.8 percent; The profit margin is only 57,000 votes. The turnout is 37 percent.

Farc intends to pay damages

October 1st

The guerrillas say in a statement that they will replace victims of the war. In the past, Farc has said it lacks funds for any disbursements, as all money should have gone to finance the fighting. Farc now states that it should report money and other assets to the authorities.


ELN releases kidnapped

September 29th

The guerrillas hand over a civilian to the representatives of the ICRC. The guerrillas also say they want to start formal discussions with the government and “look for solutions”. The statement comes a day after the government called on the ELN to release people holding guerrillas hostage.

The peace agreement is signed

September 26th

Santos and Farc leader Timochenko sign the settlement, thereby formally setting the point for the 52-year-long armed conflict. The participants in the ceremony held in the port city of Cartagena are all dressed in white, as a symbol of peace. The guests include UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 17 heads of state mainly from Latin America and 25 foreign ministers, including the US’s John Kerry, and 200 relatives of victims of the conflict. Timochenko, who is speaking for the first time on TV, expressly apologizes to all victims.

Farc votes for the peace treaty

September 23

The Marxist rebels unanimously adopt the peace treaty at the conclusion of its 10th national conference held in El Caguán, the guerrilla’s stronghold in the southeast. Around 500 members attend the conference, which is monitored by 400 journalists from all over the world. Only one Farc faction, called the First Front, opposes the peace treaty parts. The first front is believed to consist of around 200 people and be involved in drug smuggling.

Farc hands over child soldiers

September 10

The guerrilla hands over a first group of eight children who, according to the International Red Cross Committee (ICRC), must undergo physical and mental examinations before being taken to temporary reception centers. Eventually one should try to bring the children back to their families. Farc claims to have 21 children under 15 as soldiers.


Resolution on referendum

August 29th

Both chambers of Congress vote to hold the referendum on October 2, according to the president’s proposal. The question becomes: “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?”

Armistice comes into force

August 28th

Santos and Farc Leader Londoño give the military and the rebels orders for a permanent cease-fire from midnight, the night of August 29. This is essentially a symbolic step when a cease-fire already exists, but it is considered a historic step not least as the permanent ceasefire was expected only after the peace agreement was signed.

Historical peace agreement clear

August 24th

The government and Farc announce in Havana that they have reached an agreement, after almost four years of negotiations. According to the agreement, 23 “concentration zones” will be set up where Farcs will gather around 6,800 rebels in the countryside and 8,500 urban members, so that the UN can monitor the ceasefire and demobilization.

Mining clearing starts

August 7th

Colombia launches what is said to be the largest mining brigade in the world. It will have 5,000 employees by the end of the year and twice as many as of 2017. According to an estimate, 10,000 Colombians have been killed or injured by landmines since 1990. Colombia is one of the countries with the most mines in the terrain; only in Afghanistan and Cambodia do more mini-accidents occur.

Cocaine factories destroyed

August 2

The security forces are said to have destroyed 104 cocaine production facilities, where around 100 tonnes of cocaine a year have been produced. The efforts in the southeast, in areas previously controlled by Farc, form part of a new strategy aimed at producers and smugglers rather than poor farmers who grow boil.


Farc ends ‘tax collection’

July 5

The “revolutionary tax” that has been demanded for decades by residents and companies in areas controlled by guerrillas should no longer be collected.


UN observers on site

June 28

The first observers to supervise the Farcrebeller’s disarmament come to Colombia. There are 23 observers from Latin American countries. In total, the observer group will amount to 450. Already, there are about 20 civilian UN representatives in the country.

Settlement of ceasefire

June 22

The government and Farc state in a joint statement that they have agreed to lay down weapons, and on how the disarmament should go. The hope is now that a peace agreement will be signed on July 20.


Kidnapping delays ELN calls

May 29th

President Santos tweeted that the peace talks will not be held until the guerrillas promise to stop kidnapping, and release anyone held hostage. The message comes after three journalists were released after a short week. The guerrillas say they regret that the three journalists were abducted, in Catatumbo in the northeast.

Agreement on child soldiers

15th of May

The government states that a settlement has been reached with Farc that child soldiers should be treated as war victims and not held responsible for any crimes. Farc has agreed to identify those involved and help hand them over so that they can be returned to their families. How many children are involved is unclear.

Record drug seizure

15th of May

Police have found nearly eight tons of cocaine on a banana plantation in the coastal town of Turbo. Three members of the Úsuga clan must have been arrested. The Úsuga clan (also called Los Urabeños) is one of three criminal organizations that the military, under a new strategy, fights, among other things, through aviation.

Bacrim becomes GAO

May 5th

The government renames the criminal gang previously called “bacrim” (see March 2013) to Organized Armed Groups, GAO. The armed gangs still pose a major security threat.


Same-sex marriage becomes legal

April 28

Colombia is the fourth country in South America (after Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil) to legalize same-sex marriage.

Santos reforms government

April 25

President Santos announces that he will make major changes to the government with a view to making it better suited to govern after a peace agreement is signed. The government will have a broader regional support and representatives from more political directions. When Santos presents his new government, however, it appears that the heaviest ministers remain.

ELN releases ex-governor

April 3

The guerrillas release Patrocinio Sánchez Montes de Oca, former governor of Chocó, who has been held captive since 2013.

Mass protest against the peace talks

April 3

Tens of thousands are participating in over 20 cities in protests that former president Uribe is behind.


Peace talks start with ELN

March 30

Negotiators for both the government and the guerrillas announce that formal negotiations are now underway. The message is given in Venezuela’s capital Caracas, where informal talks have been held. The parties have agreed on an agenda with six points. The talks will start in Ecuador but will probably be conducted in Brazil and Chile.

The peace agreement postponed

March 23rd

A deadline that the parties previously set for March 23 expires without any agreement being made. However, both have made it clear that the negotiations will continue and the hopes are that an agreement will be clear during the year.


Álvaro Uribe’s brother arrested

February 29th

The ex-president’s brother Santiago is suspected to have been behind a death patrol that should have carried away and murdered leftist rebels, drug addicts and criminals in Antioquia in the 1990s.

Electricity and water a right

February 21st

The Constitutional Court states that access to electricity and water are fundamental rights that precede the rights of electricity and water companies. The ruling is based on a case of an unemployed four-year-old mother who could not pay her bills, but also applies to hospitals, prisons and schools.

Farc stops recruiting minors

February 10

The guerrilla announces that it is now raising the age limit for new recruits to 18 years (see also February 2015). The army has estimated that almost half of Farc’s members are recruited as minors.

Mining in a fragile environment is prohibited

January 9

The Constitutional Court finds that the extraction of oil and gold in the ecosystems called páramos, grassy and shrubby areas 3,000-5,000 meters above sea level can cause irreparable damage. During the rainy season, water is stored in the soil, which then becomes an important source of water during the dry season. The verdict results in a setback for mining companies that have previously been cleared to continue using issued licenses.


Warnings of consequences of the zika virus

January 28

In a drastic call from the Health Minister on January 20, the government has abstained from pregnancies, due to the rapid spread of the mosquito-borne zika virus. Zika is feared to cause microcephaly, a birth defect where the brain does not develop normally. Now, the authorities also warn that zika may be behind a sharp increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a neurological disease that causes paralysis symptoms and can be fatal. In a few weeks, the number of zika infected with GBS in Colombia has gone from 15 cases to several hundred, the Minister of Health said.

The UN promises observer power

January 25

The UN Security Council says yes to Colombia’s request for unarmed observers once a peace agreement has been signed, primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean. The mandate will be for one year but can be extended if both parties so wish. The request was made public by both parties in the negotiations on January 19.

Farce soldiers are released

January 21st

Sixteen Farc soldiers are released in response to the unilateral ceasefire Farc has held since July, according to the government that already in November promised to pardon 30 Farc members. One condition is that the prisoners promise not to reconnect with the guerrillas.

Ex-Colonel convicted of extrajudicial executions

January 19

Former Army Colonel Robinson González del Rio is found guilty of 31 murders committed between 2006 and 2009 in Antioquia, under the so-called “false positive scandal”. He is the highest ranking military so far convicted of involvement in the scandal which is estimated to have claimed around 3,000 innocent people’s lives. The government’s demands for military success in the war on guerrillas and a developed reward system paved the way for these crimes.

Stricter penalty scale for acid attacks

January 18

President Santos signs a new law that tightens the penalty for acid attacks, so that perpetrators should be sentenced to between 12 and 50 years in prison. Such attacks, which are found mainly in Asia, have become common in Colombia over the past decade. About a hundred people, mainly women, are subjected to corrosive acid each year which can cause severe deformities.

Colombia Best Colleges and Universities