j, ..urnbian education is expanoing rapidly. From 1955 to 1468,
enrollment at the elementary level increased by 121.1 percent;
at the secondary level, by 334.8 percent; and at the higher
education level, by 384.6 percent.
E Although public education is free, about 25 percent of the
elementary school-age population do not attend school.
N In 1968, over two-thirds of all secondary students were enrolled
in the general secondary (bachillerato) program; and almost half
of all secondary students were women. Of those enrolled in the
vocational program, over half were in the commercial field.
N Nineteen National Institutes of Middle Education-large, com-
prehensive secondary schools-are planned to be operating in
Department (State) capitals by 1972.
I In 1970, 34 universities were authorized to grant degrees, and
university enrollment had reached almost 79,000. The typical
university prepares a student for one particular profession.
H About 75 percent of the students who finish their university
course-work for a degree do not complete their theses and/or
their comprehensive examinations. Although such a student-
termed an egresado-receives no degree or title, his education
is of professional value to him in Colombia.
0 Private schools in 1968 enrolled 20 percent of all elementary
HIGHLIGHTS students, 54 percent of all secondary students, and 46 percent of
all higher education students.
The Roman Catholic Church not only administers most private
schools, but also seeks through Accidn Cultural Popular (with
some financial assistance from the National Government) to reduce
illiteracy and raise economic and social standards among rural
peasants, mainly by means of radio broadcasts.
The National Apprenticeship Service (SENA) provides up to 3
years of vocational and practical training based on surveys of the
country's needs. A semiautonomous agency of the Ministry of
Labor, SENA is supported by a payroll tax levied on employers.
The Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and Advanced
Training Abroad (ICETEX) encourages Colombians to acquire defi-
nite skills fromthe more industrially developed nations of the
world through activities such as loans, authorizing favorable stu-
dent dollar-exchange rates, and sponsoring scholarship programs.
Taken from the National Seal of Colombia. The condor denotes
national sovereignty; the two horns with fruit and gold, richness
of the land; the Phrygian cap on a spear (adopted during the
French Revolution as a symbol of liberty), independence; and the
ships, the Nation's coasts on both the Caribbean Sea and the
Pacific Ocean. The motto means "Liberty and Order."
RICHARD R. RENNER
Associate Professor of Education
University of Florida, Gainesville
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE
ELLIOT L. RICHARDSON, Secretary
Office of Education
S. P. MARLAND, Jr., Commissioner of Education
Institute of International Studies
ROBERT LEESTMA, Associate Commissioner for International Education
This report was made by Richard R. Renner, Uni-
versity of Florida, Gainesville, pursuant to Contracts
No. OEC-1-7-07117-5231 and OEC-0-70-2717 with
the Office of Education, U.S. Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare.
Opinions expressed in the report are those of the
author and do not necessarily reflect official views of
the U.S. Government.
Superintendent of Documents Catalog No. HE 5.214:14152
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON: 1971
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D. C. 20402 Price $1.25
This study is another in a series of Office of Education publications on
education in other countries. It describes all major levels and types of
education in Colombia against the background of the relevant economic,
cultural, and social features of that country.
The author, Richard R. Renner, has specialized in Latin American
education, publishing articles on this subject in various professional jour-
nals. He taught at Pennsylvania State University from 1959 to 1965 and
since then has been on the faculty of the University of Florida. Dr. Renner
has performed education-related research and teaching in several Latin
American countries. His work in Colombia was done during 1960, 1968,
Particularly helpful to the author in Colombia were educational spe-
cialists in the Ministry of National Education's Division of Planning, the
Colombian Association of Universities, and the Colombian Institute for
Educational Loans and Advanced Training Abroad. Many Colombians
in various walks of life also assisted by giving information and opinions
about education in their country.
The Office of Education and the author are grateful for the assistance
of not only the many Colombian specialists and citizens, but also the
Division of Sponsored Research at the University of Florida; Dr. Augusto
Franco A., Director of the Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and
Advanced Training Abroad; Dr. Alberto Ruiz of the Department of
Educational Affairs in the General Secretariat of the Organization of
American States; Dr. Guillermo Velez, Dean of Education at the Univer-
sity of Antioquia; and Dr. Hal Lewis, Chairman of the Department of
Foundations of Education at the University of Florida. The views expressed
here, however, are those of the author alone.
Associate Commissioner for
Foreword ... ---............------------------
1. The National Setting..............-------------------
Population.........-----...............- .........- -----
2. Cultural and Social Influences on Education..._------..
The Influence of Class -.....-......-------------------
Upper-Lower Class Relationships -..........---............-..
Cultural Characteristics..-....---.......... ........... ......
Educational Attitudes..... ...........--------------------
Educational Expectations..... -............ ...........
3. Educational Landmarks and Traditions .................-----------
Independence and the 19th Century ...-............-..........-
Church Educational Activities ...---..............- .........
Church Influence--................ ---------------------
Modern Trends.......... -------------------------
4. School Organization and Administration .......----------
Supervision and Inspection -...~.. ............- .
Finances -- ------...... ....-------------
School Construction ..... ...---------------
Scholarships .. ---------....----------
Enrollment .-. ----..-----------------
The School Calendar-.. --.. ---...-....------.
Texts and Teaching Materials -- -----~~--....... .
Language of Instruction-....----- ----.... -- ------
5. Planning and Development ........--------------
Developmental Problems.. ------..--......------
Background of Educational Planning -.... ......----------
The Office of Planning, Coordination, and Evaluation --.. --
The New Prestige of Economics -... --...... -- -- ---
The Church's Interest -..------...--....-......-..---
Hindrances to National Development -.---..... . ..-----
Developmental Trends and Activities ..-...... .....--------
6. Kindergarten and Elementary Education -.....
A. Kindergarten Education
The Institutions and the Children-..-..- ...---
The Ministry's Services .. ..---------------
B. Elementary Education
Purposes.. ---.... -............ .. .........---------- 52
Attitude Toward Public Schools -............... ..........---- 52
The School Year and Class Size........-... ..-----.--. .----- 53
Number of Grades --....................------------------- 53
Pupils: Ages and Enrollment ... ......... ..........----- 53
Dropouts and Absentees ........------------------ 54
Curriculum..........- ........................--------------- 58
Textbooks and Teaching Methods....----.....--------------- 58
Examinations .....------------------------------ 61
Buildings and Services....-...---------------------- 61
Rural Education.......----------------------- 62
The 1967 Emergency Plan -..-......- ----------.---.-- 63
Criticisms and Suggestions..--..........-------....... 65
7. Secondary Education....... ...------------------------ 67
Objectives-- ........---- ------------------ 67
Structure and Organization ....--...-....--.--- ------. 68
Buildings and Facilities ........... ----------------...- 71
Enrollments......... ------------------------.-- 71
Curriculum-....------........ ..-..... ------------- 72
Instruction ....-.......-...-----------------------...... 75
Grades and Examinations.............. ------------ -.. 76
Reforms --...-....----------- ..............--------.. --- 80
The National Institute of Middle Education (INEM)----.......... 82
8. Vocational Education.......-...-.........--------------. 85
Commercial Education --..............----------------- 85
Industrial and Technical Education....----......---------- 87
Agricultural Education-.....-...-...... ------------- 87
Women's Vocational Education ............... ------------ 92
Military Education ..-..-....-...----------.......--------- 93
The National Apprenticeship Service (SENA) ..---............. 93
Criticisms-...--..--..........--------- -- 97
9. Higher Education-----......-------...... .------------ 98
Organization... ....------....--.......---------- 100
The Colombian Institute for the Development
of Higher Education (ICFES)---....................---------.. 100
Autonomy .... ....... ...----------.- .....-.....-------------- 103
Finances--...--...-......------- -------------- 104
Enrollments .. .... ----------------------.---. 105
Curriculum ...------.----- ---....-. ------------- 107
Degrees....---- ...-----...-------------...----- 115
Instruction and Promotion--..-..--. -----...--..-------- 116
University Teachers..-------...... .... -------------- 120
Criticisms and Reforms---..- ---.---...------------- 128
Representative Universities --...... ---- ------...... 130
10. Teachers and Teacher Education......--..... ......
Qualifications .......- ........ ....... ... ......-- ...
Elementary Teacher Education....-. ....---
Secondary Teacher Education......-- ..---.- ..
The Classification System....-...................-
Employment Conditions.. --...--.....-. ....
11. Private Education .. -----...--...--.-....
Government Support......-..-......-.. -..
Roman Catholic Education -.........- ------ ....
Acci6n Cultural Popular (ACPO) ..........-...-...
Protestant Education ... -------.... .... ......- ...
Other Private Schools ........--- ----..-.. ...---
12. Other Educational Programs ............-------
Literacy and Fundamental Education................ ................
Educational Television....-........--....... ----- .....
Physical Education.--- ...-..... --.. ------.... ---.... ...
Education for the Handicapped-..-...--.......-.. ............
General Cultural Activities --... -----....-.----- ......-
13. International and Foreign Educational Influences-..--.......
The Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and
Advanced Training Abroad (ICETEX)..................
The Brain Drain.........-..-..... --------......
Study Abroad. ---------------......
Foreign Schools in Colombia....... .......-..--
Foreign Assistance to Colombian Education-..........----....
14. Conclusions .............----------.-....
Achievements .......----- .....---.. ...-.... .... -------
Prospects................ ........ .... ...... ......... ........ ...
A. Selections From a First Grade Teacher's Guide..--..-.
B. A Public School First Grade Final Examination
in Religion-..... ....-.. .....-- ...... .... ....
C. Selected Bibliography..-......- .... .......... ......
1. Educational expenditures, by type or level of education:
1961, 1963, and 1965-..............- ------..
2. Number of persons over 7 years old who have completed
each level of schooling; and percent that number
represents of the comparable population: 1951
and 1964 .........-...-...................
3. Number of pupils in elementary public and private schools,
by age and grade: 1968--............ ...............
-..-..-.. .... 135
.--- ...- 135
.-- .- 148
4. Number of hours in each elementary subject, by grade and
subject area: 1963 decree----------------..-....-. --- ............. 59
5. Number of hours in each subject area of secondary
education, by grade and year: 1962 decree....-..-.............. 73
6. Number of hours in each subject of the secondary academic
and commercial curriculums, by grade and year: 1967-....... 86
7. Number of hours in each subject of the vocational
agricultural portion of the secondary basic-cycle
curriculum, by grade and year: 1967 --...----........-.....--.- ..... 89
8. Number of hours in each academic and vocational subject
at technical agricultural institutes, by year: 1967-............... 90
9. Number of hours in each subject at the facultad of law and
political science, National University (Bogota),
by year: 1968---- .---------------...------ ---..-.-------.. 108
10. Number of hours in each subject of the 5-year civil
engineering course, Javeriana University (Bogota), by
semester: 1968...... --....-- --- --..-.---.... ... ..... 109
11. Number of theory and practice hours in each subject at the
facultad of medicine, Javeriana University (Bogota),
by semester: 1966-68.......-...-.............-------- ----- 110
12. Number of credits in each subject of the suggested 4-year
curriculum at the facultad of economics, University of
Los Andes (Bogota), by semester: 1967----..-..................... 113
13. Number of university students in each higher education
subject area, by course year: 1968 ...---. --....... -.... ............. 123
14. Number of teachers in each type of elementary school, by
highest educational preparation and by sex: 1966 -....-.. ....- 136
15. Number of academic secondary school teachers by highest
educational preparation: 1965 and 1966............-- .......... 137
16. Number of hours in each subject of the normal school
secondary course, professional cycle: 1965-..-..-.................... 139
17. Number of hours, code, and prerequisite code for each
subject of the courses in pedagogy and educational
administration and in social studies teaching at the
facultad of education, National University (BogotA),
by semester: 1968..-...-...-......... ---........ .......... 142
18. Number of class hours, laboratory hours, and credits in
each subject in a sample mathematics/physics course at
the facultad of education, University of Antioquia
(Medellin), by year and/or semester: 1968..................... 144
1. The Colombian Educational Sector: February 1969.--.. 31
2. Enrollment by Grade; and Population by
Corresponding Age Group in Elementary Urban
and Rural Schools: 1964...................... ...-....... 55
3. Structure of the Colombian Educational System:
1967-------..-------..------ --.......-- ..... ....-- 69
4. Vocational Program Organization of the Institutes of
Middle Education (INEM): 1969.---......--......--.............. 84
Colombia: 1968 ---.. ---...-.. --------......- --..-..- x
I 58440 5-68
1. The National Setting
Education is an integral aspect of most human activities. Since educa-
tional institutions are devised by society, they reflect the values, hopes,
and aspirations of the cultural and political groups which make them
possible. A country's educational system cannot be understood without
some familiarity with its society and with the economic and political
institutions which sustain it. This is particularly true of a developing
nation like Colombia, where economic growth and selective educational
innovations have been accompanied by severe social and political up-
heavals during the last two decades. This first chapter will describe some
of the features of Colombia essential to an understanding of the context
within which its educational system functions.
Colombia is the only South American republic with two important
seacoasts. One thousand miles stretch along the Caribbean Sea and 812
miles along the Pacific Ocean. Its land area of 439,530 square miles makes
it the fourth largest country in South America. Colombia is slightly larger
than Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas combined; and Bogota, its
capital, with an altitude of 8,661 feet, is one of the highest cities in the
world. Of the 14 main population clusters, 11 are in mountain basins
or valleys three to nine thousand feet above sea level; the remainder, in
coastal lowlands bordering the Caribbean.
Colombia's multiple climates permit a wide variety of crops. Efficient
commercial production of bananas, cotton, rice, and sugar has developed
in the plains areas, and excellent dairy cattle are raised in the vicinity
of the three largest cities (Bogota, Medellin, and Cali) and also in a few
other areas. Some haciendas produce beef very efficiently, but in general
only those belonging to the very wealthy use modern, efficient methods of
agriculture. Predominantly, agricultural practices in Colombia remain
uneconomic and therefore provide the many small landowners and land-
less peasants with but a meagre existence.
Although the Equator crosses southern Colombia, climate is largely a
matter of altitude; some school geographies even include a list of useful
climate and altitude data for the towns of every Department (State). These
altitude regions are typically classified as tierra fria (cold country) above
6,500 feet; tierra templada (temperate zone) between 6,500 and 3,000 feet;
and tierra caliente (hot country) below 3,000 feet. High mountains separate
most of the population centers; the highest peak is the volcano of Cumbal
at 16,049 feet. Most of the sparsely settled eastern region consists of
plains or jungle. Mountainous terrain in many areas has made surface
transportation so difficult that an extensive network of low-cost commercial
airlines has developed. The first continuously operating commercial air-
line in South America was founded with German and Colombian capital
in 1919. One may now fly from Colombia's capital to its most distant
major cities in less than an hour and a half.
Climate and agricultural productivity vary with the elevation. Much of
the 3,000-foot-high Cauca Valley near Cali is highly fertile, yielding as
many as five crops a year-notably beans, coffee, cotton, pineapples,
tobacco, and tropical fruits. In the Cauca Valley the Government has
inaugurated a program similar to that of the Tennessee Valley Authority
to control floods, drain swamps, irrigate dry areas, and produce electricity.
Near Bogota, barley, cattle, corn, potatoes, and wheat predominate. The
tierra caliente areas have year-round temperatures ranging from 75 to 80
degrees Fahrenheit, with only a three-degree difference between the hottest
and coldest months. From 3,000 to 6,500 feet the temperature ranges
between 65 and 70 degrees. Bogota has an average temperature of 57.
Rainfall throughout the country is usually ample, but no regular rainy
seasons are common to all areas.
In quality, Colombian coffee ranks among the world's best, and in
quantity produced it ranks second only to that of Brazil. The world's
largest exporter of emeralds, Colombia also exports gold, platinum,
petroleum, and uranium in significant quantities.
Colombia's population of 21 million is third among the populations of
South American countries. Nearly 99 percent of Colombians live in the
western 45 percent of the country, and the remaining 1.3 percent are
scattered throughout the other 55 percent of the country. Although the
Spanish sought to protect their pure blood from what they felt was con-
tamination with inferior races, racial mixture was common from the
earliest days. Today it has reached the point where precise classification
becomes impossible. Recent racial estimates vary considerably. Indians
make up from 1 to 15 percent of the population; Negroes, 4 to 10 percent;
mulattoes and Zambos (mixed Indian and Negro), 17 to 30 percent;
mestizos (mixed white and Indian), 33 to 58 percent; and whites, 10 to 25
percent.' The whites inhabit urban centers primarily, especially the high-
land cities. Mestizos live in the same regions with whites, but only as
peasants or as recent migrants to the cities; and Negroes, mulattoes, and
Zambos are found principally along the coasts and in the river lowlands.
Although there are frequent exceptions, a small, predominantly urban
group of whites controls the wealth of Colombia and exercises the national
power. In recent years, however, these advantages have gradually been
extended to the middle classes. Members of the traditional elite take a
great deal of pride in their Spanish heritage. Although they may marry
foreign whites, they rarely marry Colombians of lower social status. Below
1 Lyman H. Legters et al. U.S. Army Handbook for Colombia (Pamphlet No. 550-26, 2d edition). Washington:
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964. p. 60.
this elite group lie the vast majority of Colombians, usually of mixed
racial ancestry. These people identify with national rather than regional
values and traditions, and tend to idealize the values of the upper classes.
Urban members of this group are gradually coming to regard themselves
as middle class, while the rural peasant tends to see himself as having a
lower status. There are also a number of Indian societies, frequently each
with its own language, which for the most part remain outside of the
Hispanic national culture.2
Not only is Colombia's population growing rapidly, but its present
rate of growth is one of the highest in the world, increasing from 2.2 per-
cent annually to 3.2 percent between 1951 and 1964. Public health cam-
paigns have lowered mortality rates, but have not significantly lowered
birth rates. The nation's increasingly urban population is expected to
double in 20 years. In 1951, 38.7 percent of the population lived in cities,
but by the 1964 census this number had increased to 52.8 percent. The four
principal cities of Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and Barranquilla are growing
at an annual rate of 5.6 percent. Of every 100 inhabitants, 12 were in
school in 1960; 6 years later this number had increased to 16. In 1960, 17
pesos per thousand of gross national product were devoted to education;
in 1966, 21 pesos per thousand.3
Although the gross national product increased 5.3 percent in 1966,
annual per capital income in the same year was equivalent to only $265 at
1963 prices, a figure considerably less than the average for Latin America
as a whole. Between 1951 and 1964, the economically active portion of
the Colombian population increased from 3,755,609 to 5,134,125. The
following percentage distribution of this economically active population
in 1951 is shown by category of worker, arranged from highest to lowest,
together with the corresponding percentage in 1964:
Cattlemen, farmers, and persons in related fields.........-------------.................... 53.1 47.3
Manufacturing and crafts... .-------------................---.......... 15.1 13.1
Personal services--.....--.................------ .... ----..-.....-- ..... 10.6 11.2
Administrators, directors, and managers-------------.............................. 5.7 2.6
Unspecified ............. .. ......-------------- .......---------------............... 3.8 3.5
O ffi ce em ployees............................ --------- -------..... ----........ ........... .......... ........ 2.4 4.6
Professionals, technicians, and persons in related occupations--.................. 2.3 3.9
Laborers ..---------..-----.--...--........ -----......-----.- 2.0 1.2
Transportation workers-...-...-.. ................ ---- -- .........--...-- 2.0 3.0
Vendors...........------ -----................. -------------............. 1.7 5.6
Miners, masons, etc ......-------------........-... --..------....---..... 1.3 0.8
Craftsmen not included above.. -..--... ---------------------.. .................... ..... 3.2
Most of the country's economic progress has been confined to its modern
industrial component. Colombia's financial, business, and government
2Ibid. pp. 61-63.
3 Asociaci6n Colombiana de Universidades. Antecedentesy Perspecivas del Desarrollo Cuantitativo de la Educaci6n
Superior n Colombia, 1968-1975. Bogota: Divisi6n de Planeacidn, October 1967. p. 19.
SIbid. p. 13.
organizations have put their main support behind high-productivity
industries and generally have neglected rural and other enterprises using
large amounts of unskilled labor. The high-productivity industrial sector
accounts for about 80 percent of total gross national product, while em-
ploying only one-third of the total labor force. In 1963, nearly one-third
of the labor force was unemployed.5 Although Colombia has a vigorous
class of business entrepreneurs, it does not have sufficient managerial
talent in the upper and middle ranks. On this score, however, it is in much
better condition than many other South American countries.6
Certain Colombian industries have grown rapidly. In 1962, for example,
steel production increased by 10 percent and cement production by 9.9
percent.7 As early as 1963, industry accounted for 18 percent of the coun-
try's total gross national product.8 The more than 400,000 stockholders
listed on the Bogota Stock Exchange were more numerous than in any
other Latin American country, even allowing for the fact that the names
of certain families frequently recur on boards of directors.9 Throughout
the last decade a spirit of enthusiasm for economic development has
characterized the outlook of the country's leadership, and substantial
progress has taken place.
Despite its emphasis on manufacturing, however, the Colombian
economy is heavily dependent upon exports. In 1966, coffee alone supplied
63 percent of the value of its exports-one-sixth of the world's supply,
66 percent of which went to a single market, the United States. Coffee
has been Colombia's principal source of the foreign exchange she needs
to purchase capital goods for industrial expansion. This fact ties the
country's economy to the vicissitudes of the weather and the world market
variables which inevitably result in fluctuating capital for expansion. For
example, the average price of coffee fell from 48 cents, U.S., per pound
in July 1966 to 40 cents in August 1967.10
The second largest export, petroleum, amounts to about 13 percent by
value. The third largest export is cattle. In precious metals, Colombia is
South America's largest gold producer, mining most of the gold ore in
the Department (State) of Antioquia. The only platinum producer in
Latin America, Colombia also furnishes 95 percent of the world's emeralds.
Annually, it exports more than 1,700,000 tons of bananas, primarily to
West Germany and Holland."
For the past 10 years Colombian industry has undergone a dramatic
modernization. Although the country still imports many consumer goods,
it nevertheless produces the following items for national markets: Building
materials, certain chemicals, foodstuffs, footwear, glass, pharmaceuticals,
textiles, and tires. Tariff protection has done much to stimulate the devel-
opment of these industries.
Much of this progress has resulted from Colombian preeminence in
economic planning. When World War II disrupted foreign trade with the
5Dieter K. Zschock. Manpower Perspective in Colombia. Princeton: Industrial Relations Section, Princeton
University, 1967. pp. 122-23.
6 Pat M. Hol. Colombia Today-And Tomorrow. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964. p. 163.
'Ibid. p. 159.
SIbid. p. 147.
SIbid. p. 146.
ol Howell Davis (ed.). The South American Handbook, 1968. Chicago: Rand McNally and Company, 1968.
Ibid. p. 316.
industrialized nations, Colombia was obliged to manufacture substitutes
for its most urgent needs, thus initiating Colombian interest in industrial
expansion. Concurrent with this growth came a corresponding expansion
of higher education. Between 1945 and 1963, 73 new secondary- and
university-level specialties were introduced, many of them in technical
and managerial fields.12 This interest in national development was stimu-
lated further by various economic studies carried out by foreign as well as
Colombian specialists. Civil strife starting in 1948 interfered with planning
until the military, which took over in May 1957, made a number of firm
decisions later ratified by national plebiscite.
In 1961 Colombia adopted the first General Plan on Economic and
Social Development for the decade 1960-70. Laughlin Currie, head of
the 1952 World Bank Mission to Colombia, was responsible for the so-called
Currie Plan for development. It rested on the following premises:
1. Although presently accessible land in Colombia is insufficient to support the
current rural population at adequate standards of living, this would not be the
case if it were efficiently developed through modern technology.
2. The objective of Government agricultural policy should be to encourage fewer
farmers to produce with greater efficiency.
3. The people should then be encouraged to leave the land and migrate to the
cities, where they can be provided with better and cheaper education along
with health and other social services.
4. This influx would be absorbed by large public construction programs which
would generate, through wages paid, a greater demand for consumer goods.
This would in turn stimulate industry to utilize its present capacity.
These projected changes, Currie says, would result in a self-sustaining
process of capital formation and industrial expansion which would pro-
vide added employment simultaneous with phasing out construction.
Coincidentally, civil disorder and violence in much of rural Colombia has
increased the rate of migration to urban areas, thus enhancing the pos-
sibility of implementing Currie's concept.
Despite export imbalances and grave social problems, increasing domes-
tic stability since 1957 has led to greater economic prosperity. The political
and economic leaders are now largely inspired (as far as economic growth
is concerned) to believe that prosperity can be created by means of educa-
tion and technology and they have taken steps to encourage constructive
economic development. In addition, consumer credit, uncommon in
Colombia until the 1960's, is now being employed as a means of increasing
the comparative affluence of the middle and lower classes.
According to the 1964 census, Colombia's population was 52.8 percent
urban, reflecting a rapid trend toward urbanization during the past 20
years. Although only 2 percent of the nation's total land area is cultivated
and only 7.5 percent of the potentially arable land is in use, about 50
percent of the population earn their living in agriculture.
Land ownership patterns vary considerably from one region of the
I Ibid. p. 317.
country to another. Taken as a whole, however, more than 60 percent of
the farmers own roughly 4 percent of the land in lots of about three hec-
tares (7.4 acres). Although farms of more than 100 hectares (247 acres)
are owned by fewer than 3 percent of the farmers, farms of this size account
for more than half the land area. Stock farms of more than 750 acres
occupy more than 31 percent of the total arable area. Many of the very
small holdings are broken up into noncontiguous plots, and the smallest
holdings, known as minifundia, are frequently the poorest lands. In the
southwestern Colombian Department of Narifio, the Institute of Agrarian
Reform (INCORA) found 36,000 minifundistas plus approximately 10,000
families without any land. This amounts to about 230,000 individuals
with a per capital daily cash income between 4 and 15 cents (U.S. cur-
A typical peasant family lives in a dirt-floored adobe house of two or
three rooms. Family members carry water from the nearest stream, per-
haps a mile distant. Since they wash their clothes and bathe their bodies
in the same stream, the drinking water is likely to be polluted. Although
the Government is making considerable progress in health care services,
90 percent of the population in some parts of rural Colombia have intestinal
parasites. Infant mortality is extremely high.'4 A six-Department (State)
survey by INCORA of 123 heads of rural peasant families revealed that
21 had never attended school; nine had attended 1 year; 28, 2 years;
25, 3 years; and 36, 4 to 5 years. Only four had attended some secondary
Colombia was originally populated by Indians moving northward from
Ecuador. They settled at altitudes between 7,500 and 8,500 feet because
above this elevation the climate was too cold and below it malarial mos-
quitoes w tre a menace. The first permanent Spanish settlement was
establish. 1 in 1529 by Rodrigo de Bastidas at Santa Marta. European
control of the interior began with Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada. While
attempting to discover the source of the Magdalena River in 1536, Jimenez
conquered the sedentary Chibcha Indians in that area and 2 years later
founded Santa F6 de Bogota.
From the earliest days of the Spanish Conquest, the Roman Catholic
clergy played a vital part in the development of what is now Colombia.
With Quesada and others came the missionary brotherhoods comprised
mostly of Dominicans, but also, in substantial numbers, of Augustinians,
Franciscans, and Jesuits. These orders had craftsmen, physicians, and
teachers among their members; and they exerted a powerful moral influ-
ence, frequently intervening in the administration of justice-more often
than not on behalf of the Indians.
13 Holt. op. cit. p. 96.
1 Ibid. pp. 11-12.
15 Maria Guarnizo. Evalucidn de Progreso Campesino. Bogota: Instituto Colombiano de la Reforma Agraria,
Oficina de Divulgaci6n, 1967. p. 57.
Early Independence Movements
For nearly two centuries, French, English, and Dutch privateers men-
aced the colony by attacking Spanish shipping. Sir Frances Drake captured
Cartagena in 1585 and forced the Spanish to pay a huge ransom for the
return of the city. The first revolution against the Colonial authorities,
the Revolt of the Comuneros (common people), was suppressed in Socorro
in 1781. The movement toward independence received further impetus
in 1794 with a translation of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man
by the Creole Antonio Narifio. For such activities Narifio was exiled to
Africa for 10 years; however, he managed to escape and return to Colombia
disguised as a priest.
Toward Independence in the 19th Century
In July 1810 a rebel junta deposed the Spanish viceroy and took com-
mand of Bogota in the name of Ferdinand VII, then a prisoner of Napoleon.
After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, Spain sent Pablo Morillo in command
of 10,000 veterans to reassert Spanish control. His forces captured Carta-
gena after a siege of 106 days and marched on to Bogota, killing many of
the revolutionary government's most distinguished leaders. In August
1819, after a long march from the plains of Venezuela, troops commanded
by Sim6n Bolivar, Francisco de Paula Santander, and Jos6 Antonio
AnzoAtegui defeated the Spanish Army. The Republic of Gran Colombia
was proclaimed in December 1819, consisting of present-day Colombia,
Ecuador, and Venezuela.
In 1830 Venezuela and Ecuador left the Republic. The remaining
Provinces formed the Republic of New Granada, which, under a new
constitution in 1863, became the United States of Colombia. Colombia
has officially been designated as a republic since the Constitution of 1886.
In 1903 Panama declared its independence as a separate nation, a status
recognized by Colombia in 1921.
Emerging Political Parties
From the time that Colombia became independent of Spain, Colombian
advocates of a strong central government have differed fundamentally
with those favoring a federal system similar to that of the United States.
Dedicated statesmen (whose positions, unfortunately, often led to revolt
and open warfare) have defended both of these conflicting viewpoints.
Out of these two opposing factions grew the country's historical political
parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals. Each party was in power
alternately for the first 30 years after 1830. Between 1863 and 1884 the
Liberals were in control of the National Government, but the revolution
of 1885 led to a Liberal defeat and marked the end of the federal system.
The country fell into such a state of financial difficulty and attendant
demoralization that its leaders decided to put its welfare above partisan-
ship; they therefore formed a national party. A reform movement headed
-by President Rafael Nufiez resulted in the Constitution of 1886, which
today remains the Republic's basic document.
In 1887 the Government of Colombia signed a concordat with the
Holy See in Rome, which established a free and independent Roman
Catholic Church in Colombia-an entity to be completely separate from
the State. The concordat also gave the Church the right to set up religious
orders and direct religious teaching, which was to be compulsory in all
The Liberals and the Conservatives then resumed their struggles, which
culminated in 1902 with the end of the War of a Thousand Days. A com-
paratively harmonious half-century followed, but in 1948 the Liberals'
leader, Jorge GaitAn, was assassinated. Civil violence grew until 1958,
when responsible leaders of both the Liberal and the Conservative parties
established the National Front.
Colombia is a unitary republic divided into 22 Departments, 3 inten-
dencias and 5 comisarias. Departments are comparable to American States,
and intendencias and comisarias represent largely undeveloped territory.
In December 1966, a new Department named Risaralda was created
from territory formerly belonging to the Department of Caldas. In 1967
two more Departments were created--Csar and Sucre. Each Department
is subdivided into municipal districts headed by a mayor who acts as
administrative officer and who represents the Governor of the Department.
Each municipality elects its own council. Intendencias and comisarias are
under direct control of the National Government.
Senators and Representatives are elected by popular vote. The Senate
has 118 members and the House of Representatives 210. In the same
elections the people vote for deputies to the Department assemblies and
the municipal councils. Elected for 4 years, the President cannot succeed
himself. He appoints his 13 Ministers and the Governor of each Depart-
ment. Each Department's assembly supervises administration and finance
for that Department.
The National Front
At present, Colombia is governed under a National Front system
whereby the two traditional parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives,
alternate in the presidency. Begun in 1958, this system was to continue
for 12 years; it was later extended 4 more years.
The National Front seeks to provide stability in a country plagued by
violence and civil strife which has cost up to 200,000 lives since 1948,
when Liberal Party leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated. Under
the National Front system, not only is the presidency alternated between
the two major political parties, but the two parties also divide all other
elective and appointive offices between them. Although only two political
parties are permitted, open elections and internal factions have resulted
in a government which at times has had difficulty raising a majority for
any effective action. In addition, it exists constantly under the threat of
an elected majority opposed to the National Front concept.
When President Carlos Lleras Restrepo's term of office ended in 1970,
another National Front candidate for President, Misael Pastrana Borrero,
succeeded him for a 4-year term. Pastrana supporters, however, failed to
win a majority in either of the two houses of Congress.
Appointed to head the Ministry of National Education in the new
Pastrana cabinet was Liberal Party member Luis Carlos GalAn.
Never completely absent from Colombia, violence in that country has
had two particularly conspicuous periods: (1) Between 1948 and 1953,
especially in the following political subdivisions-Antioquia, Arauca,
Bolivar, Boyaci, Caldas, CaquetA, Casanare, Cauca, Cundinamarca,
Choc6, Huila, Meta, Santander del Sur, Tolima, and Valle; and (2) be-
tween 1954 and 1958, especially in the following political subdivisions-
Antioquia, Caldas, Cauca, Cundinamarco, Huila, Tolima, and Valle.
Where violence still continues, it is mainly in these areas.16 In the beginning,
la violencia was a struggle for power between the two political parties. The
Liberals tried to oust the Conservative government, and the Conservatives
sought to keep their control of a government which had a Liberal majority.
As time passed, the violence lost its clearly political objectives and became
a movement characterized by banditry, terrorism, and vengeance. This
bloodshed directly affected at least 20 percent of the population for a
generation. Although nonpolitical banditry still continues in certain rural
areas (about 1,800 murders a year), Colombians in general believe that
la violencia is no longer a significant factor in national political life.
The upper classes reacted to la violencia with a new appreciation of the
fact that beneath the thin veneer of republicanism lay a revolutionary
pressure among the rural masses which could undermine the stability of
the traditional system. It became increasingly apparent that government
had to acquire a more popular character if there was to be real stability.
The National Government is now active in many reform programs.
Important universities are beginning to engage in research about rural
problems. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church has become increas-
ingly concerned with social reform. The more liberal position taken by
the Second Vatican Council on social change has become a rallying point
for reform elements in the Church's hierarchy.
The insecurity of rural life in many areas of Colombia has caused a
significant migration to the cities; the once rural education problem is
therefore fast becoming an urban one. Since in a broad sense education
can create loyalties, national leadership groups reacted to the possible
political and social menace posed by rural migrants by expanding urban
education to these new social groups. They especially concentrated on
working class areas, but they included rural areas as well. In this sense,
then, the political crisis and its attendant rural violence placed a large
segment of the educationally neglected rural population in urban settings
where opportunities for schooling were greater. School enrollment increased
correspondingly. These changes are contributing in important ways to
improved educational conditions in Colombia.
Norman A. Bailey. "La Violencia en Colombia," Journal of Inter-American Studies, 9:561, October 1967.
2. Cultural and Social Influences on
Inseparably linked to the educational theory and practice of any country
are social and cultural circumstances. In Colombia, as in other Latin
American countries, these factors are significant in determining who shall
be educated, what kind of education the country will provide, and how
much and what kind of education will be needed for the various places
The Influence of Class
The Colombian middle class makes up approximately 10 to 15 percent
of the total population; it consists of an increasing number of white-
collar employees, technicians, and young professionals.' As in most of
Latin America, the term "middle class" often applies to social rather than
to economic status; consequently, many Colombians, including school-
teachers, are considered middle-class, even though they earn less than many
industrial workers. The principal determinants of class status are lineage,
raciaTderivatibn, and wealth, but a secondary set of determinants includes
educational attainment, refinement of manners, intellectual and literary
distinction, pattern of personal associations, and style of dress.
Recent trends toward industrialization andLurbanization have tended
to create a sharper cleavage between the more affluent urban society and
the relatively static social structure of rural communities. With increasing
modernization, the ruling class is becoming more willing to relax its
exclusive grip on political power; education is benefiting somewhat from
this change. At the same time, the lower classes are becoming increasingly
aware of the extent to which they have been excluded from opportunity
by the policies of the elite.2
Upper-Lower Class Relationships
Until very recently, the relationship of the upper to the lower classes
has been paternalistic; the upper-class patron has a sense of responsibility
toward his employees and his tenants. Now, however, the government is
gradually increasing its role in social welfare and providing institutional
services for the poor that will eventually replace their direct personal
IPat M. Holt. Colombia Today-and Tomorrow. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964. p. 14.
2Lyman H. Legters, et al. U.S. Army Handbook for Colombia (Pamphlet No. 550-26). Washington: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1964. pp. 95-96.
dependence upon patrons and result in a long-range improvement of
Most Colombians with any significant amount of schooling share the
values of the elite for two very cogent reasons: First, emulation of these
values has practical economic and social advantages, and, second, they
themselves are being pressured by imitation from below. Gustavo Jim6nez
Cadena, professor of sociology at Javeriana University, described the
attitude of the educated elite toward the illiterate masses as one of supe-
riority sometimes tempered by benevolent paternalism, with the people
at the base of the social pyramid frequently regarded as inferior beings
incapable of improving their socioeconomic circumstances. At best, com-
passion, especially among the affluent classes, takes the form of charity
and almsgiving, but in general, the upper classes are making few efforts
to help create conditions conducive to social improvement for the lower
classes. Despite poverty and periods of social unrest, however, the vast
majority of lower-class peasants apparently accept their second-class role
The "cultured gentleman" attitude prevalent among the ruling classes
frequently results in a distinctive kind of social behavior. One is expected
to listen to the opinions of others without offending them or offering one's
own views. As a consequence, open intellectual exchanges are generally
considered to be in bad taste. Among the lower classes, this attitude often
results in violent personal confrontations. A related characteristic is the
tendency to emphasize who a person is rather than what he stands for.
Consequently, personal dogmatism is often valued as highly as logical
A Colombian's first duty is to his family. Allegiance to other social
entities, such as village, social class (if one is a member of the elite), political
party, and sometimes professional or occupational group, is secondary.
Persons of superior status owe protection and concern to their subordinates;
the latter reciprocate with support and respect. Loyalty to one's superiors
takes precedence over loyalty to one's equals. Individualism is highly
valued, most often taking the form of a confident self-assertiveness. The
fact that cultural change occurs frequently only as a result of violence
can be attributed partly to a scale of values that favors this kind of aggres-
sive behavior. Top-level leadership is exercised by men conscious of their
superior ancestry and secure in the knowledge that their positions cannot
easily be challenged.
The individualism and personal dignity of Colombians is sometimes
misconstrued as callousness or indifference. More appropriately, however,
it may be construed as nonawareness of the existence of a world outside
one's immediate circle of family and personal friends. It is this feeling
which inhibits concern for the welfare of others as well as for the develop-
ment of public institutions such as schools.
3 Ibid. p. 306.
4 Gustavo Jimenez Cadena. Sacerdotey Cambio Social. Bogota: Ediciones Tercer Mundo, 1967. pp. 64-65. A
carefully written dissertation done as a member of a research team from the University of Wisconsin's Land
5Jose Gutierrez. De la Pseudo-aristocracia a la Autenticidad. Bogota: Ediciones Tercer Mundo, 1966. pp. 49,
54, and 59.
Fatalism is also prevalent in popular thinking. If God wills that a school
does not open for lack of funds, the Colombian feels that there is little
sense in trying to change this circumstance. If one is born a peasant, he
is likely to feel it is foolish to attempt to rise above his class. Points of view
such as these are important factors in cultural resistance to change.
Colombians, like most other South Americans, tend to view life in
political terms. A central feature of this attitude is the belief that when
someone gets ahead in life or business, it is always at another person's
expense. Influential Colombians tend to obtain resources for their respec-
tive groups more by limiting others' access to them than by showing that
they can use them better.6 This conflicts directly with the opposite view
that one person's success contributes to the benefit of all. At the same time,
Colombians treasure close personal friendships more highly; not only are
good friends a source of deep enjoyment, but they also can be depended
upon to give help graciously in time of need. This spirit is almost always
Values and traditions such as these make it difficult for Colombians to
cooperate. Not only are the educated encouraged to develop a fondness
for their own ideas and an emotional commitment to setting them forth
effectively, but they are also correspondingly less receptive to the views
of others. Ordinary citizens find it difficult to comprehend that their
government is really concerned about their problems. They find it difficult
to believe that anyone outside their immediate circle of friends could have
a disinterested concern for their welfare. It is therefore relatively difficult
to get Colombians to cooperate toward social goals although they have
made surprising progress in such efforts during recent years.
In all social classes young males enjoy the virtual absence of restrictive
supervision. The upper- or middle-class boy is allowed to spend much of
his time outside his home, either in clubs or with friends. The lower-class
youth has fewer social activities only because he must earn a living. Girls,
regardless of social class, are much more carefully supervised. They learn
the traditional feminine skills and attitudes from their mothers, and,
depending upon their social class, may be chaperoned. The poorer classes
rarely observe the practice of chaperonage; the upper classes resolutely
adhere to it.
Boys from the higher classes may accept employment when they near
adulthood, but usually choose only white-collar jobs which do not impair
their class status. A lower-class stigma is attached to manual labor of all
kinds, and the performance of such tasks invites social ostracism. Girls
are even more limited in their vocational opportunities, but the popularity
of secretarial education for women attests to the social suitability of this
type of white-collar employment for them. Even though the first years of
elementary education seek to inculcate social values and habits which will
enable any child to function as if he were a member of the traditional
upper-middle class, it is evident that lower-class and peasant life varies
greatly from the norms accepted by the upper classes.
sJoaquin Pdez Gdmez. Education and National Development in Colombia. Stanford: Stanford International
Development Education Center, 1969. p. 126.
Alcohol is an indispensable part of rural community life. Drinks are
constantly being pressed on guests as a gesture of hospitality and friend-
ship. Not participating gives one a reputation for being standoffish, which
has caused many foreigners, especially U.S. Peace Corps volunteers,
considerable anguish. (One volunteer, however, handled the problem
with ingenuity: He gave up aguardiente, a native liquor, for Lent, thus
not only avoiding the aguardiente but also impressing his rural friends with
his strong character.)7
From early childhood Colombians are taught to look after their own
interests. This individualism becomes personal and inward-looking,
emphasizing the uniqueness of the individual personality and inner
being, a uniqueness which is to be maintained at all costs, for it reinforces
a sense of dignity and personal pride. The leader of an organization is
usually expected to determine most of its policies, frequently without even
consulting his closest supporters. Followers tend to judge their leader by
the power he wields and place a premium upon his ability to outmaneuver
rival groups. His personal reputation and strength of character also con-
tribute to his effectiveness as a leader.8
Although many educated Colombians are thoroughly familiar with the
customs of North Americans, a Colombian who is unfamiliar with them
is likely to be offended by their apparently impersonal manner. For exam-
ple, Colombians consider it poor taste to get to the point in a professional
or business matter before exchanging pleasantries about the health of the
family, the weather, or the latest political gossip. This kind of interchange
indicates that each person respects the personality and individuality of
the other. It thus enables all to function more or less as equals in the matter
to be considered. On the other hand, it is perfectly appropriate to come
directly to the point when dealing with a subordinate.
Many Colombians are alert to the possibility that their interests will be
hurt by another's acts. Although this suspicion is strong toward outsiders,
it is even stronger among associates. Peasants automatically assume that
outsiders of higher social standing (for example, census takers, landowners,
and salesmen) are seeking to exploit them. To avoid being taken in, and
above all to protect their dignity, individuals of all social classes resort to
deception and prevarication. In addition, persons of low status often lie
because they seek to avoid offending a person of higher standing. They
will say what they believe their listener wants to hear, rather than what
they think are the facts.9
Peasant traditions vary from place to place in Colombia; moreover,
schooling as a means of communicating the values of upper-class society
is often unavailable to the lower classes. Thus there is some indication that,
among peasants, many personality traits common to the upper echelons
are neither valued nor sought after. A premium is placed upon avoiding
complex decisions, and many employers actually want their workers to
remain intellectually immature. Workers of low status who demonstrate
7 Holt. op. cit. p. 140.
8 Legters. op it. p. 119.
Ibid. p. 118.
more than mere functional knowledge are negatively regarded by their
peers. Because of such circumstances, persons in servile positions tend not
to have significant aspirations; 10 consequently schooling, with its tendency
to value upper-class values, is irrelevant, if not dangerous, to their life
Latin American individualism encourages a sense of emotional commit-
ment to the rightness of one's feelings, or inner being. As a result, a tradi-
tion of intellectual subjectivity predisposes many Colombians to admire
everything uncritically. This respect for the emotional dimension of
knowledge sometimes reduces the amount of care and thoroughness with
which facts are gathered in support of a particular point of view. In addi-
tion, because a point of view taken tends to be subjectively held, it is more
difficult to change. This spirit of uncritical enthusiasm often produces
vigorous approval at first for proposals and programs; the support, however,
dwindles soon after the initial excitement for the idea has passed.
Respect for Authority
Another important principle of Colombian social thought is respect for
authority. Children of all classes are taught esteem for their elders, and this
tradition is carried into adulthood. Parents, persons of high social position,
and the clergy are generally accorded this regard. The Roman Catholic
Church as the repository of final truth also encourages respect for moral and
secular authorities by means of religion and philosophy courses required in
both private and public schools. Society is essentially viewed as pyramidal
and paternalistic. Although no accurate data are available, probably 98
percent of all Colombians profess Roman Catholicism, a much higher
proportion than that of most other Latin American countries. It is signifi-
cant, however, that many Colombians rarely participate in any Church
activities. In times of national stress, particularly during the period of la
violencia, the Church was virtually the only cultural force that held the nation
together. Moreover, it is the only tradition that nearly all Colombians
have in common, especially since access to free public education has been
so limited." This special status of the Church naturally deeply involves
it in the Government's educational efforts.
Like most people, Colombians think of education primarily as a means
of improvingtheir opportunities toget a job. Next, they regard it as a way
to attain the upward social mobility necessary for gaining access to pre-
ferred positions or select circles. And to a lesser extent they value education
as a means of developing their intellectual faculties.12
Some writers have criticized Colombian secondary and university
education as being so constituted that a student undertakes it not so much
for what it will teach him as for what it will provide him in the way of
status. In fact, some writers have described the entire structure and mean-
to Sam Schulman. "Intellectual and Technological Underdevelopment: A Case Study-Colombia," Social
Forces. 46:313-16, March 1968.
1 Orlando Fals Borda. "Bases for a Sociological Interpretation of Education in Colombia," in The Caribbean:
Contemporary Colombia (A. Curtis Wilgus, ed.). Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962. p. 188.
2 Alejandro Bernal Escobar et al. La Educaci6n en Colombia. Bogota: Centro de Investigaciones Sociales,
1965. p. 262.
ing of the educational system as affected by the pressure for status.13 They
point out that Colombians also regard status as vocationally useful. What-
ever their reasons, most Colombians do value education highly, and
although they tend to think of it as the accumulation of factual knowledge,
they're generally eager to improve its quality. A middle-class family
sacrifices in order that at least one of its members may achieve a secondary
Since middle-class Colombians frequently regard education as a service
to be bought by those who can afford it, rather than as a socially approved
right, they tend to keep the cost of schooling as low as possible. The com-
mon word for school (escuela) usually refers to a public elementary school-
generally of low quality. Elementary and secondary institutions intended
for the education of the higher classes are called colegios. When politicians
promise schools, they generally mean elementary schools of poor quality
for those who cannot afford colegios.
The person who cannot read is looked down upon by those who can with
a mixture of pity and contempt, for he is obviously lacking in culture. The
terms culture (la cultural) and education are sometimes used synonymously.
They reflect the emphasis that Latin American society generally places
upon courteous manners and elaborate speech as the best indicators of
one's social education. Even in the first year of school, curriculum content
represents an effort to inculcate into the young child the kind of verbal
information about the world which an urbane member of the upper class
is presumed to possess. All educational levels appear to agree that this ideal
of the cultivated individual is a worthy one.
Although the Government assumes the responsibility for providing
universal free public education, hundreds of thousands of children remain
without schools of any kind. If some authority suggests to rural villagers
that they need a school, they will always agree, but they are likely to
comment that it is not their responsibility to initiate action. In their
experience, responsibility belongs at a higher level-to the patron or the
Government. The notion that they could build a school themselves in a
few months is inconsistent with their role in life. If they do accept the
responsibility for such an innovation, they will usually set up an elaborate
ritual for organizing an action plan. Typically, before they finish the job,
there will be delays, disputes over the school's location and design, and a
great deal of difficulty in reaching a compromise on any number of con-
Efforts to make rural schools more relevant to the life style of peasants
sometimes fail for lack of interest and support from the communities they
are designed to serve. This happens partly because practical education
does not confer status, but primarily because the peasant has learned not
to take chances. He will resist new ideas more often than not because the
farming methods his family has been using for generations may not produce
an abundance, but he knows they produce something. On the other hand,
if an innovation should result in total failure, he knows he can expect
13 James L. Payne. Patterns of Conflict in Colombia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968. p. 29.
1 Holt. op. cit. p. 10.
A typical urban middle-class Colombian is likely to possess a bachillerato
(secondary diploma) and possibly some university experience. His children
are likely to attend private secondary schools, and he expects that they
will proceed to a National or Departmental university. Although officials
and middle-class intellectuals express concern about educational inade-
uacies, there is a general lack of active interest inepub-cedicatibon except
at the beginning of the school year when many applicants are turned down
ftr-~Tack- ofpu- icfi-Ftehofacilitis.--ThE -tteresrt"6 h-eMiiiiitry of Nitional
Education in decentralizing education partly reflects a belief that the
public will become more concerned with educational matters when it
has more direct control over local public education.
The majority of peasants do not think much about improving their
social status because they perceive few safe opportunities for advancement.
Under these circumstances, they appreciate only very practical instruction,
which unfortunately is not the kind usually offered in the elementary
school. Demands for better education are most likely to come from parents
in small cities which lack a secondary school or from parents in poor
neighborhoods of cities where society is in transition. These parents value
traditional education because it confers a status having a definite market
value in the society in which they aspire to move. They have little concern
about content or quality of instruction. For them, schooling need not have
practical content-it need only serve as a means for moving into a higher
A similarprocess is at work in rural communities. According to a study
of a village called "Aritama" (pseud.),15 favoritism and even racial preju-
dice were frequent. Local teachers insisted that children attend school in
clean, new clothes. Children unable to do so were publicly ridiculed by
teachers and pupils. Mode of dress was the principal criterion used to
award medals and other prizes at the end of the school year. Teachers
encouraged girls to carry umbrellas and handbags, use cosmetics, and
wear stockings and costume jewelry-expensive items which only well-to-do
families could afford. Teachers kept in close personal touch with parents
of children who belonged to their own social class, but never visited poor
families. The parents usually took little interest in their children's atten-
dance or progress. In fact, they seemed to feel that they were doing the
teacher and the Government a personal favor by sending their children
The methods employed in Aritama had a far-reaching effect, both in
teaching children the high prestige value of good clothes and ceremonial
behavior and in teaching them to abhor manual labor and cooperative
effort. Since the teachers considered the school as a center of Spanish
tradition, they did not favor the attendance of Indian children. Social
discrimination against such children or parents' inability to buy new
clothes for their children effectively excluded many from school.
15 Gerardo and Alicia Reichel Dolmatoff. The People of Aritama: The Cultural Personality of a Colombian Mestizo
Village. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961. pp. 123-25. As an illustration of conditions in some of
Colombia's least satisfactory schools, the Aritama study would be used by reform-oriented scholars and intellec-
tuals to stimulate the Government to take a more active role in social reform. Although few would claim that the
Reichels' data are inaccurate, many Colombians would contend that the motives of the village teachers deserve
a more sympathetic explanation than the authors have seen fit to provide.
Learning in the Aritama school was reduced to a set of ready questions
and answers, beyond which little or nothing was to be added. The cur-
riculum was devoted to teaching that well-dressed, God-fearing, hard-
working Spaniards are not only equal but superior to others. The children
learn that their village is the heart of the world, and that the only forces
bent on destroying this paradise are the Indians and the National Govern-
ment. Physical labor is to be avoided, although white-collar employment
is sought as a well-deserved sinecure by anyone who has attended school.
Not all rural Colombian communities share these attitudes and traditions
but they are common enough to reveal the impact of a particular sector
of Colombian society on the school
In urban areas the situation is more favorable, for many educated
Colombians now have a wider viewpoint. They are receptive to new ideas,
and they have a greater interest and confidence in education as a means of
bringing about desirable social and economic change. Civil service legis-
lation enacted in 1962, together with the Government's increasing con-
cern, has created a widespread belief that professionally qualified teachers
are now favored over those having privileged political or social connections.
Modest changes such as these are the beginning of badly needed educa-
tional improvement in Colombia.
3. Educational Landmarks and Traditions
Institutions and attitudes persist for centuries. It is only through an un-
derstanding of such traditions and the changes which have taken place
over the years, that present practices and aspirations become compre-
hensible. Current problems in education, as in other areas of human
activity, reflect many of the unresolved problems of the past.
The best known of the preconquest Colombian Indians were the Chib-
chas, who settled principally in the highlands around BogotA. Culturally
and politically, they are often ranked inferior only to the Aztecs, the
Mayans, and the Incas. The only definite indication, however, that the
Chibchas had a formal educational institution is the fact that the Moja or
Cuca was a seminary in which religious rites and traditions were taught.
Carefully chosen children were taught to perform sun ceremonies in which
they eventually were burned to death. Practical skills, such as crafts and
other traditional kinds of specialized knowledge, seem to have been trans-
mitted through the family.
Spanish colonists who received grants of land from the Crown (reparti-
mientos) according to the Cidula of 1509 were initially required to teach
Christian doctrines and civilized living to the Indians under their charge.
Much of this indoctrination was informal; it required Indians to gather
every Sunday in the town square at the sound of the bells and learn by
rote the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Monastic schools were
also established by religious orders to teach Spanish and sacred doctrines
to the Indian nobility. The Spanish Crown did not establish schools of any
kind-a characteristic, incidentally, of education in the English-speaking
world as well. Although the State left educational tasks primarily to re-
ligious groups, it often contributed funds to them for that purpose. Estab-
lished by religious orders during the early 16th century, the first schools
(doctrinas) were designed principally to convert the Indians to Roman
Catholicism. By 1556 the curriculum covered not only reading, writing,
and arithmetic, but also singing.
Although education in the 16th and 17th centuries was regarded as a
responsibility of parents, aided by the Church, the Spanish Government
was concerned from the very beginning with making the people of all its
conquered territories, regardless of race and social position, into effective
citizens. The Cidulas of 1565 ordered that basic literacy schools be estab-
lished in all towns, with local responsibility for their support. Archbishop
Fray Luis Zapata de Cardenas founded the Colegio Seminario de San Luis
in 1582 in order to train Indian clerics, but his efforts were bitterly op-
posed by the Creoles and the Spanish-born aristocracy. The institution
failed 4 years later because of a student strike.'
To establish an institution of higher education, civil and Church au-
thorities had to obtain the Pope's approval. In 1580 they received his
permission to convert the Dominican Convent of the Rosary into a stadium
general modeled after the University of Salamanca in Spain. The new
institution was granted all the rights and privileges of a Spanish university,
but it was restricted to the white ruling groups.
The Jesuits laid the ground work for the first colegios mayores with their
Colegio Real Mayor y Seminario de San Bartolom6 in 1605. They created
18 annual fellowships for students pursuing an ecclesiastical career. Young
men of noble lineage who wanted to study arts and theology were also
admitted for a fee, provided they knew Latin and were at least 12 years
of age. Each Sunday and Monday 55 Ave Marias and five Paternosters were
sung-evidence of the importance of the religious spirit. No smoking was
permitted, and each day's study began with a 15-minute prayer.2 This in-
stitution was soon followed by similar ones in PopoyAn, Cartagena, and
The Colegio Real Mayor de Nuestra Sefiora del Rosario, established in
1653, became the colony's most important colegio mayor. The Dominicans
founded a Chair of Advanced Grammar for Indians and sons of settlers in
1563, but it failed to develop into a university for lack of funds. Javeriana
University, founded originally in 1622, functioned under the principles of
the traditional Jesuit teaching rule known as the Ratio Studiorium, but it
closed in 1767 when the Jesuits were expelled. The Jesuits established seven
other secondary schools in the provinces between 1605 and 1743, and in
addition taught the Indians practical arts and crafts. By the early 18th
century, the Dominicans and the Jesuits had each founded important uni-
versities. Thefacultad (school or department) of jurisprudence at the Colegio
Mayor de Nuestra Sefiora del Rosario has functioned continuously since
By the middle of the 18th century, university classrooms gradually be-
gan opening to the laity, especially to the Creoles. Even catedras (lecture-
ships) were being granted to lay persons. Viceroy-Archbishop Antonio
Caballero y G6ngora sought unsuccessfully in 1787 to secularize the
Thomistic University when he proposed a plan which would (in his own
words) "substitute useful exact sciences for those which are merely specu-
lative." He felt that the director of studies should encourage the sons of
artisans, laborers, and the poor to study industrial arts if they were in-
capable of other careers. Professors should add new knowledge by analytic
rather than by syllogistic methods.3 In spite of all this, however, attempts
to establish a public university in the 18th century were doomed to failure
1 Alejandro Bernal Escobar. La Educaci6n en Colombia. Bogotd: Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, 1965
2 Orlando Fals Borda. "Bases for a Sociological Interpretation of Education in Colombia (A. Curtis Wilgus,
ed.). Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962. pp. 186-87.
3 Ibid. p. 189.
because of the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church. After Inde-
pendence, as education gradually passed into the hands of secular authori-
ties, such efforts gradually succeeded.4
The emergence of an educated, nonecclesiastical intellectual group in
New Granada in the 18th century led to enthusiasm for English and French
ideas. Secularity was becoming an accepted social value, and there was a
greater emphasis upon discovering local facts, coupled with a similar de-
cline in interest in theological questions. When physician-botanist Jos6
Celestino Mutis arrived in Colombia in 1762, he soon reported, "[There is]
a scarcity of rationality so intense that any enlightened understanding is
considered dangerous." He courageously attempted to change this intellec-
tual conservatism by presenting the Copernican system of astronomy at
the Colegio del Rosario in 1774.5
Soon after becoming Viceroy of New Granada, Archbishop Caballero y
G6ngora in 1783 organized a botanical expedition. Originally, this expe-
dition planned merely to study the plants of northern South America, to
record astronomical, physical, and geographical observations, and to draw
maps of the regions explored. Directed for 20 years by Father Mutis, the
expedition expanded its purposes, however, becoming a center of scientific
learning. It discovered or identified many different kinds of fruits, gums,
marbles, medicines, oils, precious woods, resins, and waxes, and sent
samples to the Spanish Court.
By the third decade of the 19th century, secularity had gradually be-
come synonymous with practicality and thus brought about a de-emphasis
of theological studies. In 1850, medicine was being taught (it actually had
been taught 200 years earlier at the Colegio del Rosario); in 1861, engi-
neering; and in 1887, fine arts.
Despite Bogota's distance from European cultural centers and the
primitive conditions which prevailed in most of the country, some resi-
dents of Bogota managed to live with considerable elegance. By the end of
the colonial era in 1810, Bogota's population of 20,000 had four printing
presses (the Jesuits had brought in the first one in 1737), several newspapers,
an astronomical observatory, a theatre, and a university. There were also
two scientific journals-El Semanario, edited by Jos6 de Caldas, and another
edited by Jorge Tadeo Lozano. The Government often suppressed liberal
views regarding educational matters despite the fact that the 1811 Consti-
tution of Tunja unequivocally stated that-
... learning is absolutely necessary for sustaining a government and for [pro-
moting] the general welfare; the people therefore have the right [to expect] that
the government will make a substantial effort to provide for the instruction of
all classes of citizens.6
Independence and the 19th Century
History considers Francisco Paula de Santander the father of Colombian
education. Because of his influence, Bolivar placed all education (includ-
ing seminaries) under Government control. As Vice President of the De-
4 Lyman H. Legters et al. U.S. Army Handbook for Colombia (Pamphlet No. 550-26). Washington: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1964. p. 149.
5 Fals Borda. op. cit. p. 189.
SMinisterio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto de Educacidn Media para Presentar al Banco Internacional
de Reconstruccidn y Fomento. Bogota: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de Educacidn Media,
September 1967. 1:20. (Mimeograph)
apartment of Cundinamarca, bantander issued orders that every village
and every convent and monastery should set up a school of its own. He
initiated a policy in which schools, especially colegios, would be managed
primarily by the state rather than by the church. His Plan of Studies for
Colombia, issued in 1826, required that colegios and universities teach
French and English so that their students might become familiar with the
best modern intellectual trends.7
Although children of all social classes and ethnic groups became eligible
for schooling, the General Director of Public Instruction did not set up a
central, national administration for education until 1826. At Independence
in 1819, only a few schools actually existed.
The ideas of Englishmen were popular, particularly those of Andrew
Bell, Jeremy Bentham, Joseph Lancaster, and John Stuart Mill. Lancaster,
an English promoter of monitorial instructional techniques, visited
Caracas, Venezuela, in 1824, and became acquainted with Bolivar.
Franciscan Father Sebastian Mora (who may have seen Lancaster's work
in Caracas) founded the first Lancastrian monitorial school in Capacho,
a town near Cicuta, in 1821. Santander brought Mora to BogotA, where
he established the first normal school for training monitorial teachers.
Decree 26 of 1822 called for the provinces to send able youths to training
centers in BogotA, Caracas, and Quito to learn the Lancastrian system
and to return to their communities to train teachers.8 An 1826 law ordered
that education be free and that voting rights be restricted to the literate.
During a 1-year period, seven new colegios, 16 secondary schools, 52
Lancastrian monitorial schools, 434 literacy schools, and three normal
schools were begun. A national university was also becoming a reality.
Sunday schools, patterned after the English practice of conducting reading
schools for workers' children, were functioning, and the London Bible
Society was active in BogotA.
In 1828 Bolivar suppressed the writing of certain prominent European
thinkers (including Bentham) in order to discourage politico-religious
disputes. This marked the beginning of a conservative swing. In 1830,
when Bolivar died and Santander came to power, Rufino Cuervo and other
officials renewed their efforts to foster popular education. By 1837 the
nation had three universities, 26 postelementary and traditional secondary
schools, two schools for girls, about 200 Lancastrian monitorial schools,
and 850 private and public literacy schools.
Santander established the first national university in BogotA in 1826,
but it did little more than combine existing institutions. University educa-
tion did not receive truly national support until 1827, when Vice President
Santander founded the University of the Cauca in PopoyAn. In 1867
President Santos Acosta established the university which has since survived
under the name of National University of Colombia. Legislation also
ordered that six schools (facultades) be created: Arts and crafts, engineering,
law, medicine, natural sciences, and philosophy and letters. The new
National University permitted reasonable freedom of teaching, but it
lacked corporate identity, and the facultades never coordinated their cur-
7 David Bushnell. The Santander Regime in Gran Colombia. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1954. pp.
183 and 190-92.
8 Luis Antonio Bohdrquez Casallas. La Evolucidn Educativa en Colombia. Bogota: Publicaciones Cultural Colom-
bia, 1956. p. 265.
riculums. Despite the increase in number of practical subjects by the
1860's, most university students still preferred the traditional subjects.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Government engaged a
German mission, using Pestalozzian methods, to establish normal schools.
Efforts to finance education with taxes based on agricultural property
failed because the legislators were nearly all landowners. The Government
made a beginning in trade and industrial education and in State inspection
of schools, although as early as 1821, the Congress of Cicuta had passed
legislation to establish school inspections and make school attendance
compulsory, although school was not free.
The person generally acclaimed as the father of public education for
the masses is DAmaso Zapata. He actually provided relatively efficient
schools for the masses in his Department, thus showing the country what
could be done.
Damaso Zapata first directed education in the Department of Santander
and later in the Department of Cundinamarca (Bogota) after legislation
in 1868 and 1870 had established the basis for a uniform system of public
education. When he assumed office at Cundinamarca in July 1872, only
3,594 children were attending school. By the end of the term there were
8,414, and a little more than a year later, 16,489.9 A stern administrator,
Zapata imposed a 5-peso fine on any principal who left school during
working hours.'1 In his effort to build up the public schools he received
considerable advice and help from the German pedagogical mission.
As civil strife increased the pressure on the National and the Depart-
mental treasuries, the large landholders, who were well represented in
the various legislatures, did nothing to discourage the repeal of tax laws
that supported elementary education. The Church too had sought to dis-
courage the growth of public schools in places where its influence was not
Church Educational Activities
During the early colonial period, Roman Catholic religious orders exer-
cised a significant humanizing influence in their efforts to protect the
Indians and to establish schools. When Charles III expelled the Jesuits
from all of Spanish America in 1767, they left some 5,000 students in 14
The conflict between church and state had its origins in the colonial
period. The issue then was not so much one of clericalism vs. anticlericalism
as of the general rights and powers of temporal and spiritual authorities.
Some of these particular questions involved the jurisdiction of Church
courts, whether or not ecclesiastical appointments were to be controlled
by the Church or by the State, and whether or not secular schools and
non-Catholic cemeteries should be allowed. Liberals generally upheld the
power of the State on these issues, while Conservatives upheld the power
of the Church. To quell political disturbances resulting from this situation,
Colombia signed the Concordat of 1887 with the Vatican. This agreement
g Ramdn Zapata. Ddmaso Zapata 6 la Reforma Educacionista en Colombia. Bogota: El GrAfico Editores, 1961.
10 Ibid. p. 183.
1 Fals Borda. op. cit. p. 198.
... the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion is the religion of Colombia; the
public powers recognize it as an essential element of the social order, and they are
bound to protect and enforce respect for it and its ministers, leaving to it at the
same time the full enjoyment of its rights and prerogatives.
Granted legal status under this document, the Church agreed that its
property, except churches, seminaries, and clerical residences, could be
taxed.12 In turn, as shown below, it received vast powers over education:
In the universities, colleges, schools, and other centers of learning, education
and public instruction will be organized and directed in conformity with the dogma
and morals of the Catholic religion. Religious instruction will be obligatory in
such centers, and the highest practices of the Catholic religion will be observed
Consequently, in said centers of learning, the respective diocesan ordinaries, by
themselves, or by special delegates, will exercise the right respecting religion and
morals, of inspection and revision of textbooks. The Archbishop of BogotA will
designate the books that should serve as texts for religion and morals in the universi-
ties; and to the end of assuring uniformity of instruction in the indicated matters,
this prelate, in agreement with the other diocesan ordinaries, will select the texts
for the other schools of official instruction. The government will prevent, in the
conduct of literary and scientific courses, and in general, in all branches of instruc-
tion, the propagation of ideas which run contrary to Catholic dogma and to the
respect and veneration due the church.
In the event that instruction in religion and morals, in spite of the orders and
preventative measures of the government, does not conform to Catholic doctrine,
the respective diocesan ordinary can restrain such professors or masters of faculty
from the teaching of such subjects.1
As a result of the 1887 Concordat, the work of the Dominicans, the
Franciscans, and the Jesuits flourished at the turn of the 20th century;
and other orders such as the Christian and Marist Brothers, the Daughters
of Mary, the Silesian Fathers, the Sisters of the Presentation, and the
Sisters of Vincent de Paul, also entered the field of education. In addition,
the Government restored properties to the Church which it confiscated
25 years earlier. Today colegios conducted by these orders have a strong
influence in educational affairs.14 The agreement with the Holy See
placed responsibility for education largely in the hands of the Church,
which concentrated its efforts almost exclusively on secondary and higher
education for men. In fact, the Church, as a matter of principle, opposed
secondary education for girls.15
During the 19th century, official Government policy had been to extend
education, although the persistence of oligarchial social traditions and
political unrest had prevented the Government from implementing that
policy. Law 39 of 1903 became an important landmark, for it divided
Colombian public education into elementary, secondary, professional,
industrial, and artistic sectors. Earlier, the 1893 Zerda plan had estab-
lished a 5-year pattern for normal school training. Legislation enacted
t2 Pat M. Holt. Colombia Today-and Tomorrow. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964. pp. 21, 28, and 174.
"I Tbid. p. 175.
1 Rafael Bernal Medina. "Educational Relations between the Church and the Government of Colombia,"
in The World Tear Book of Education, 1966: The Church and State in Education (George Bereday and Joseph A.
Lauwerys, eds.). New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966. p. 362.
Is Holt. op. cit. p. 176.
in 1903 and 1904 declared elementary education as free but not compulsory
and placed it under the charge of several Departments and their respective
assemblies, although the National Government was still to inspect the
Secondary education continued as a responsibility of the National
Government and was subject likewise to the national inspectors. Industrial
and professional education was to be paid for by the National Government
or the Departments. President Rafael Reyes (1904-09), a progressive
Conservative, introduced effective normal schools, and another Conserva-
tive, Carlos E. Restrepo (1910-14), who had been Rector of the University
of Antioquia before assuming the Presidency of the nation, created a
more effective Inspector Generalship of Education. They both worked
diligently to secure greater Government control over the schools. In 1909
a law was passed giving the schools additional income from taxes levied
on liquor and the slaughtering of beef cattle.
Despite these facts, educational progress was not impressive. In 1924,
of a national population numbering 6.5 million, 90 percent of the people
were estimated illiterate; and only 17,000 boys-no girls-were enrolled
in secondary schools.'"
Inspection as a basis to maintain quality in education and compliance
with the law had existed since 1870 on the Departmental level, but it was
not until 1931 that the Government decreed a national system of school
inspection. Since inspection was to serve as the principal link between the
National Government and the educators, its role was more fully defined
by legislation passed in 1936. Augustin Nieto Caballero became the first
national inspector, and he served as an important stimulus to progress
during his 4 years of tenure. He called for replacing rote instruction with
modern teaching methods and practical subject matter, and encouraged
the Belgian educator, Ovidio Decroly, to make his views more widely
Decroly had come to Colombia in 1925 at Nieto Caballero's invitation.
Interested principally in preparing children for effective living, he empha-
sized "centers of interest" and the "whole" or global method of elementary
instruction-a method which sought to integrate subject matter with the
child's life experiences." This effort declined in the 1940's owing to poorly
trained teachers and the unsuitability of many of his ideas to traditional
In 1924, under the administration of President Pedro Nel Ospina, the
Government invited a second German mission to come to Colombia. It
selected three experts for this mission not only because they were able
educators, but also because they were good Roman Catholics. Their
principal purpose was to plan, with the advice of Colombian experts, an
educational program which could be enacted into law. The plan they
proposed encountered serious opposition when it sought to reduce the
number of Colombian universities, which at that time were five times more
numerous than Germany's. They also encountered Church opposition to
their secondary education reforms.18
Bohdrquez. op. cit. pp. 438-39.
18 Empimaco Cabarico. Politica Pedagdgica de la Nacidn Colombiana. Bogota: Escuela TipogrAfica Salesiana,
1952. pp. 100-04.
One minor result of their efforts was the passage of legislation which
made elementary education compulsory. Law 56 of 1927 made parents
responsible for sending their children to school-only, however, if a free
school was located within 2/2 kilometers of the home. Decree 1790 of
1930 required hacienda owners to provide school facilities if they had more
than 20 children of school age on their property.
Olaya Herrera's Liberal administration (1930-34) invited another
German educational mission in 1934 to help reorganize the nation's
schools. Fewer than 18,000 boys were enrolled in secondary schools at
that time."1 The resulting reforms led later to secondary education for girls.
Law 32 of 1936 ordered that no educational establishment, public or
private, should deny education to students for reasons of birth or social
or religious affiliation. A 1945 law states that businesses with a capital of
more than one million pesos shall be required to support elementary
schools for the children of workers if the children number more than 20
and if the place of work is more than 2 kilometers from a school.
Institutions such as the Church and the army once had the right to
try their own misbehaving members and apply their own laws, to the
exclusion of other legislation. In the formal sense, this practice has long
since disappeared, but the rationale that justified it survives in the com-
monly held attitude that no one general law applies to all individuals.
Instead, the individual is relegated to the group to which he belongs.
As a result, a political leader, especially on the Department or local level,
seeks to demonstrate his influence by shielding his supporters from the
rigorous application of the law and by making his opponents feel the full
weight of the legal system.20 This helps to explain why enforcement of
legislation setting forth minimum educational standards or requiring
private employers to establish elementary schools is inconsistent. In the
Colombian view the special situation calls for special exemptions.
The role of the Roman Catholic Church was somewhat altered in 1936
when Liberal President Alfonso L6pez disestablished it and took away its
control over education. This was further formalized by another Liberal,
Eduardo Santos, who in 1942 negotiated a new Vatican agreement which
modified the Concordat of 1887. The principal changes were designed to
end clerical control of education (at least in a formal sense) and to stipulate
that bishops must be Government-approved Colombian citizens. Despite
these changes, however, in 1957 the Government revised the Constitution's
preamble to read as follows:
In the name of God, supreme source of all authority, and with the purpose of
securing national unity, one of the bases of which is the recognition by the political
parties that the Apostolic Roman Catholic religion is that of the nation, and that
as such the public powers will protect it and will see that it is respected as an
essential element of social order. ...
Although thus declaring the Catholic religion as that of the nation, the
Constitution also declared the following:
19 W. O. Galbraith. Colombia: A General Survey. London: Oxford University Press, 1966. p. 57. (2d edition).
20 Legters. op. cit. pp. 120-21.
No one will be molested by reason of his religious opinions, nor compelled to
confess his beliefs, nor to observe practices contrary to his conscience.
Liberty is guaranteed to all religious sects that are not contrary to Christian
morality or to the laws. Acts contrary to Christian morality or subversive of public
order which are carried out on the pretext of a religious exercise are subject to the
common law ....
The priestly ministry is incompatible with the discharge of public office. Never-
theless, Catholic priests may be employed in public instruction or charity.21
Foreshadowing Colombia's later educational growth, developments
during 1930-50 included certain notable ones. During those 20 years the
Government took the following steps in education:22
Created complementary schools with a predominantly practical orientation.
Established National supervision of education.
Intervened to unify educational plans and programs.
Required private businesses to provide educational opportunities.
Founded many elementary schools.
Introduced compulsory elementary education (at least in theory).
Reduced elementary education from 6 years to a more realistic 4 years.
Expanded agricultural and industrial technical education.
Expanded private secondary education.
Founded many secondary schools.
Developed normal schools designed specifically to prepare teachers who could deal
with rural problems.
Took the first steps (in 1935) toward granting autonomy to National University.
Developments Since 1950
Since 1950 the Government has taken a number of notable steps in
education, among them the following:
Formulated a series of 5-year plans that helped direct national efforts more
Began (in 1960) to help Departments and municipal districts meet the cost of
elementary education more effectively.
Divided secondary education into two cycles-basic and advanced-in order to
1 Holt. op. cit. p. 176.
22 Ministerio de Educati6n Nacional. op. cit. 1:22.
discourage student dropout and to encourage effective specialization in practical
fields such as agriculture, business, industry, and teaching.
Rapidly expanded night schools which primarily serve working people.
Technical and Apprentice
Created the Colombian Institute for Educational Loans and Advanced Training
Abroad (ICETEX) to develop professional leadership and the National Apprentice-
ship Service (SENA) to develop skilled workers. (See chapters 13 and 8 respectively.)
Urban vs. Rural Elementary Education
In 1903, Colombian legislation made a distinction between urban and
rural education, but in 1932 rescinded the distinction. In 1950 it reinsti-
tuted the distinction and in 1963 finally removed it. The Government's
efforts to eliminate the differences between urban and rural education were
directed towards providing rural citizens with educational opportunities
roughly comparable to those available to urban citizens.
Since the 1940's, the number of well-educated persons outside the upper
classes has reached a significant proportion. In many respects, however,
the elementary and secondary curriculums are still suited primarily to the
needs of students who plan to undertake university studies. Colombian
authorities increasingly accept education in general and technical training
in particular as instruments of economic growth.
Attitude of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy
The introduction of scientific and practical subjects into the curriculum
of Colombian schools has encountered relatively little opposition by the
Roman Catholic hierarchy following its adoption of a more flexible atti-
tude toward the teaching of many subjects, especially the natural and
social sciences. Convinced that the Church must do more than formerly to
meet the nation's social responsibilities, a great many Roman Catholic
clergy are inclined to accept the philosophy embodied in the encyclicals
of Pope John XXIII and the reports of the Second Vatican Council.
Roman Catholic intellectuals frequently encounter striking difficulties in
communicating the Church's new social humanism to parish priests. Not
only are priests too few in number to administer to the country's religious
needs (especially in the small towns), but many of them in these small
places have but narrow preparation for any responsibilities outside those
relating to church ritual. Then, too, since local priests often depend upon
local landlords (the wealthy parishioners) for their small priestly incomes,
they naturally tend to reflect the conservatism of those landlords.23 Despite
these difficulties, however, the Church's Acci6n Cultural Popular (see chapter
11) has made a substantial contribution towards social betterment since
its founding more than 20 years ago.
Attitude of the Elite Class
Many of Colombia's intellectual and political figures have been promi-
nent either as Ministers of Education or as educators. Among them the
following should be named: GermAn Arciniegas, Gabriel Betancur Mejia,
Jorge Elli6cer GaitAn, Guillermo Nannetti, Abel Naranjo Villegas, Au-
Holt. op. cit. pp. 178-79.
gustin Nieto Caballero, and Edwardo Zuleta Angel. In general, they have
reflected the enlightened view of the elite class and have helped to sustain
national concern for the needs of public education.
Some Specific Improvements
Colombia has made considerable progress in education. Specifically,
over the past 10 years it has substantially increased the percentage of its
budget allocated to education. Between 1955 and 1965 it increased school
enrollments as follows:
Level Percent increase
Elementary-..........- -------------------- 184
Secondary.... -------........ ---------------- 300
Higher...--............---------------------- --------- -------- 331
In addition, Colombia's illiteracy rate for persons over 7 years of age de-
clined from 48 percent in 1938 to 31 percent in 1964.
Compared with Colombia's educational history earlier in the 20th cen-
tury and before that, these figures represent giant forward strides.
4. School Organization and Administration
The National Government has been responsible for educational activi-
ties, plans, and programs since the Ministry of Public Instruction was
created in 1903. Article 41 of Colombia's Constitution has the following to
say regarding the State's responsibilities for education: 1
Freedom of teaching is guaranteed. The state shall have, nevertheless, supreme
inspection and vigilance of teaching institutions, both public and private, in order
to secure a fulfillment of the social ends of general culture and the best intellectual,
moral, and physical development of those who are educated.
Elementary education shall be free in state institutions, and compulsory to the
extent that the law requires.
Because the National Government has primary responsibility in educa-
tion, it exercises control over Government schools, over private education,
and over education given by the Roman Catholic Church (except the
training of priests and other religious personnel). This authority extends
from the President to the Minister of Education, and from him by delega-
tion to the Departments, the municipal districts, and the decentralized
institutes such as the Colombian Institute for the Development of Higher
Education (ICFES) and the Colombian Institute for Educational Loans
and Advanced Training Abroad (ICETEX).2
Approval of national plans, National Government takeover of schools,
and budget allocations for education all depend upon decisions of the
Educational control rests with the Ministry of National Education, whose
functions are to-
1. Devise plans and programs of study.
2. Establish operating conditions for schools.
3. Supervise and inspect schools directly.
4. Pay a large part of the salaries of elementary teachers in Departments and
5. Pay the operating expenses of nationally administered elementary and second-
ary schools and universities.
6. Construct the majority of public school buildings.
I Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudioy Proyecto de Educacidn Media para Presentar al Banco Internacional
de Reconstruccidny Fomento. Bogota: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de Educacidn Media, Septem-
ber 1967. 1:24-25. (Mimeograph)
2 For information on ICFES and ICETEX, see chapters 9 and 13 respectively.
3 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. 1:27.
7. Contribute to the cost of constructing educational establishments through
8. Finance education in the National territories (intendencias and comisarias).
9. Assist private institutions.
Bogota and each of the 22 Departments has a Secretary of Education
charged with carrying out all administrative details of education in his
jurisdiction in accordance with standards established by the Ministry of
National Education. The Governor of each Department names that De-
partment's secretary of education, however. The Department's legislators
are responsible for establishing new schools under its jurisdiction and for
providing sufficient funds to enable them to function properly.4
Decree 3157 of December 26, 1968, reorganized the educational sector.
Chart I, prepared in February 1969, shows the organization of the Ministry
of National Education and its relationship to other educational entities.
The Ministry of National Education
Heading the Ministry of National Education are a Minister of Educa-
tion, a Vice Minister, and a Secretary General. Essentially political ap-
pointees, the first two are aided by a career official responsible for the
technical aspects of educational policy and by an office responsible for
insuring that the technical and administrative standards adopted by the
Ministry are maintained.
The Ministry's principal administrative responsibilities are to-5
1. Administer educational institutions belonging to the National Government.
2. Carry out the national policy for adopting professional standards in education.
3. Coordinate programs with the entities responsible for their development.
4. Finance educational projects for which the National Government is responsible.
5. Name the administrative and teaching personnel in national education in-
stitutions and programs.
6. Oversee educational programs and evaluate their effectiveness.
7. Plan educational development at all levels of education and government.
8. Prepare and administer the national education budget.
Other Ministry of National Education responsibilities are to-
1. Control the preparation and administration of the year-end examinations.
2. Provide an inspection system to insure that the Ministry's regulations are
3. Set conditions for adopting textbooks.
4. Set up the curriculums of both public and private schools.
5. Specify the academic grading system for all schools.
In recent years Colombian educational administration has undergone
a great many changes. In 1956 the Ministry of National Education added
an Office of Planning (which in 1960 became the Office of Planning,
Coordination, and Evaluation) to coordinate the various levels of the edu-
cational system and to organize the testing of new curriculums. Decree
1637 of 1960 reorganized the Ministry, making it responsible for all business
relating to the development, regulation, and inspection of education and
4 Ibid. I:28-29.
Ibid. pp. 74-75.
----------------------- Office of the
---; -- "------. President
-a-t-i- -o-a- - --
TCouncil of Higher --
Science and National Council of Mnir
Technology Council of Education
PAN,. --7 .. .!.
S SOURCE OF DATA: The Ministry of National Education. February 1969.
Chart 1. The Colombian Educational Sector: February 1969
for the promotion and diffusion of culture and science, consistent with the
Constitution, the laws, and published documents on the subject. Most key
positions in the Ministry of National Education had customarily been
filled by political appointment, but in 1960 the Lleras Government de-
cided to appoint all personnel except the Minister and the Secretary
General in accordance with Civil Service regulations.6
Law III of 1960 made the National Government responsible as of De-
cember 31, 1964, for paying the salaries of all public elementary school
teachers in the country. The Government has been gradually assuming this
responsibility ever since the law was first enacted.
Decree 3157 of 1968 gave a new direction to the activities of the Ministry
of National Education with the creation of Regional Educational Funds to
coordinate the administrative decentralization of education. As a conse-
quence, the Ministry delegated to the Departments (States) and metro-
politan areas the administration of schools which were previously National
schools, leaving only the National Institutes of Middle Education (INEM)
and the higher normal schools under the Ministry's direct supervision. As
a result of Government decrees passed in 1969, six Department secretariats
of education have been restructured and others will be.
Sometimes defined as "the principle of centralization of educational
policy and the decentralization of administration," this change gave con-
trol over allocating National educational monies to the lower levels of
government. In gaining this control, however, the lower governmental
levels are required to use their own tax resources more fully and more
efficiently than previously in order to be assured of the National Govern-
ment's approval and financial contributions. To supervise compliance with
national educational policy the Ministry of National Education has estab-
lished within its organization the Office of Educational Inspection and
Departmental (State) Education
Each of Colombia's major political units (Departments, intendencias, and
comisarias) has a secretariat of education whose secretary is named by the
Governor, intendente, or comisario. The secretary has the chief educational
responsibilities within his territory. Although the secretary is required to
comply with the mandates of the Ministry of National Education, actual
ties between the Departments and the National Government are relatively
Departmental secretariats have the following responsibilities: Naming
teachers in Department schools, making up the difference between available
National Government funds and current obligations, paying supervisory
expenses, maintaining public school plants, and providing some of the
materials needed for teaching.8 The Department secretariat of education
is responsible for maintaining the elementary, secondary, and higher
education facilities belonging to the Department. It also contributes to
the construction costs of some school facilities.
Cities with a population over 100,000 have secretariats of education
SLyman H. Legters et al. U.S. Army Handbook for Colombia (Pamphlet No. 550-26). Washington: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1964. p. 153.
7 Ministerio de Educaci6n Nacional. op. cit. p. 76.
0 Pedro G6mez Valderrama. El Desarrollo Educativo (Vol. 11). Bogota: Memoria al Congreso Nacional de
1963, Imprenta Nacional, 1964. p. 42.
with a similar organization. The city of Cali, for example, is divided into
eight school zones; the Department of Valle del Cauca into three. Except
in the large cities, municipal government has comparatively little respon-
sibility for administering education. Colombia has 891 municipal districts
(municipios), of which 96 percent have fewer than 50,000 inhabitants,
representing about 61 percent of the nation's population. There are 33
municipal districts each with between 50,000 and 500,000 people, making
up 18.5 percent of the population; four cities with over 500,000 population
make up the remainder. The educational responsibility of most of these
municipal districts consists primarily of providing sites for new schools
and then furnishing and maintaining them. In 1965 the municipal districts
contributed only 3.7 percent of all public educational expenses.9
Departmental expenditures in general increased 17.6 percent between
1960 and 1965 (at constant prices based on the 1965 value of the peso),
but Department expenditures for education increased only 9.4 percent.
Department support for education varies considerably from Department
to Department. For example, AtlAntico spent 43 percent of its total budget
on education in 1965, while Cauco spent only 17.3 percent.10
General Regulatory Controls
The Colombian Constitution guarantees freedom for private ownership
and operation of schools. Such schools, however, must be licensed. To get
a license a kindergarten must present a request to the Secretary of Educa-
tion, together with proof of the director's professional qualifications
(including his years of experience in preschool education and his attend-
ance at suitable short courses directed or approved by the Ministry of
National Education). In addition, the school premises must be approved
for cleanliness, adequacy of furnishings, and general comfort.
A private elementary school must go even further: its director and each
of its teachers must be qualified, it must have enough teachers for the
enrollment, must pay them the minimum legal salaries, must follow the
official Government program, and must meet Government standards for
facilities and hygiene.
A private secondary school must observe official plans, courses, and
programs and must keep up-to-date records designated by Government
Because they serve as a relatively attractive route to white-collar jobs,
commercial schools are frequently excellent profit-making ventures. Since
such schools have natural tendency to cut costs and standards to the bone,
Government regulation of them is particularly explicit. Commercial
schools must also possess adequate technical and instructional equipment,
and they must fulfill (in the judgment of the Ministry of National Educa-
tion's Office of Inspection) a specified pedagogical organization, pupil
classification, spirit of work, discipline, and moral instruction. No class
may exceed 35 students, and misleading advertising to obtain students is
9 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. 1:29-30.
0 Ibid. VIII:168-70.
Alejandro Bernal Escobar. La Educacdtn en Colombia. Bogotd: Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, 1965.
12 Decree 2117 of August 1, 1962.
Supervision and Inspection
Supervision is an important function on both the National and the
Departmental level. The supervisor evaluates and guides educational
institutions in desirable directions and attempts to encourage teachers to
make self-evaluations. At present, however, practically no supervision
exists, and despite the fact that a few supervisory training programs are
operating, scarcely any opportunities arise for a teacher to become a
The following career pattern has been a common one: a teacher, after
long years of experience, becomes principal (rector) of his school; he then
moves up to become a National inspector. Although there is general agree-
ment that inspectors might also serve effectively as supervisors, several
factors prevent this dual responsibility from working out in practice. First,
since the majority of National inspectors have passed their most dynamic
and productive periods of service, they tend to rely upon bureaucratic
experience in dealing with teachers and to become temperamentally
unsuited to encourage creative teaching. Furthermore, so many new
schools are being established (and thus requiring inspection) that little
time remains for inspector-supervisors to conduct more than a kind of
police action to see that the schools are not violating the Ministry's mini-
mum standards. The National Government has given the Departments
the responsibility for granting licenses to elementary and secondary schools,
but generally the Departments have failed to establish adequate minimum
standards, and their secretariats of education (with few exceptions) have
been much too responsive to local politics.'3
The program for inspection and supervision needs further improvement,
especially since the majority of supervisors at the Department level have
been political appointees. Until recently, inspection and supervision on
the Ministry of National Education level has been separated admininis-
tratively from the divisions which administer elementary and secondary
school programs, thus making liaison relatively ineffective.
The nation is divided into six inspection zones, each with work groups
for (1) approval of studies, (2) supervision, and (3) auxiliary services.
Each zone has about five elementary and 10 secondary inspectors, plus
one administrator, making a total of about 100 at the National level.
Departmental and municipal inspectors are usually more plentiful, espe-
cially on the elementary level. To qualify as a National inspector of
elementary education, as a Department inspector of education, or as a
director of training schools, pedagogical institutes, or normals, one must
be registered in the first category of the national elementary certification
schedule (escalafdn)."1 After administrative decentralization became effec-
tive in 1969, National inspectors began serving as training teams in the
The inspector's role is primarily one of seeing that particular minimum
standards are being met, since he has little time to serve in a supervisory
capacity. On the secondary level in the 1960's there was only one National
inspector for every 37 schools (417 teachers). In 1963, 60 inspectors pro-
13 Daniel Arango. Informe del Ministro de Educacidn al Congreso Nacional. Bogotd: Ministerio de Educacidn
Nacional, 1966. pp. 55-57.
14 Ventura Bermddez Hernandez. C6digo del Maestro. Bogotd: Editorial y Tipograffa Hispana, 1967. p. 48.
For more information on the escalafon, see chapter 10 under the section The Classification System.
duced only 950 written reports, suggesting an average of only 16 visits
annually. Many inspectors have had other responsibilities as well, includ-
ing the preparation and administration of final examinations.16
Inspectors spend approximately 90 percent of their time on visits to
schools which seek Ministry approval. During 18 months, 236 elementary,
542 secondary, and 36 normal schools received communications from the
Ministry denying them official approval; during the same period 110
elementary, 129 secondary, and 9 normal schools were granted complete
or provisional approval." Standards of approval for private secondary
schools are more lenient because the law requires that only half the teachers
in those schools must be certified.17
A common reason for Ministry disapproval of private schools is their
false advertising. They routinely break many of the Ministry's mandates
which aim to protect the consumer of private education. Parents are usually
reluctant to report private school violations because they believe their
children may then receive low grades. On the whole, one must conclude
that school inspection services are far from adequate.18
Before the 1957 plebiscite set aside 10 percent of the general budget
for public education, percentages allotted to education ranged from 4 to 6
percent.'9 The 1968 budget for the Ministry of National Education totaled
1,326,700,000 pesos, or 12.0 percent of the total.20 A summary of previous
trends in expenditures in the Ministry of National Education is given in
Of Colombia's total educational expenditures, the following percent
are borne by the three levels of government: National Government-57.4;
Departments-38.9; municipal districts-3.7.21 In 1965, the number of
pesos expended per pupil were the following: National contributions to
Departments-52 to 33; Department contributions-56 to 44; municipal
contributions-77 to 4.22
About 85 percent of the cost of elementary education goes to salaries.23
The legislation of 1903 set the following standards: the National Govern-
ment would build the schools, the Department would pay the salaries, and
the municipality would contribute the sites. This method of cost-sharing
is no longer the case, for the National Government now pays much more
than its original share. It has assumed responsibility for paying teachers'
salaries, salaries for administration, maintenance, and supervision, and
approximately 75 percent of construction costs for new schools.
6I Glenn R. Varner. Educaci6n Secundaria en Colombia. Bogota: ca. 1965. pp. 27-38. (Mimeograph).
t1 Pedro Gdmez Valderrama. Memoria del Ministro de Educaci6n Nacional. Bogota: Ministerio de Educacidn
National, 1967. IV:92.
17 Varner. op. cit. p. 16.
8 Germin Castro C. "jQuien Denuncia Irregularidades?" and "Se Violan las Reglamentaciones." El
Tiempo, March 22 and 23, 1970.
1z Bernal Escobar. op. cit. pp. 92-93.
20 Octavio Arizmendi Posada. La Transjormacidn Educativa Nacional. Bogota: Ministerio de Educacidn
National, 1969. 1:63.
21 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. 1:1-2.
22 Ibid. VIII:208.
2e Arango. op. cit. p. 17.
Table 1.-Educational expenditures, by type or level of education: 1961, 1963, and 19651
[In millions of pesos, with inflation corrected to the 1958 value of the peso]
Type or level 1961 1963 1965
Total national..................................... ................................ 2,449.3 2,058.1 2,482.0
Total educational............................................................... 242.5 275.9 334.3
Total......................... ....................................... 191.7 239.5 301.6
General administration............................................................ 5.4 5.3 5.0
Elementary and literacy education........................................ 38.2 100.9 119.4
Secondary education............................... ............... .......... 20.2 22.7 24.8
Normal education................................... ........................... 13.4 10.6 10.7
Higher education.................................................................... 3.1 2.7 4.3
Cultural extension....................... ............................. 2.6 0.7 0.7
Scholarships and meals................................. .. ............ 3.8 6.6 13.8
Transfers to departments and institutions............................ 104.4 89.6 122.1
O ther........................................................................................ 0.8 0.4 0.8
Total ---- -------- - ---................... ................. 50.8 36.4 32.6
Elem entary............................................................................... 24.3 27.8 18.7
Secondary...... ....................................... ............. 21.8 6.4 9.9
H igher.... ..................................... ............. ..................... 0.6 1.7 1.2
Other...........................---- ---........................................................ 4.2 0.6 2.8
1 With each item rounded to the nearest one-tenth percent, the actual totals given may differ from the
SOURCE OF DATA: Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto de Educaci6n Media para Presentar
at Banco Internacional de Reconstrucci6n y Fomento. Bogotd: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de
Educacidn Media, 1967. VIII: 158.
About 55 percent of secondary education's support in 1965 came from
Department budgets, although public secondary schools may be supported
by any of the three levels of government. Salaries and conditions of em-
ployment consequently vary considerably. Schools administered by the
Ministry of National Education do not need special approval to function,
but municipal and private schools need not only Department approval in
order to operate, but also National approval in order to receive recognition
of their degrees and certificates.
Sources of School Support
Tax Revenues.-The income of the Ministry of National Education is
derived from a variety of general Government tax-revenue sources. One of
these is a tax on imports and exports (which alone led to a 52-percent rise
in ordinary revenues in 1966). Another is an income tax surcharge, re-
established in September 1965. The rates were 15 percent for 1965 and 10
percent for 1966. To strengthen the income tax structure, a withholding
system was initiated in December 1966, and new taxes on gasoline con-
sumption and livestock investments were also imposed. By the end of Sep-
tember 1967, ordinary tax revenues were 16 percent higher than in the
first 9 months of 1966.24
24 Inter-American Development Bank. Socio-Economic Progress in Latin America (7th annual report) Washing-
ton: The Bank, Social Progress Report Fund, 1967. p. 107.
Legislators have sought to increase liquor and tobacco taxes and to ear-
mark them specifically for schools. They have also tried to get a 2-mill
increase in the land tax in order to strengthen Department and municipal
contributions to education. Large landowners, however, have usually sup-
ported national prohibitions which prevent local administrative districts
(municipios) from levying any significant tax on land and other real estate.
Thus it is difficult to muster local resources in support of schools and other
In 1960, the Departments derived 30 percent of all revenue from their
commercial monopolies, the majority of which were distilleries. In the
absence of cash, some Departments, such as Choc6, have paid teachers with
bottles of aquardiente, which they in turn sold to the parents of their stu-
dents.26 In many Departments, money received from taxes goes into a
general fund, and although certain of the tax revenue sources are desig-
nated for education, monthly expenditures may be dissipated by the local
government for what seem to be more pressing needs, with the result that
teachers' pay is frequently in arrears. There is usually no special fund for
educational purposes. Other sources of tax revenue which have been pro-
posed as a source of funds for education include a tax on foreign extractive
industries which exploit the subsoil and a tax on land not being used for
any economically productive purpose.
Other Sources.-Many Government agencies and semiautonomous public
corporations also make contributions of educational importance. Every
effort is made to coordinate their activities with those of the Ministry of
National Education, although in a number of instances these efforts have
not been successful. Some of the organizations making the largest financial
contributions in 1965 are shown on the tabulation on page 38.27
One of these agencies, the National Apprenticeship Service (SENA),28
is independently financed by a payroll tax and thus has the advantage of
having its income increase along with economic growth and inflation. The
Ministry of National Education, on the other hand, is handicapped by the
fact that although the number of pupils is increasing, it has no guarantee
that its sources of financial support will increase proportionately.
In 1961 the National Government assumed responsibility for public
school construction, originally the responsibility of the municipal districts.
In 1968 the Administrative Office for Joint Educational Programs (OAPEC)
constructed 831 classrooms, each designed for 40 pupils; and its immediate
successor, the Colombian Institute of School Construction (ICCE), be-
came responsible for constructing, equipping, and improving elementary
and secondary school facilities. Of the public schools, only half had running
water and only one-third had electricity. Private facilities (usually urban)
were nearly twice as well equipped.2
2 T. Lynn Smith, Colombia: Social Structure and the Process of Development. Gainesville: University of Florida
Press, 1967. p. 324.
SLegters. op. cit. p. 285.
27 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. 1:90-92.
28 For further information on SENA, see chapter 8.
29 Arizmendi Posada. op. cit. 1:109-10.
1965 Contributions in -
Agriculture Organized and administered courses in 4,495,941
agricultural extension for farm leaders.
Defense Organized and administered secondary 59,993,320
and university education for officers
and literacy programs for recruits.
Government Provided training courses for community- 12,731,840
Health Organized and administered courses in 16,616,182
public health and first aid.
Justice Provided elementary education to help 14,846,760
Colombian Petroleum Supported primary and secondary schools 9,704,147
Company. for employees' children.
Institute of Tobacco Provided courses in farm management and 4,336,000
Development. home improvement for tobacco growers
and maintained schools for their children.
National Apprenticeship Provided vocational and worker training. 128,895,000
National Federation of Provided courses in farm management 51,000,000
Coffee Producers. and home improvement for coffee
growers and maintained schools for
National Police Provided courses on public administration. 26,435,641
Under Decree 156 of 1967 official elementary education is completely
free, but secondary education charges a tuition which varies at progres-
sively graduated rates according to the parents' income and net worth.
In 1967, countrywide secondary scholarships were available amounting
to some 20 million pesos.30 Such scholarships are distributed regionally
from National, Department, and municipal scholarship budgets on the
basis of student grades and need. About one-sixth of secondary scholar-
ships are granted for study in private institutions, and about one-fourth of
all secondary students, public and private, have scholarships covering
tuition and/or dormitory and board.31
In 1968, total public and private school enrollments were the following:32
30 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. 1:168.
31Bernal Escobar. op. cit. pp. 218-19.
32 For elementary and secondary education: Departarnento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). Censo
de Establecirmentos Educativos: 1968. Bogota: April 1970. p. 1. For higher education: Associacidn Colombiana
de Universidadcs and Fondo Universitario Nacional. Estadisticas de la Educacidn, Superior en Colombia. Bogot~ :
Division de Planeacidn, January 1969. p. 3. (Mimncograph)
Total .--......... ........ -- ...-- ..--...---...3,382,890 100.0
Elementary ----- --------...............----------- 2,733,342 80.8
Secondary.....----..............------------------.. 586,704 17.3
Higher.. ----------...-.........---------........ 62,844 1.9
*Not counted in this tabulation were 166,378 children in preelementary schools.
During the same year of 1968, 177 children out of every 1,000 persons
in the total population were attending school-a rise of 15 children over
the number attending in 1966.
Generally speaking, Colombia's school retention rate today is the
following for every 1,000 children who enter grade 1: 33
Reach grade 5 Enter grade I Finish grade VI Enter the
of elementary school of secondary school of secondary school university
150 130 35 26
Although public school elementary education is free, about 25 percent
of the elementary school-age population do not attend school. In 1965,
the following percent of Bogota's school-age elementary or secondary
population were in school: 34
Elementary (ages 7-12)...............-..-................... 74
Secondary (ages 13-19)-................ ............ ..... ..................... 31
The record for Cali's and Medellin's school-age population was roughly
Table 2 shows for 1951 and 1964 the number of persons over 7 years
old who had completed each level of schooling and the percent that
number represents of the comparable population.
The average level of schooling for Colombians in 1951 was 1.9 years;
in 1964, 2.4. Variations existed, however; in 1964 BogotA and various
Departments reported the following average number of years of schooling: 36
Bogot--.........----.....-..-.. --....-... 4.2 Boyac............-..................... .2.1
Atlintico.............. - -.... 3.1 C6rdoba---.... -----.................--- 1.8
V alle --...........-..... -.. .. 3.1 Choc6 .....-....-..-- ..... .. .......... 1.4
The School Calendar
Colombian children attend school Monday through Saturday for 33
weeks spread through 10 months. Schools observe either of two calendars.
The one most widely used begins during the first week in February and
continues into November. Vacation is a week at Easter and about 20 days
in June and July.
An alternate calendar is favored in the Southwest, particularly in
Cauca, Nariflo, Valle, and the Comisaria del Putamayo, where the
tradition dates back to the time when these were separate political units.
The alternative calendar extends from early September until late June,
with several weeks at Christmas and one at Easter.36 Examinations for
secondary schools continue for 2 weeks after classes end. Elementary and
3 Arizmendi Posada. op. cit. p. 76.
m Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. VIII:212, 214, and 216.
S5 Ibid. 1:106.
3 Decree 1902 of 1969.
Table 2.-Number of persons over 7 years old who have completed each level of schooling; and
percent that number represents of the comparable population: 1951 and 1964
Level and grade
Number Percent Number Percent
Total............ .......................... 8,371,311 1 100.0 13,299,014 1 100.0
1................ ....... .... ..... .............. 750,738 9.0 1,492,730 11.2
2.......................... ......................... ....... 1,047,695 12.5 2,005,265 15.1
3.................... ...-- ..... .... .............. 937,573 11.2 1,807,928 13.6
4.... ............................................................. 802,675 9.6 1,286,297 9.7
5..... ....... ............................... 495,433 5.9 1,228,357 9.2
I.......................... ....................................... 101,286 1.2 264,367 2.0
II..................... .................. ....... .. 128,219 1.5 239,800 1.8
II........................ ........ .................. 104,276 1.3 186,376 1.4
IV............. .......... ...................................... 81,078 1.0 141,821 1.1
V............... .. ............ ......... ............ .. 47,828 0.6 76,442 0.6
VI ........ ...... ...................- -- ... 52,990 0.6 126,011 1.0
S.............. .................................................. 5,285 0.1 15,963 0.1
2.. -....................................... 7,226 0.1 14,543 0.1
3........ ....... ........ ... .... ............. ... 5,711 0.1 12,607 0.1
4.. ................. ................. ..-------------. 6,800 0.1 13,959 0.1
5............... .. ..................-. 9,516 0.1 22,890 0.1
6................................................................... 12,105 0.1 24,673 0.2
No Ascertained Level or Grade 2
Other education................................................ 72,931 0.9 285,526 2.2
Illiterates............................. ----...... ..... ----- 3,701,946 44.2 4,053,459 30.5
I With each item rounded to the nearest one-tenth percent, the actual total of the items is over 100.0 percent.
2 In 1951, the average level of schooling attained by the population was 1.9 years; in 1964, 2.4 years.
SOURCE OF DATA: Ministeria de Educaci6n Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto de Educaci6n Media para Presentar
al Banco Internacional de Reconstrucci6n y Fomento. Bogotd: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de
Educacidn Media, 1967. 1:10405. (The number of children under age 7 with schooling is negligible.)
secondary public and private schools are expected to observe the calendar
set by the Ministry of National Education, unless it grants them special
exemptions. In practice, however, many schools open several weeks late,
and rural schools often close during harvest time. Special holidays also cut
down the actual number of days children spend in class.
Texts and Teaching Materials
In spite of Government campaigns and school inspectors' efforts, the
number of textbooks is limited except in some of the better Departmental
and private schools. To be purchased usually at local bookstores, the text-
books prove too costly for many families. Since teachers and school officials
often receive a kickback from bookstores for texts which their students pur-
chase, a 1969 decree imposes a fine on public schools which change a given
textbook more often than once in 3 years. By 1970, a total of 420,000 free
texts had been distributed to first- and second-year elementary school
children in five Departments.37
37 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Boletin de Divulgacidn Educatwa. March 6, 1970.
The Ministry of National Education encourages teachers to use good
supplementary instructional materials, but the majority of teachers favor
the lecture method, combined with sufficient recitation to see if students
remember the precise wording of their exposition. Although many schools
now make functional use of science laboratory equipment, maps, and other
teaching aids, until about 10 years ago they customarily kept such things
in locked cabinets or cases, only to be looked at. Today, teachers' manuals
for elementary and secondary courses are generally of good quality.
Roman Catholic schools use textbooks prepared mainly by Catholic pub-
lishers but adapted, under Government order, to the Government's official
course of studies and subject to the Ministry of National Education's
Language of Instruction
Schools in the Colombian educational system use Spanish as the language
of instruction. (Relatively few unassimilated Indian groups do not speak
Spanish.) Other schools, functioning in Colombia but administered by
foreign organizations, in many cases use the language of the organization's
home country; but they must hire Colombian teachers to conduct courses
dealing with Colombia's geography and history in Spanish.
Despite the fact that many Colombian Ministers of Education have
possessed obvious ability, their tenure has often been brief. Of the 55
Ministers serving between 1935 and 1970, several were unacquainted with
the problems of public education. This fact has hindered the Ministry
from coordinating and planning many well-conceived programs. The
Colombian Federation of Educators, a national teachers union, has com-
plained that the Ministry has not consulted sufficiently with teachers
when making important decisions. As a result, the union claims, some
policies have been ill-advised.3
Administrative paralysis also poses a problem. On the one hand, the
Colombian Constitution places responsibility on Department Governors
and assemblies for establishing schools, making teacher appointments, and
setting salaries. On the other hand, the Constitution delegates to the
National Government the task of financing and supervising a program
over which it has had little real control until recently. This apparent, but
ineffective, National Government control over education in the Depart-
ment schools has led to considerable waste and duplication of effort in the
use of facilities. The recently devised Regional Educational Funds should,
however, improve these conditions.
There has been a great need to integrate effectively those national
agencies which perform largely educational functions-particularly
ICETEX, SENA, and the former National University Fund which have
sometimes worked at cross purposes. Then, too, some of these agencies
have had more effective political and financial support than the Ministry
of National Education and have understandably not been eager to share
their resources. Decree 3157 of 1968 responded to these problems by more
effectively centralizing national educational policymaking. At the same
38 Renovaci6n Educativa. Aub6st 6, 1967. p. 4.
time the Decree decentralized educational administration, thus significantly
diminishing the importance of these criticisms as that legislation goes
There is an even greater need to enforce the existing laws, many of which
are constructive and desirable, but which are also infrequently or inade-
quately obeyed.40 Finally, there is a need for broader diffusion of a new
concept of administrative leadership: to place a higher value on compe-
tence than on political affiliation.
39 Arizmendi Posada. op. cit. p. 10.
40 Primer Congreso Pedag6gica Nacional. Carrera Profesional Docente, Comision IV. ca. 1966. p. 2. (Mimeo-
5. Planning and Development
Good planning emphasizes that the purpose of collecting data and
organizing activities under a plan is to deal more effectively with problems
or to avoid them entirely. Good planning also helps to identify problems
and determine priorities. Although no amount of planning research can
decide whether improving elementary education, for example, is more
important than expanding university study, the data gathered during re-
search may provide a more efficient basis for deciding where reform
ought to begin.
Colombia's educational planners today face a great many developmental
problems. The Ministry of National Education has stated that some of the
most important ones facing the planners are to-
1. Create a technical diploma program for the last 2 or 3 secondary years.
2. Draft a new elementary and secondary teaching law so that only those teachers
possessing the appropriate educational preparation can become certified.
3. Elevate and expand normal schools to 5 years from their present 4 years,
making these schools the last 2 years of a 6-year secondary education program.
4. Eliminate the elementary teacher and school building shortage which has
resulted from rapid population expansion.
5. Encourage university professors to pursue advanced study abroad.
6. Improve the quality of administrative personnel.
7. Improve the systems of:
8. Revise the curriculums, especially those in the large, new comprehensive
national high schools to make them more relevant than formerly to Colombian
9. Standardize rural elementary schools to make them the equal of urban schools.'
The extensive statistical information which the Colombian Government
has gathered during the past decade enables it to identify needed educa-
tional reforms with greater precision than was heretofore possible.
Background of Educational Planning
Shortages of foreign manufactured goods during World War II con-
1 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Studio y Proyecto do Educaci6n Media para Presentar al Banco Internacional
de Reconstrucci6n y Fomento. Bogota: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de Educaci6n Media,
September 1967. 1:24-26. (Mimeograph).
vinced many Colombians who had become accustomed to these shortages
and who had been trained abroad that they might successfully utilize in
Colombia the manufacturing and economic skills of the developed nations.
A pioneer effort to establish an institution which could relate these foreign
skills to Colombian problems was that of the University of Los Andes.
Founded in 1949 by Mario Laserna, a graduate in mathematics from
Columbia University, Los Andes was an admitted imitation on a smaller
scale of some of the best features of U.S. higher education. Compulsory
class attendance, a credit system with electives (rather than the traditional
fixed curriculum), and general education rather than premature special-
ization featured prominently in Los Andes' program. The new university
did much to stimulate study abroad through its program designed to
prepare students for advanced study in foreign countries (especially the
United States). Another function of the institution was to provide a higher
education independent of the political and religious influences which at
that time interfered with the integrity and effectiveness of instruction in
many Colombian universities.
Until the Institute for Advanced Training Abroad (ICETEX) was
founded in the 1950's, however, most of the positions of leadership and
responsibility in Colombian development were limited to the economically
privileged-formerly the only group which had significant access to higher
education. The University of Los Andes and ICETEX did much to foster
the spirit of economic self-improvement which made Colombia the first
Latin American country to prepare a basic educational plan (plan integral).
It has since become an example for other nations.
The Currie Plan
Various developmental studies were carried on by foreign as well as
Colombian specialists. In 1949 a mission of the International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development, directed by economist Laughlin Currie
in collaboration with the National Government, prepared an economic
development study. The Currie Plan stressed that if balanced development
planning in education were to take place, a central team of planning
specialists would have to be appointed to advise the Ministry of National
The Celestin and Other Studies
In 1956 the National Planning Committee employed the French
economist Georges Celestin to make a study of the nation's educational
problems. A Ministry of National Education report by planning specialist
Chailloux Danteul reaffirmed a need for long-range planning, to put
order and purpose into educational procedures. About the same time, a
mission directed by P. J. L. Lebret proposed a national educational
development policy and provided much of the necessary background work
for a fundamental educational reform. These studies resulted in efforts
to change (at least in theory) the character and content of Colombian
education. In response to such efforts, Dr. Gabriel Betancur Mejia, then
Minister of Education, employed Dr. Ricardo Diez Hochleitner, a Spanish
authority on educational planning, to organize and direct basic educational
planning for Colombia. In 1957, Decrees 206 and 2351 created the Office
of Planning, composed of experts in various fields of education. This body
prepared the first 5-year plan (in five volumes) based on the studies
Direct Results of the Studies
Political leaders began to pay more attention to education and the
Government decided to include an increased education budget in the 1958
plebiscite reform. Also, the Government has used the first 5-year plan as
the basic element in restructuring and redirecting certain aspects of
educational policy which it later carried out in practice. In this restruc-
turing and redirecting, the Government has-
1. Changed the methods of educational finance.
2. Created experimental pilot schools.
3. Given further training to teachers who lack necessary diplomas.
4. Increased elementary education budgets.
5. Organized intensive courses for secondary school graduates who want to enter
6. Started systematic training for school supervisors.
Unfortunately, economic and political considerations have made it im-
possible for the Ministry of National Education to put the 5-year plan
into effect systematically.3
Many other reports and studies have reinforced the Government's
efforts, among them the following: Memorias of the Ministry of National
Education to Congress, Principal Project No. 1 of UNESCO for Latin
America on improving basic education, Report of the Colombian Dele-
gation to the Conference on Education, Social Development in Latin
America, and Study of the Conditions of Development in Colombia.
The international nature of the planning movement confers considerable
prestige to the idea of full-time planners and thus exerts considerable pres-
sure on a Latin American Government to support planning efforts. This
results in a great deal of formal Government support of the idea of educa-
tional planning, without necessarily giving the needed political support or
autonomy required to make the procedure function effectively.4 Little
doubt exists that the Colombian Government's support for planning is
sincere; but lack of communication and consultation between Government
leaders and those who could make major contributions to the effective
implementation of new programs is frequently cited as a serious weakness.
Government leaders often hold posts because of their superior personal
talents and high-level political affiliations. As a result, such leaders some-
times feel that it would be inappropriate for them to consult with mem-
bers of subordinate professional groups in order to implement worthwhile
The Office of Planning, Coordination, and Evaluation
After the Ministry of Education had established the Office of Planning
and that Office had prepared a 5-year education plan, the Government
of Colombia, the Organization of American States, and UNESCO in
2 Alejandro Bernal Escobar. La Educacin en Colombia. Bogota: Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, 1965. p. 85.
SIbid. pp. 86-87.
4 Ibid. pp. 294-95.
1958 jointly sponsored an educational planning seminar in which all Latin
American countries participated. In 1960 the Office of Planning became
the Office of Planning, Coordination, and Evaluation; it was placed
directly under the Minister of Education. In 1961, the Ministry presented
a 10-year General Development Plan to the country, and in 1963 the
Ministry was host to the Third Inter-American Meeting of Ministers of
The Alliance for Progress Program
For 1961-65, the Alliance for Progress program envisioned the following
1. Construct and furnish 22,000 classrooms.
2. Give further inservice training to 11,160 employed teachers.
3. Give professional training to inspectors and school directors.
4. Enroll 2,324,620 children in elementary school by 1965.
5. Train 9,540 students to become teachers.5
In the early 1960's, however, the Government encountered difficulties
with the 5-year plan. These difficulties seemed to stem from two things:
insufficient coordination with programs of social and economic develop-
ment and a lack of articulation between the Office of Planning, Coordina-
tion, and Evaluation and the Department secretariats of education.'
Decree 3248 of 1963 reorganized the Office of Planning, Coordination,
and Evaluation, making it directly responsible to the Ministry of National
Education Cabinet. The Decree established a staff of 23 members, 13 of
them professionals, and set forth the functions of the Office. In carrying
out its functions the Office will, among other things, do the following: 7
1. Coordinate the Ministry of National Education's work (for example, prepare a
projected budget for the Minister's approval).
2. Help prepare Ministry-arranged agreements and contracts with Department,
international, municipal, and other agencies.
3. Prepare both short-range and long-range programs for public and private
4. Study the educational and cultural problems and needs of the entire country.
During recent years, the Office of Planning, Coordination, and Evalua-
tion has emphasized the preparation of analytical studies, documents, and
reports for each of the successive Ministers of Education to use in deter-
mining national educational policy. Yet, despite their importance, the
functions of coordination and evaluation have not been implemented. The
plans advanced by the Ministry of National Education employ the Na-
tional Development Plan as a point of departure. A new 5-year plan for
education has been established for 1970-74. The Colombian Association
of Universities has its own office of university planning and has carried
out a series of short-term plans.
SW. 0. Galbraith. Colombia: A General Survey. London: Oxford University Press, 1966. p. 58. (2d edition).
SBernal Escobar. op. cit. p. 87.
SPedro Gdmez Valderrama. El Desarrollo Educativo. Bogota: Memoria al Congreso Nacional de 1963,
Imprenta Nacional, 1964. 11:106.
Results of the 1967 Reforms
Many proposed reforms represent conclusions reached by full-time plan-
ners on the Ministry of National Education's staff. Although their plans
may not be as well integrated as would be desirable, they do represent a
combination of careful thought and political feasibility. The Ministry's
1967 reforms set in motion the following improvements: 8
1. Budget increase allocated for educational television in elementary schools.
2. Coeducation in elementary schools whose class enrollments are small.
3. Double sessions, particularly in secondary schools having the greatest demand
4. Increased number of National Government secondary schools.
5. Integration (on a regional basis) of public schools sponsored by the National,
Departmental, and municipal governments.
6. Intensive use (funcionamiento intensive) of elementary schools.
7. Rural schools in areas where a single teacher is responsible for teaching the
equivalent of five grades (escuela unitaria).
The New Prestige of Economics
Fifteen years ago Colombian universities had no facultades of economics,
no students were majoring in economics, and only two or three Colombians
held economics degrees. The Colombian Government had no Department
of Planning, no Department of Statistics, and no Cost-of-Living Index.
Today, however, the universities have 17 facultades (departments or schools)
of economics with about 1,500 students.9 In 1964, Decree 1297 permitted
universities to confer the degree of economist as a professional degree,
reserving the less prestigious licenciado for other similar fields of study.
The Church's Interest
The defection of former priest Camilo Torres to the ranks of the anti-
Government forces, and his death in 1966 at the hands of Government
troops, aroused special concern on the part of the Roman Catholic Church
regarding questions of economic and educational development. Founded
at Bogoti in 1944, the Church's Center for Research and Social Action
(CIAS) has in recent years conducted 40 short courses and seminars
attended by 791 priests. With an 8,000-volume library, the Center does
socioeconomic research designed to encourage constructive social change.
In 1968, aided by German Roman Catholics, the affiliated Institute of
Doctrine and Social Studies (IDES) began to teach courses, which were
aimed at professionals as well as leaders of the poorer classes, on social
change in Latin America.'o
Hindrances to National Development
Leaders in Colombia possess a keener faith in planning and managed
growth than do those in many other Latin American countries having
similar difficulties. This faith gives the Colombians grounds for optimism,
but they face certain persistent basic difficulties.
One of the difficulties is the absence of a significant public dialog on
s Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. 1:25.
SLaughlin Currie. La Ensenafiza de la Economia en Colombia. Bogota: Tercer Mundo, 1967. pp. 9-10.
to El Siglo, February 12, 1968.
just what education can contribute toward building a more prosperous
nation for all Colombians." Part of this particular difficulty has resulted
from the notion that "development" is a concept so untouchable, dealing
with economic and sociological studies so complicated, that many people
(even those with a previous real interest in education) hesitate to commit
themselves to involvement. People are overawed by the remedies pro-
pounded by the professional planners throughout Latin America who have
a spirit and unity all their own.
Still another difficulty is the natural tendency to look to the National
Government as the traditional source of initiative. (Government officials
often share this view of their role.) Despite the sincere concern of all for
educational reform, there has been a general lack of collaboration between
the Office of Planning, Coordination, and Evaluation and various other
concerned groups.12 This situation is made still more difficult by another
general lack: no effective grass-roots organizations exist to serve as a
nucleus for indigenous educational reform. Many of the less favored social
classes, which ought to be actively proposing their own reforms, are in-
clined to look to the Government to provide solutions for social and
educational difficulties in much the same manner as they look to God or
the Church to provide solutions for spiritual problems.
Some conditions detrimental to national development can be found in
the school itself. Textbooks and classroom lectures usually treat problems
theoretically-that is, on a relatively high level of abstraction without
application to a concrete situation. Teachers are often more fascinated by
the process of formal logic than by the specific solution to an immediate
problem. In fact, much traditional teaching (particularly in the established
required courses on philosophy and religion) is hostile to socioeconomic
development. This teaching treats distinctions between body and soul,
holiness and worldliness, and God's will and human responsibility as
dichotomies. Likewise, this teaching attempts to inculcate final truths,
rather than tolerance for a variety of ideas different from one's own.
Philosophy does not create a questioning attitude; instead, it provides
final and definitive answers. Some statements from textbooks illustrate
Natural kindness (without a religious motivation) has no positive value in the
eyes of God.
A man is more esteemed for his spiritual qualities than for his worldly ability."1
Another textbook statement in effect attempts to refute the idea of
democracy itself (in other words, Rousseau's assertion that the people are
sovereign because all authority originates with them):
Authority comes from God; it cannot reside with the people, since they have no
natural or acquired authority. The authority of the people is fragile, since when
everyone decides (thinks), no one is responsible.14
Some Colombians believe that since the Roman Catholic Church is both
powerful and conservative, it may become a positive force in bringing
11 Joaquin Pa6z Gdmez. Education and National Development in Colombia. Stanford: Stanford International
Development Education Center, 1969. p. 146.
12Alejandro Bernal Escobar. op. cit. pp. 259-61.
13 Ibid. pp. 303-04.
about radical social changes through evolutionary rather than revolutionary
means. Other Colombians, however, see it as a major deterrent to public
Developmental Trends and Activities
Colombian education is expanding rapidly but not fast enough to meet
the country's needs. As shown, the rate of expansion is greatest in higher
Enrollment in thousands Percent of 1955figure
1955 7958 1963 1965 1968 1955 1958 1963 1965 1968
Elementary....1,236 1,493 2,096 2,270 2,733 100.0 120.1 169.6 183.7 271.1
Secondary...... 135 215 360 405 587 100.0 159.3 266.7 300.0 434.8
Higher .....- 13 19 34 43 63 100.0 146.2 261.5 330.8 484.6
Despite its growth, Colombian education remains for many an expensive
luxury, dominated by an elite tradition with little relevance to the condi-
tion of the masses. The lower classes have become increasingly aroused to
seek schooling as a means of social mobility. Rural violence has led many
peasants to save their money in order to educate their children rather
than buy land, as before.16 Others migrate to urban areas where schooling
is available or send their children to live with relatives in communities
with better schools. Although population increases result in a mounting
number of illiterates, the proportion of illiterates to the general population
is reduced each year. The economically active population also has been
increasing numerically; but the percentage of the total population con-
tributing by its economic activity to the support of education has declined
from 34.4 percent in 1938 to 33.4 percent in 1951, and then to 29.4 per-
cent in 1964. At the same time people are also shifting to urban occupa-
tions, which require more training.1
The system of monoculture which characterizes much of Colombian
agriculture has also effectively limited the educational aspirations of the
rural population. Since workers in simple agrarian jobs do not receive
extra pay for superior educational qualifications, levels of training tend
to remain low. Thus a vicious circle is created in which low technological
levels in agriculture and low educational levels make development difficult.
This fact suggests that educational goals ought to favor fundamental
change rather than simply more improvements in the existing situation.'1
The Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCORA) 19 has encour-
aged one fundamental change. This rural development agency has found
s From data provided by the Ministry of National Education, Office of Educational Planning. March 1970.
Is Orlando Fals Borda. "Bases for a Sociological Interpretation of Education in Colombia," in The Caribbean:
Contemporary Colombia (A. Curtis Wilgus, ed.). Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962. p. 200.
Asociacidn Colombiana de Universidades. Antecedentes y Perspectwas del Desarrollo Cuantilativo de la Educaci6n
Superior en Colombia, 1968-1975. BogotA: Division de Planeacidn, October 1967. pp. 10-14.
18 Ibid. p. 15.
19 See chapter 8, section on Agricultural Education.
that frequently it is more economical for a peasant to live in a small
central village of 16 or more families than to live on an individual farm.
It also believes that small central villages offer the only feasible way to
extend community services such as education and water and, eventually,
electricity and sewerage. Finally, INCORA feels that the peasant will
find rural living more pleasurable if he is less isolated and that he will
benefit from village living by having helpful examples to follow.20
Middle-Class Educational Goals
A natural tendency exists for members of the middle class to aspire to
the value system of the influential elite class. Middle-class members tend to
use education as a means for acquiring, symbolically, an upper-class con-
cept of themselves and experience difficulty in developing the kind of
self-respect which is necessary to develop viable middle-class values. At
the same time, however, these middle-class people are moving in a positive
direction. For example, during the last 10 years, secondary school students
have been more and more inclined to major in the less traditional fields.
As an aid to such a choice, the Colombian Government is making a major
effort to build large comprehensive secondary schools 21 which will offer
a wider range of vocational and social class interests and which will help
achieve more effective social integration.
Finally, the expansion of student credit, especially in higher education,
gives more Colombians a growing confidence that they will achieve their
ultimate educational goals.
20 Pat M. Holt. Colombia Today-and Tomorrow. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964. p. 92.
21 See chapter 7, section on National Institutes of Middle Education (INEM).
6. Kindergarten and Elementary Education
According to Decree 1637 of 1960, elementary education (nearly always
called educaci6n primaria) consists of kindergarten (sometimes referred to
as preschool) education, the traditional elementary education, and adult
literacy programs. Usually conducted under private auspices, kindergarten
education begins about age 5; elementary, officially at age 7.
A. KINDERGARTEN EDUCATION
The Institutions and the Children
Children as young as age 4 attend kindergarten (jardin infantil) and some
attend through age 6. To serve working mothers the National Government
has established six public kindergartens in the poor neighborhoods of
some of Colombia's capital cities. These kindergartens function on the
principle that social maturation is more important than academic prep-
aration.' They seek primarily to influence parents to take an active inter-
est in their children's development and also to serve as demonstration
centers for private kindergartens. Although the Government believes that
kindergarten is desirable, it has only limited resources which at present
do not permit school expansion at that level.
Private kindergartens abound. Many of them emphasize an academic
program, partly because Colombian children do not enter first grade until
age 7; and some also offer a 2d year, called the "transition." Nine out of
10 kindergarteners attend private institutions, which cater to the urban
In 1968, 16,302 children attended a total of 258 public kindergartens;
94,192 attended a total of 3,119 private kindergartens. Both types offer
separate institutions for boys and girls and also institutions taking boys
and girls together. The 1968 breakdown of these institutions was as follows: 2
1 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Orientaciones sobre Educacidn Pre-escolar. Bogota: Divisidn de Educacidn
Elemental, 1966. p. 21. (Mimeograph)
2 Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). Censo de Establecimientos Educativos: 1968.
Bogotd: April 1970. pp. 7-9.
Total...........- -.... ........ ------ 258 3,119
Boys only -...............-- .........--- --- --- 21 150
Girls only -...... -.... ........... -- -- 28 210
Coeducational (mixto) ...-- .............. ---. ..---- 209 2,759
Of the entire public and private kindergarten enrollment in 1968,
almost one-third attended institutions in Bogota; large numbers were con-
centrated also in Barranquilla, Cali, and Medellin.
The Ministry's Services
The Ministry has been active in kindergarten-level teacher training
and parent guidance. For example, in 1962-67 it offered 38 courses for
3,564 prospective kindergarten teachers and 110 lectures for nearly 7,000
parents. The teacher courses were particularly helpful to young women
wanting to learn new methods of kindergarten teaching.
In 1962-67 the Ministry distributed a large number of textbooks and
other materials for the guidance of both teachers and parents.
The Ministry's encouragement had already led the Universidad Peda-
g6gica Femina in Bogota to establish a program to prepare kindergarten
teaching in 1958. There is also a school for this purpose in Medellin.
B. ELEMENTARY EDUCATION
The Colombian Government has stated the purposes of elementary
education in terms differing little from those used by the Governments of
other countries. According to Decree 1710 of 1963, Colombian education
1. Contribute to the child's harmonious development and the optimum structuring
of his personality, with a Christian attitude toward life in a free and democratic
2. Encourage a sense of civic spirit, national identity, and solidarity with all
peoples of the world.
3. Inculcate habits of cleanliness, hygiene, and intelligent use of inner resources.
4. Prepare the child for a life of responsibility and employment in accordance
with his individual aptitudes and interests.
5. Provide the child with a sound basic education.
Attitude Toward Public Schools
Although public elementaryeducation is often of high quality, taught
by teachers generallywell paid there is frequently a stigma attached to
sending one's child to a public school. In many Departments (States)
people regad free public education_ as pauper education, and parents of
only modest means often prefer private schools for their children. Fre-
quently the director of a public elementary school will send his own chil-
dren of elementary school age to a private institution.
The School Year and Class Size
The elementary school year consists of 198 days, including Saturday
mornings. Although class schedules vary somewhat with the school's
organization, the teacher is expected to spend about 6 hours daily with her
pupils. In double-session schools, each session is 5 hours daily. Many
schools have been operating on douTTe session since 1951.
Class size, or pupil-teacher ratio, varies with the kind of institution.
In 1965 public elementary schools averaged 36 pupils per teacher; private,
27.3 The ratio in some Departments is as high as 80:1.
Number of Grades
Before 1963 Colombia had three types of elementary schools: The alter-
nated 2-year rural school, the 4-year rural school established in 1950, and
the 5-year urban school. The principal defect of this triple system was
that it discriminated against rural children.
Decree 1710 of 1963 stated that elementary education would consist of
a "compulsory" 5-year course having the same curriculum for both urban
and rural schools. Despite this Decree, however, vocational emphasis and
school-related activities vary considerably as between city and country
areas, and incomplete elementary schools of only two or three grades con-
tinue to function in the latter areas. The Ministry is trying in various
ways to carry out the provisions of Decree 1710.
The following tabulation shows the number of urban and rural schools
offering one, two, three, four, or five grades in 1966:4
Number of Urban Rural
grades Number Percent Number Percent
Total .......---- 7,614 100.0 16,824 100.0
One --....--............. 316 4.2 755 4.5
Two -........-... ...... 588 7.7 9,897 58.7
Three ......... -..... ...- 711 9.3 3,604 21.4
Four................- ..- 953 12.5 1,580 9.6
Five -.............. ..... 5,046 66.3 988 5.8
Pupils: Ages and Enrollment
The elementary school is officially composed of children from age 7 to
11, but-t thteage bracket varies considerably around the country. For
example, in 1961 a totaTof 428,267 elementary pupils (23.9 percent) were
age 12 or older. For the country as a whole the average starting age was
9 years, 4 months; but in rural areas it was often much older than that.5
3 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto de Educacidn Media para Presentar al Banco Internacional
de Reconstrucctdn Y Fomento. Bogota: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de Educacidn Media'
September 1967. II:14. (Mimeograph)
4 Departamento Nacional de Planeacidn. Planesy Programas de Desarrollo: Sector Educaci6n. Bogota: June 18,
5Alejandro Bernal Escobar. La Educacidn en Colombia.Bogota: Centrode Investigaciones Sociales, 1965. p. 113.
In 1950, public elementary schools enrolled 93.8 percent of all ele-
mentary pupils; in 1965, 86 percent, a figure reflecting the fact that
private and church educational facilities were generally expanding. As
between urban and rural areas, the percentage of all elementary enrollment
(public and private together) for the former areas was 50.5 in 1950 and
64.3 in 1965, this latter figure reflecting the fact that families were migrat-
ing rapidly to the cities.6 Among their reasons for doing so were two:
The quality of teaching in the cities was superior to that in the rural
villages and many rural village schools offered instruction in only two or
Chart 2 shows the 1964 enrollment by grade and the population in
the corresponding age group for elementary urban and rural schools.
In that year, the number of pupils in the first three grades of urban schools
exceeded the number of children in the corresponding school-age popula-
tion (ages 7, 8, and 9). The reason is that many of the children enrolled
a year or two late or, having failed a grade, were repeating it. In the same
year in the first grade of rural village schools the number of children also
exceeded the number in the corresponding school-age population. The
reason here is that many did not begin first grade until age 8, 9, 10, or 11,
or were repeating it.
The figures for 1964 are not peculiar to that year alone, but are rather
typical. Raw data for any year may be misleading. Table 3 shows the
number of pupils in elementary public and private schools, by age and
grade, for 1968. In that year, the total number of elementary school-age
children (7 to 11 years) in the population was 2,776,000, while the number
of children (of any age) enrolled in elementary schools was 2,733,432.
Comparing these figures one might conclude that 98.4 percent of children
ages 7 to 11 were in school. Actually, 23 percent of the children in ele-
mentary schools in 1968 were older than age 11, and 17 percent of these
children were repeaters. Thus, the actual percentage of 7- to 11-year-old
children who were in school was much lower than the raw data seem to
Dropouts and Absentees
The most crucial problem, perhaps, in Colombia's elementary education
is the tendency of pupils to drop out of school long before they have
finished the course. Such a practice not only deprives them of a complete
educational experience as far as the Colombian elementary system would
carry them but it also denies the nation an efficient and productive use
In 1965, of all urban children who had entered grade 1, only 43.8
percent entered grade 5; of all rural children, only 3.0 percent. Taken
together, both urban and rural, the number of children who had entered
grade 1 in 1961 was reduced in 1965 to only 22.7 percent entering grade 5.
Regional variations were considerable. For example, in urban BogotA,
6 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Studio y Proyecto. . op. cit. 1:41.
3 9 population 246,167
Grde enmilment 263,678
Grade enrollment 23,460
2 8 648, 273,778 4p ln 2 ,909
7 ul t G 10n en ro4601llment 23,.104
Gd enrollmen 60,1594n.655
SOURCE OF DATA Deptamnto Adm-instrativ N6aconal de EstadisticA (DANE). 1964 Census Data
Chart 2. Enrollment by Grade; and Population by Corresponding Age
Ul Group in Elementary Urban and Rural Schools: 1964
Table 3.-Number of pupils in elementary public and private schools, by age and grade: 1968
[......... indicates source gave no data]
1 2 3 4 5
Total.............. 2,213,405 885,774 552,225 357,902 240,768 176,736
7 and under............ 311,767 291,082 20,685 .................... .................... ....................
8 -............. ....... 337,777 217,368 104,150 16,259 ....................
9................................ 328,280 138,946 121,777 56,912 10,645 ..............
10 .......... ... 334,994 99,639 111,369 81,366 35,037 7,583
11................................ 282,301 58,385 76,340 71,090 52,290 24,196
12 ......................... 260,032 40,412 59,692 60,788 57,130 42,010
13............................... 172,417 20,337 31,513 38,310 41,554 40,703
14 and over................ 185,837 19,605 26,699 33,177 44,112 62,244
Total.................. 520,027 170,292 107,251 91,252 77,094 74,138
7 and under.............. 111,799 94,171 17,628 .....................................
8.............. ............ 81,024 32,271 33,747 15,006
9...................... ... 74,667 16,688 21,461 25,239 11,279 ....
10.....- ..............-- ...-... 73,579 10,643 13,250 19,579 20,096 10,011
11...... ................ 59,998 5,790 7,777 12,183 16,552 17,696
12.......... ............ 47,600 4,513 5,737 8,304 12,213 16,833
13 .............................. 30,102 2,299 3,160 4,882 7,714 12,047
14 and over................ 41,258 3,917 4,491 6,059 9,240 17,551
SOURCE OF DATA: Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). Censo de Nacional de
Poblaci6n. Bogota: Imprenta Nacional, 1968. pp. 138 and 141.
52.7 percent reached the fifth grade and similar percentages occurred in
urban sections of the Departments of AtlAntico, Boyaca, and Valle. The
rural area around BogotA, however, retained only 13.9 percent, rural
Boyaca 2.8 percent, Narifio 1.0 percent, and Valle 4.4 percent.7
Analyzing school dropout (deserci6n) is not so simple as might be expected.
In urban areas, for example, more pupils come into elementary grade 3
than have just passed from grade 2. This is because many rural schools
offer only two or three grades, thus requiring children who wish to con-
tinue their education to move to the cits. Also complicating analysis is
the fact that pupils often leave school without taking their final examina-
tions. Some do return later, however, thus making it difficult to determine
just how many have dropped out permanently.
Many children take 2 or more years to complete a grade; about one-fifth
of all children repeat their 1st year. This has the effect of denying school
enrollment to some children because of lack of space. This denial of oppor-
tunity is greater in rural areas, where the repetition rate is almost twice
tRatiFiiourban areas and where the quality of education is poorest. Bernal
fouifi-dtdIafT t between 1957 and 1962 there had been a slight increase in the
tendency to complete the 5 years, despite rising enrollments. The dropout
percentage also declined between 1953 and 1961 in spite of the fact that
enrollments increased by 75,000 during the same period.8 This apparent
sBernal Escobar. op. cit. pp. 116, 118, 120, and 122.
improvement, however, may represent little more than the general
tendency of the rural population to move to the cities where better educa-
tion is more frequently available.
The reasons why meintary pupils drop out of school appear to be
many. Available data have definite faults because they were collected by
school personnel who overlook certain kinds of explanations. Nevertheless
the major reasons for dropping out as uncovered by a 1966 survey are
Percent of response
Reason Urban Rural
Change of residence...---........ ------....-----......------------ 35 28
Distance and bad roads------------.................---- ------- 8 11
Illness.....................---------- ------- ------ 15 14
Little parental interest...............-- ---........---- ------------------ 19 23
To work at home or work outside the home for pay........... 11 17
Other*....... -------..---........----------------- 12 7
*Such as the bad condition of the school.
Besides the reasons appearing in the tabulation above, the internal
order of the school and family are important, although unlikely to be
reported by teachers who collect data. Some of the scholastic reasons
which encourage dropping out are the following:
1. Alternatives to the formal program are lacking.
2. Counseling, both for personal and vocational reasons, is lacking.
3. The curriculum is undifferentiated, failing in most communities to adapt
itself to the children's needs.
4. Scholastic requirements are so rigid that they minimize individual differences.
5. Teachers are poorly prepared and teaching methods are poor.
Underlying all these reasons why pupils drop out of school is the fact
that both administrators and teachers in great numbers hold the view that
the process of selecting the most able children in the classroom is more
important than helping each child develop his ability to the maximum.Io
One reason for absenteeism, or poor attendance, in the rural elementary
school is that school lunches are often unavailable. Another is that parents
often rent out their children as laborers on fincas for two or three pesos a
day, thus adding a source of family income which would be lost if the
children were in school. Still another is that parents also often keep their
children out in order to help harvest particular crops such as coffee and
The 1961 rate of absenteeism for the entire country was calculated at
36.3 percent. In order to reduce the rate of elementary school dropout,
particularly that resulting from failure at the end of the school year, the
Ministry proposes to restructure the elementary program to permit a more
SDepartamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). "La Educacidn en Colombia." Boletin
Mesual de Estadistica. 219:123, June 1969.
0 Glenn R. Varner. Educaci6n Secundaria en Colombia. Bogota: ca. 1965. pp. 47-48. (Mimeograph)
flexible promotion policy in the first three grades. Through this means the
Ministry hopes that more children will go on to the last years of elementary
The elementary curriculum inaugurated in 1963-shown in table 4-
differs from its predecessors in three principal ways: It concentrates more
on natural science in the last three grades, it increases the amount of mathe-
matics, and it emphasizes mastery of the national language, Spanish.12
The Ministry of National Education publishes carefully prepared guides
which describe in elaborate detail how a teacher may present a lesson
effectively. Appendix A presents selections from one of these guides.
Although teachers in schools administered by the Ministry use such guides
widely, they are not available to all teachers in all schools.
The ministry also publishes final examinations which teachers may use
if they wish. A sample of a 1st grade final examination in religion is given
in appendix B.
Textbooks and Teaching Methods
The Ministry of National Education has made efforts to set up funds
for free textbooks, especially on the elementary level. When possible, the
schools provide chalk, crayons, notebooks, pencils, and textbooks (espe-
cially a reader and a Roman Catholic catechism), but often they are in
short supply. Frequently older pupils pass down textbooks to younger
pupils. In order to spare parents undue expense, the Ministry prohibits a
change of textbooks, if possible, more often than once in every 3 years.
Often well organized and appropriately illustrated, textbooks are usually
adapted to specific grade levels. Some emphasize practical matters such
as agriculture, health, and nutrition. Surprisingly enough, not all teachers
own textbooks, and those who do sometimes use them only to a limited
The Aritama Method
The teachers in the Aritama village school study 1 selected from the
official curriculum only those subjects which supported local values. Thus,
these teachers taught care of dress and shoes, citizenship (civica), manners
(urbanidad), and needlework; but ignored teaching tasks connected with
agriculture, housekeeping, and hygiene. They were very critical of Govern-
ment subject matter, considering certain topics useless or offensive,
particularly those on reforestation and growing of vegetable gardens.
Daily subject matter in Aritama depended upon the whim of the
individual teacher, who chose his material from citizenship, geography,
history, manners, national history, religion, the Spanish language, and a
number of ill-defined subjects. Hardly any of the Aritama teachers used
Government textbooks. They preferred to use their own hand-me-down
11 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto. . op. cit. 11:12.
1t Daniel Arango. Informe del Ministro de Educacin at Congreso Nacional. Bogota: Ministerio de Educacidn
National, 1966. p. 41.
13 Gerardo and Alicia Reichel Dolmatoff. The People of Aritama: The Cultural Personality of a Colombian Mestizo
I'illage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961. pp. 119-21. See also chapter 2, section on Educational
Expectations (in this publication).
Table 4. Number of hours in each elementary subject, by grade and subject area: 1963 decree
Moral and religious
1 2 3 4 5
Music and singing
History and geography
Deportment and civics
Reading and writing
Oral and written
Music and singing
History and geography
Deportment and civics
Reading and writing
Oral and written
Music and singing
Music and singing
S 1 Girls spend half of the allotted time studying child care and home economics.
( SOURCE OF DATA: Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Programs de Enseianza Primaria. Bogoti: Editorial Bedout, 1964. p. 1.
Total........... .......................................... 33 1................ .. .. 33
Music and singing
copybooks containing more or less complete outlines of subject matter
arranged as questions and answers, such as the following:
Q. How does the bee sleep?
Q. How did Bolivar die?
A. Naked as he was born.
At the beginning of the school day the routine in Aritama was for the
children to be sitting or walking in the schoolyard memorizing. During
the second hour they would recite and copy their assignments-and so
on throughout the day. Little need existed for a child to think-his princi-
pal tool was a good memory. If a question were put to him in a form
different from that in his notebook he would be totally incapable of
answering. If he tried to rephrase his answer, his teacher would be likely
to reprimand him.
For teachers in Aritama there were two kinds of knowledge: Practical-
acquired from everyday experience; and abstract-taught at school. The
latter might contradict actual experience, but it was better because it was
"civilized" knowledge. Aritama teachers frequently imposed physical
punishment, but their most common and effective method of punishing
children was to ridicule them and compare them with Indians.-
Although teaching patterns like those in Aritama are not uncommon in
rural areas where poorly prepared teachers predominate, even teachers in
many of the best urban schools view learning as a passive experience. The
concept that learning is receiving does not usually imply to Colombian
teachers that knowledge should lead to action-in fact they seldom men-
tion that there is even a bare possibility of a connection between the two."1
Many teachers function very effectively, however, in an authoritarian
tradition. They are firm, poised, and in personal command of the class-
room. Their lucid use of metaphor and definition at the precise moment
when class recitation calls for clarity is extremely well organized.
Colombian educational leaders are keenly aware of the faults inherent
in the widely used teaching methods described previously, and their efforts
at reform are of long standing. These leaders have known the Pestalozzian
techniques for over a century. The German delegations to Colombia
brought Herbartian ideas, which the Colombians usually modified accord-
ing to their own values and usually interpreted to favor systematic
imposition of information and limited freedom of activity.
On the other hand, the more permissive views of the Belgian educator
Decroly have been popular in many of the well-respected urban schools,
where his "centers of interest" have replaced old fixed curriculums and
given pupils more freedom. Colombian educators have also highly regarded
the activity school promoted by Ferrier and others.
Changes in Ministers of Education have often resulted in official shifts
in methodology, although recent Ministry policy is both more permissive
and more eclectic. Most Colombian teachers are highly dedicated, but
14 Bernal Escobar. op. cit. p. 303.
many lack imagination and consequently tend to favor dictated lessons
and formal recitation techniques.
To be promoted, an elementary school child is expected to master the
subject matter for his grade. In 1964, 20.2 percent of urban public school
boys and 19.6 percent of urban public school girls who took the final
elementary examinations were not promoted to the next higher grade. In
rural public schools, the failure rate was slightly higher than 20.2; in
private schools, urban and rural, considerably lower.15 The still high
percentage of children who repeat a grade is an extra burden for already
The present testing methods in elementary schools are not considered
satisfactory. For this reason, in 1964 and 1965 objective examinations
were given as an experiment in grades 3, 4, and 5 of Bogota's public
schools. The results were that children considered "poor" by previous
testing methods often achieved high scores in objective tests for mathe-
matics, natural sciences, social studies, and the Spanish language.
Part of the problem with examinations is that teachers tend to regard
them as a selective device rather than a measure of what pupils should
have learned."1 A large number of failures in any class is often interpreted
to mean that the teacher has high standards and that therefore she is a
Buildings and Services
More than 10 years ago, 31 percent of Colombia's elementary school
structures had not been constructed to serve as schools. Many had pre-
viously been private homes or chicha 17 liquor stores; 38 percent lacked
basic hygiene facilities.18 Today, many rural schools are conducted on
rented premises and lack toilets and running water.
According to one survey on rural Colombian education,19 no new schools
had been built in 10 communities and very few of the operating rural
schools were buildings designed exclusively as schools, despite the Govern-
ment's efforts to improve educational facilities. Elsewhere, of 24 schools
only five urban buildings were modern, well-kept, and had small libraries.
The only other teaching aids in 17 of the 24 were maps of Colombia.
Frequently, only one textbook per subject was available in the classroom.
According to another survey,'0 a typical, better-than-average small-town
classroom could be described as follows:
... most classrooms are bare of instructional materials. There are almost always
some religious pictures and objects on the walls; occasionally, there is an assortment
of a dozen or so ragged texts. Quite often, there is a picture of the late President
s Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estatistica (DANE). La Educacin en Colombia, 1963-1964.
Bogotd: November 1966. p. 6. (Mimeograph)
t1 Betty Rodriguez et al. "Evaluacidn de Conocimientos a Nivel de la Escuela Primaria," Revista de Psicologia
(Bogota). II:1 and 2:113, 1966.
17 A native liquor found throughout the Andean countries.
Is Orlando Fals Borda. "Bases for a Sociological Interpretation of Education in Colombia," in The Caribbean:
Contemporary Colombia (A. Curtis Wilgus, ed.). Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962. p. 210.
19 A. Eugene Havens. Education in Rural Colombia: An Investment in Human Resources. Madison, Wis.: Land
Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin, 1965. p. 10. (Mimeograph)
20 George Comstock and Nathan Maccoby. The Peace Corps Educational Television Project in Colombia-Two
Years of Research: The Day-to-Day Job of the Utilization Volunteer-Structure, Problems, and Solutions (Research
Report No. 5). Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University, Institute for Communication Research, 1966. pp. 41-42.
Kennedy. There are, of course, striking exceptions -a classroom filled with
maps and pictures, ordered by displays or objects made or assembled by the children,
decorated with flowers, a brilliant creation molded by an exceptionally diligent
and dedicated teacher.
Thirteen schools in the same survey had an average class size of 53
pupils per teacher, with the first grade somewhat larger than the other
grades. Lacking enough desks, several classrooms had three pupils sitting
together at each desk.
Sometimes the schools provide supplementary services. During the early
1960's, a total of 1,665 public elementary schools financed by the National
Government provided breakfasts and lunches for indigent children. In
1964, public elementary schools in cities serving as headquarters for
regional educational centers provided the following services: 21
43,293 dental examinations and treatments
34,928 medical examinations
26,000 health consultations with parents
11,012 medical treatments
6,963 clinical examinations
Of all elementary education in Colombia, the least satisfactory is that
found in rural areas. The 2-year rural alternated schools afford a typical
example. Authorized in 1958 as a temporary measure, these schools offer
a year's total of 188 days of classroom instruction; but since boys and girls
alternate every other day, each pupil receives only half of the 188 days,
or 94. Further, since each sex is usually divided into Ist- and 2d-year
courses, a pupil may actually receive only half of the 94 days, or 47.22
In 1962, 53 percent of all rural children were still attending alternated
The village of Contadero (population 4,685), in the Department of
Narifio, is a typical example.23 Contadero has 12 one-teacher elementary
schools but only three of them offer more than 3 years of study. Not many
pupils attend beyond the 2d or 3d year and few can read or write well.
Almost one-fourth of the eligible children do not attend any school. Heavy
dropout rates often reduce enrollments by one-half during a school year.
Sickness, lack of interest on the part of the family, and labor requirements
on the small farms of the area during harvesting and planting are the
principal reasons for school nonattendance. Only four of Contadero's 12
teachers have had more than 10 years of formal schooling.
Despite the fact that Contadero is in one of Colombia's few areas not
affected by violence since 1948, it has had very little educational progress.
The Roman Catholic Church is closely associated with the educational
21 Pedro Gdmez Valderrama. Conferencial Dictada por el Sehor Ministro de Educaci6n en la Escuela Superior de
Administration Pbblica el Dia 7 de Mayo de 1965. Bogota: Duplicaciones Mineducacidn, 1966. pp. 27-28.
22 Lyman H. Legters et al. U.S. Army Handbook for Colombia (Pamphlet No. 550-26). Washington: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1964. p. 156.
23 D. W. Adams and A. E. Havens. "The Use of Socio-Economic Research in Developing a Strategy of
Change for Rural Communities: A Colombian Example," Economic Development and Cultural Change. 14:205, 207,
system in Contadero, influencing curriculum formation, providing teacher
training, and also giving adult education through its radio schools."2
A larger place, Ceret6 (population 29,666-still considered rural) in
the Department of C6rdoba, has conditions similar to those in Contadero.2
Also reported in the same survey as Contadero, 25 percent of Cerete's
first-graders failed their promotion test. On any given school day, about
one-third of Cerete's school children are absent. In addition, many of
its teachers fail to appear regularly on the job.
In Ceretd, as in Contadero, nonattendance and dropout are not caused
solely by failure and lack of interest. Frequently the school calendar inter-
feres with family obligations and labor needs. Although the school calendar
is officially modified to accommodate the cotton harvest (a peak labor
period), it must likewise accommodate rice planting, which again demands
the labor of all family members. Also, local culture has defined certain
tasks, especially bringing in turtles and gathering lizard's eggs, as children's
work. Although the rainy season reduces the demand for child labor, poor
roads make it difficult for both teacher and pupils to reach school during
that season. Nevertheless, the people of Ceret6 highly value education,
despite its poor quality in their community. For the peasant families,
however, physical survival is of more immediate concern than education.
In rural areas like Contadero and Ceret6, the teacher holds a position
of prestige; but in the teaching community generally, rural teachers
occupy the lowest rung on the ladder. Besides the amounts spent in 1965
by the Ministry of National Education and by the Departments to support
rural education, the Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCORA) spent
4,090,577 pesos for elementary education and for courses to improve the
use of natural resources. Coffee- and tobacco-growing organizations have
sponsored similar educational offerings.26
Colombia's 21 nuclear schools (grades 3, 4, and 5) and their correspond-
ing 160 satellite schools (grades 1 and 2) form clusters, with the former
serving as an administrative and coordinating center for all teaching and
extra school activities of the latter. The 21 clusters are each served by an
agricultural expert, a health improver, a literacy instructor, and a shop
teacher; and some of the 21 offer not only an academic program but also
agriculture and home economics. Each cluster has its own farmland from
which it may derive some additional income. A pupil who completes grade
5 of a nuclear school may go on to a secondary school.
Rural boarding schools (internados) serve a function similar to that of
the nuclear-satellite combination. The boarding schools, the nuclear, and
the satellites altogether in 1968 enrolled 14,000 children and 15,000
The 1967 Emergency Plan
Leaders of the Colombian Federation of Educators (FECODE) 28 claim
credit for initiating the First National Education Conference in Bogota
24 For more information on the Church's radio schools, see chapter 11, section on Acci6n Cultural Popular.
26 Havens. op. cit. pp. 7-10.
I For contributions m money and service to rural education, see the tabulation in chapter 4 under section
on Finance. For more information on INCORA's activities, see chapter 8, section on Agricultural Education.
27 Interview with Floringela HernAndez S., Ministry of National Education Staff member. February 1968.
28 See chapter 10, section on Employment Conditions.
at the end of 1966. Among the many reforms which this conference called
for was an emergency plan to bring about immediate educational improve-
ment, particularly for the masses.29 The Ministry of National Education
estimated early in 1967 that Colombia had a shortage of 700,000 elementary
education places (cupos). Decree 150 of January 31, 1967 set out to correct
this deficiency as rapidly as possible.
The Plan: Background and Main Features
Decree 150 resulted in the Emergency Plan with three main features.
As background for these features the Plan invoked the following three
1. The Colombian Constitution obliges the State to provide free elementary
education for all school-age children.
2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations recognizes
the right of all persons to education without regard to race, sex, or economic
or social condition.
3. The Government's duty is to bring about permanent improvement in the
quality of education and to increase the educational system's contribution
to the national welfare.
Going into effect early in 1967, the Plan consisted of the following three
1. An Intensive Functioning school (Escuela de Funcionamiento Intensivo).
2. A unitary (one-teacher) 5-year school.
3. A Double-Session School.
The Intensive Functioning School
One of the immediate results of the Plan was to reduce weekly pupil
hours and reassign teacher hours according to the following formula:
Hours freed for
Grade Previous number New number reassignment of
of hours of hours teacher time
1 33 22 11
2 33 26 7
3 33 28 5
4 33 31 2
5 33 31 2
The hours freed each day for reassignment of teacher time were to enable
the teachers to take on extra classes, but not extra hours, so that they could
reach more pupils. By 1970, however, the Intensive Functioning Schools
were in only limited use.
The Unitary 5-Year School
Rural schools in areas of low population density rarely offered more
than a year or two of study, and hence Decree 150 called for converting
all these schools to the standard 5-year curriculum. The Decree also called
for local secretariats of education to initiate special courses to train teach-
29 Renovacidn Educativa, August 6, 1967.
ers for the new curriculum. Only certified teachers were to be eligible to
teach in unitary schools and only schools with fewer than 20 pupils were
to be so classified.
The Double-Session School
The Plan's schedule for the Double-Session School was to have classes
meet in two sessions from early morning to late afternoon, Monday through
Saturday. The Plan was also authorized by Decree 150 to institute coedu-
cational classes in elementary schools having fewer than 30 pupils.
Criticisms and Suggestions
Many persons and many groups have offered suggestions for improving
Colombia's elementary education. During the early 1960's a study mission
drew attention to the then reduced, but still continuing, discrimination
in favor of urban children over rural children. The mission criticized the
curriculum for excessive subject-matter content, which does not allow
time for individual or group work and which ignores the special needs of
young chilr. Subject matter is often encyclopedic, filled with abstract
concepts unrelated to the child's experience and selected with eventual
university study in mind. Teaching often lacks unity and ignores the fact
that for the vast majority of Colombian children their first few years of
schooling provide all the formal body of intellectual experience they will
The study mission lamented the passive teaching methods in which
the teacher, knowing no other method, talks and the child listens or pre-
tends to listen. It complained of the lack of textbooks and the almost
complete absence of instructional materials. It deplored the rote teaching
aimed at evoking recitation without comprehension and the lack of any
group work which would teach cooperative attitudes.30 Roman Catholic
spokesmen, too, have complained that the elementary curriculum was too
restricted and too inflexible and that it was inclined to discourage
Local Control and Coeducation
Many Colombian educational leaders believe that greater local control
of education would increase local tax support for schools, particularly if
a national incentive system were used. They are encouraging coeducation
as a means of reducing costs in smaller schools. Although the Church has
been opposed to coeducation in public schools, it has accepted the practice
in small communities where the cost of separate classes would be prohibitive.
Use of the Personal Identity Certificate
The lack of detailed and accurate information about the extent of the
child population in Colombia makes it extremely difficult for the Govern-
ment to plan educational programs. One suggestion for providing the
Government with sufficient information to plan these programs is that
educational details be incorporated into the personal identity certificate
which all Colombians are required to have. If this were done it would
30 Pedro Gdmez Valderrama. Memorial del Ministro de Educacin Nacional. Bogot~: Ministerio de Educacidn
National, 1964. 1:18.
simplify the enforcement of compulsory education laws in communities
where facilities are adequate but where children do not attend school.
Such a requirement would also provide a legal record of each child's
educational attainments, and would provide the Departments (States)
with information concerning the exact location of schools, the number of
teachers in service, and the number and sex of the enrolled pupils.
The Problem of Poorly Prepared Teachers
Colombia has a problem of poorly prepared teachers. Although widely
available, inservice training for them has not proved an efficient way of
improving their skills. The Council of Secretaries of Education has decided
to employ as new teachers only those who have completed at least the first
cycle (4 out of 6 years) of secondary education. Despite this attempt to
raise teacher qualifications, the low level of most elementary teachers'
preparation will continue for many years.
Since the inadequate basic education of elementary teachers fails to
stimulate them with much, if any, imagination, some experts advocate
that detailed practical textbooks be prepared to spell out, word for word,
the practical facts and applications of those facts which children need to
cope with their immediate environment. Since memorization is already so
typical of the learning situation in Colombian elementary schools, practical,
self-explanatory textbooks which could stimulate children to think reflec-
tively might be prepared for them to memorize under the teacher's personal
Some experts also advocate replacing small and ineffective rural schools
with partly self-sustaining boarding institutions.
The Cause of the Problems
It is clear that solving Colombia's problems in elementary education
would amount to a socioeconomic revolution. Most of these problems
arise not from the school itself but from the society it serves. The primitive
living conditions and the isolation of some areas where schooling is least
effective make it especially difficult to obtain able teachers and to provide
financial support for even a minimum quality of rural education. In the
strictest sense, the problems do not, result from unique shortcomings in
Colombian education. Rather, they are the manifestations of economic,
geographic, political, and social conditions which have influenced the
course of Colombia's history for generations.
7. Secondary Education
Secondary schools are those institutions which require 5 years of ele-
mentary instruction as a prerequisite to admission. Two distinct terms are
used for secondary education. The most common term-educacion media
(middle education)-refers to all postelementary education. The other
term-educaci6n secundaria (secondary education)-refers to the formal,
academic (bachillerato) program. In this report, however, the usual English
term "secondary education" will be used to refer to all postelementary
Various terms are also used for those institutions which offer secondary
education. The most common term for a secondary school, public or
private, is colegio. Many colegios, however, also offer some elementary
education preparatory to their more advanced work. Some also provide
boarding facilities. (The term "colegio" may be used for a prestigious
elementary school also.') A liceo or institute is usually a private secondary
school, although it may be a public one.
The traditional purpose of secondary education is to prepare students
for the university. Officially, its objectives include:
1. Continuing, amplifying, and intensifying basic educational fundamentals
provided by elementary schools.
2. Meeting the needs of the adolescent student in his intellectual, moral, religious,
social, and esthetic education.
3. Guiding the student in his total development and contributing to the develop-
ment of his personality.
4. Forming good habits of conduct such as responsibility, initiative, honesty,
sincerity, satisfaction in one's work, ability to deal with difficulties, dependabil-
ity, punctuality, good manners, tolerance, and a sense of acceptance and
respect for the law and unusual ideas.
5. Teaching the student to study.
6. Stimulating in the student the idea of individual and collective discovery and
the wise use of free time.
7. Enabling the student to work effectively with others, thereby achieving a sense
of individual, family, civic, and social responsibility.
8. Helping the student develop his potentialities so that he may enjoy a full life.
SAn escuela is the usual term for an elementary school without tuition charge or with extremely low tuition,
even though it attempts to offer a program virtually identical with that of a colegio.
'Decree 45, January 11, 1962. pp. 2-3.
9. Inculcating in the student a spirit of patriotism and a willingness to serve
10. Preparing the student to live in a society which is constantly evolving in
response to cultural, social, scientific, and technological change.
S11. Preparing the student to continue his education by undertaking studies in
Structure and Organization
Except when recently placed under regional control, the National Gov-
ernment's secondary schools are administered by its Division of National
Plants. Secondary education has been divided into (1) general secondary
or bachillerato, (2) vocational or technical secondary, and (3) normal educa-
tion. Chart 3 shows the structure of the Colombian educational system.
Public secondary schools must operate a minimum of 37 weeks per year,
including the time set aside for examinations. At least 1,140 hours must be
devoted to classes, laboratories, and "cocurricular" activities. No courses
may be offered for less than one semester (quimestre). Private secondary
schools may adopt different schedules, provided thatthe number of weeks
and hours taught annually are not less than above.3
Since 1962, secondary education has been divided into two cycles: the
basic cycle (ciclo basico) of 4 years, which offers general education, and the
advanced or vocational cycle (ciclo professional) of 2 years, which offers
specialization in a variety of areas. So far the division into cycles has been
initiated in all general secondary and normal schools, but only in some
specialized secondary schools.4
One of the functions of the basic cycle is to discourage premature
specialization by allowing a student to decide upon his future career after
he has reached greater maturity. In addition, because it is common to all
secondary schools, it increases the flexibility with which a student may
transfer from one secondary school to another.
Fragmentation of Secondary Programs
A distinctive feature of Colombian secondary education is its fragmenta-
tion. There are, for example, public schools belonging to the National
Government, to the Departmeni I- gmer-nments, and to the municipal
governments; among private schools there are nonprofit schools, nonprofit
cooperative schools, schools run for private profit, church-sponsored
schools, and a number of schools conducted in various foreign languages.
Also, within the categories just listed, secondary schools differ in purpose
and function because they seek to attract a different kind of clientele.
For instance, there are university preparatory schools, business schools,
normal schools, schools of agriculture, and schools of art. In addition,
most of these schools are further subdivided by sex. Academic secondary
schools, commercial schools, and normal schools, in that order, are the
3 Ibid. p. 6.
4 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto de Educaci6n Media para Presentar al Banco Internacional
de Reconstrucci6ny Fomento. Bogota: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de Educacidn Media, Sep-
tember 1967. 1:33. (Mimeograph) In industrial and agricultural schools, the 2d cycle has been increased
to 3 years.
Lal rten Elementary (Bal cycIe)
S 5 6 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
er of r tudy 1 2 3 4 5 6 I 9 10
i I I
yL = Yrear of tudy
iu laChemlU l Labreamr
Ind lust rl E pert -- SDietetics
SCHOOLS OF COMMERCE ournlism
d Ij Bolosy and Chmist Ary TeRchlng
Accounting nd Commercial Bacheller -I I Geography
Sr-Twrial | _de - CR Philosophy and Letters
S NURSES AIDE SCHOOLS -- 4 Acount.nI
1. i "URM
-- U Nun Mathemats an ,d PhYc Teach
\ pyhgy Teaching
SCHOOLS FOR RURAL HOME VISITORS -- PhysIcal Educalon Te.ching
Rural 4 oial Eduation CeItIiate -- I Foreign Lnsuase Teahn
COMPLEMENTARY POLYTECHNICAL SCHOOLS Scal Science Tench-ng
Higher PoltShnic, Sho Teacher encs o f Education Teaching
VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE SCHOOLS Aronomy
AGRICULTURAL NORMAL SCHOOLS
,ct nuta sNoaot ram,
Agncultul Instt Cernmiite o01 Gnoaoy aS y ophysc
sricuur I cnIcn Chemistry and Pharmacy
I Mhanlical Enamnering
NORMAL SCHOOLS I Engmn
Teacher Electrom hamcal Enn.nn
---I Transport Engin.enn,
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION SCHOOLS utral Admin.stratlon
Economics and Fnance
ear -.. Law ..
Structure of the Colombian Educational System: 1967
Middle or S ondary (Advnced cyle) Hsigher
16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
12 13 14 15 16 17 I 19 20 21
S HIGHER S H. LS AND INSTITUTES
SLncal~ e ad Oenal Cltrn al
T rN slaterr
LERArO SCHOS Labor TrSInlns
. Mi Hte EducaI on
n strl Relation Supvon
Ienationa Lw a.nd oslomacy
4~ ..... d dmlT.echrEduion
I 4 ReOrch AssII atII
The following figures show the number of secondary schools under
public and private control in 1964: 6
Total --......... .- .................... ........ .- 2,523
Public........- ------ .....--- ... ........ ---.. ................... 925
Private...............-- ............... .... ...........1,598
In the same year, almost half of all secondary schools offered 4 to 6
years of the bachillerato program. Division by program was as follows: 6
Bachillerato --............ ..-..-............. ---------------........ ................. - 1,295
Vocational-------.........--...- ......-----..-........--- ..-- .. 880
Normal --- ...------- ----- -..-... ---....... .. 348
Of those secondary schools that offered 4 to 6 years of the bachillerato
program in 1964, over two-thirds were private schools, as shown by the
Grand total..... ------..... .....-......-------------------......................... 1,295
Total --.. --...... ------- --.... -.....--....-. ...................-.. ...........-.... 422
National-..-. .--..........--.-------.... -- --------------- 87
Departmental ----------............ -----....... -----..... 321
Municipal----- -------- -----....------- -- ----........ 14
T otal-----......................- ... ..- .......... ... ................- 873
Of the 880 vocational institutions, 445 were commercial schools, and of
these 383 were private. Of the 348 normal schools, less than half were
More than 80 percent of all Colombian colegios and liceos are located in
Departmental capitals. Unless a rural student has sufficient funds to travel
to these cities and to pay for room and board, tuition, uniforms, and
supplies, it is virtually impossible for him (except in a few rare scholarship
cases) to enjoy secondary education and to prepare for the university.
A study of 140 private colegios in Bogota found that students received an
average of 4.7 full public scholarships per institution. In 412 private
colegios in the same city, 6.9 full private scholarships were awarded per
institution. A number of partial scholarships were also granted.9
Some of Colombia's well known public secondary schools with their
1968 enrollment are as follows: 10
SDepartamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). La Educaci6n en Colombia, 1963-1964.
Bogota: November 1966. p. 11. (Mimeograph)
8 Institute Interamericano de Estadistica, America en Cifras, 1965: Situacidn Cultural: Educaci6n y 61ros Aspectos
Culturales. Washington: Pan American Union, 1967. p. 81.
9 Rebeca Bernal Zapata. Alqunos Aspectos de la Educaci6n en el Distrito Especial. Bogota: Javeriana University,
1967. p. 15-16. (A doctoral thesis).
10 Letter from Cultural Affairs Officer, U.S. Information Service, Bogotd. September 10, 1968.
Name City enrollment
Colegio Deogracias Cardona.....-- .....................Pereira .................------..... ..... 300
Colegio M ayor de Bolivar -..--..--- ...........-- .......Cartagena.........--..... ............. 300
Colegio Santa Librada-.-... --..-...... .......Cali-............. -- ..... 300
Externado Nacional Camilo Torres.............- Bogota-............. ................ 2,000
Liceo de los Andes ......... .... ...--- ...-... Pereira.................- ..... 300
Liceo Antioquefio .....-........................ .........Medellin .........--..................... 1,500
Liceo Celed6n................................Santa Marta.....-..... ............... 300
Liceo Nacional Antonia Santos ---...-..- .....-......Bogot --........------------ ..... 500
Liceo de Varones ..........-----............---Popayn --.. -------.. .... 300
Buildings and Facilities
Many of the older secondary school buildings have been constructed
with a cement patio surrounded by a building of several stories. The patio,
usually the only recreational area, has just enough space for one or two
basketball courts. Because secondary schools are most numerous in con-
gested urban areas, there is seldom room to enlarge these facilities. With
the exception of some new and quite impressive modern schools, the
majority of Colombia's secondary school buildings are in poor condition
and lack proper equipment.
Of the more than 2,200 secondary schools in 1962, few had laboratories
or complete vocational-education facilities. Of 238 postelementary public
schools of all types, including secondary and normal schools, only 99
possessed even a small library." Textbooks themselves were scarce in the
poorer areas. Faculty sponsors (for clubs, extracurricular activities, and
sports), student councils, and other student activities are still not found
in most schools.
Although enrollment in private schools exceeds that in public schools,
the percent in public schools has grown considerably since 1960: 12
Year Total Number Percent Number Percent
1950 ..........................--- 86,595 37,503 43.3 49,092 56.7
1955 -.~..- ....-.....- 134,655 55,947 41.6 78,708 58.4
1960....................-... 253,768 100,261 39.5 153,507 60.5
1962... -.........-.. 312,391 122,883 39.3 189,508 60.7
1965 ...................--....... .404,802 186,335 46.0 218,467 54.0
1968 ..-..................... 586,704 272,794 46.5 313,910 53.5
The 1968 enrollment was four times as large as the 1955 enrollment.
II Pedro G6mez Valderrama. Memorial del Minisiro de Educacidn Nacional. Bogota: Ministerio de Educacidn
National, 1964. 1:75.
12 Data include all branches of secondary education, including those which do not have two complete cycles.
Data for 1950-65 from: Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. op. cit. 1:42.
Data for 1968 from: Octavio Arizmendi Posada. La Transformactdn Educativa Nacional. Bogota: Ministerio
de Educacidn Nacional, 1969. 1:111-13.
In 1968, over two-thirds of all secondary students were enrolled in the
bachillerato program; and almost one-half of all secondary students were
women. Of those enrolled in the vocational program, over half were in
the commercial field. Enrollments in the various programs and fields were
as follows: 13
Field of Study Total Men Women
Grand total....................... 586,704 296,529 290,175
Total .......... -... .............. 405,778 236,252 169,526
Total ................ ....-- 126,728 47,811 78,917
Agricultural.. ...............- .... 7,930 6,662 1,268
Artistic -.. ----.. ... --- .. 8,681 2,671 6,010
Commercial.. .................... 69,233 14,367 54,866
General vocational ..- ......- 11,504 1,294 10,210
Industrial................- .. ..... 27,808 22,817 4,991
Nursing ..... .......-.............- 1,572 ....... 1,572
Total .......-..-................ 54,198 12,466 41,732
Secondary schools are generally very small. One study in the 1960's
showed that the average public school offering the bachillerato enrolled 212
students, with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1. The average private
school offering the same program enrolled 142 students, with a student-
teacher ratio of 11 to 1. Schools offering a commercial program had an
average enrollment of 100 and a student-teacher ratio of 11 to 1. The
average size of all secondary schools was 130.14 Of course, these enroll-
ments usually declined during the school year as students dropped out.
The National Institutes of Middle Education (INEM),1" which began
functioning in 1970, have two to three thousand students each and larger
student-teacher ratios. Typically, colegios have large introductory classes
and extremely small advanced classes.
In general, it appears that most of those at present who manage to
complete the 5-year program of elementary education clearly intend to
begin secondary education. Similarly, secondary graduates usually intend
to continue their education. This is illustrated by the fact that in 1964,
Ist-year university enrollment was 84 percent of the preceding year's
Students are required to attend up to 38 hours of class per week."
Decree 45 of 1962 prepared a basic curriculum, shown in table 5, for all
branches of secondary education, both public and private. Schools offering
the bachillerato program use 7 to 11 hours for additional course work called
13 Departamento, Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). Censo de Establecimientos Educativor:
1968. Bogota: April 1970. p. 1.
14 Glenn R. Varner. Educaci6n Secundaria en Colombia. Bogota: ca. 1965. p. 0.
Is Described later in this chapter.
16 This amounts to nine or more subjects each year. A reduction of hours spent in class and an increase in
hours of homework and self-study would not only reduce the need for so many teachers but might stimulate a
spirit of greater individual responsibility.
intensificationss," although this time is generally intended for extracur-
ricular or supplemental activities. Normal and vocational schools use these
hours for a specialized training program.
Table 5.-Number of hours in each subject area of secondary education, by grade and year:
[......... indicates source gave no data]
Grade: 6 7 8 9 10 11
Subject area Year: I II III IV V VI
Total...................... ............... 38 38 38 38 38 38
Chem istry........................................ ... .. ......... ..-- ...- ......... 4 4
Esthetic education' .................... .. 2 2 2 2 ......................
Foreign languages' ........................ 3 3 3 3 5 5
Industrial arts and domestic
studies............ ......... .. ........ 2 2 2 2 ...........................
M athematics.......................... ...... 5 4 5 7 3 2
Natural sciences............................... 2 2 2 4 .........................
Philosophy-- ............ ........ ...-- .- 3 4
Physical education................... 2 2 2 2 2 2
Physics.............- ........ -. --4 4
Psychology .............................--------- --. -- .. ............. 2 ..............
Religious and moral education........ 3 3 3 2 2 1
Social studies' ................. ..- 5 7 7 4 ............. 2
Spanish and literature................ 5 5 5 3-5 3 3
Supplemental activities and/or
more intensified academic
or technical studies...................... 9 8 7 7 10 11
I Includes in all years choir, drawing, and music appreciation; and in the 1st and 2d years, penmanship also.
2 In the 1st through the 4th years, English is taught; in the 5th and 6th years, a student may choose either
English or French.
'Includes: in the 1st year-physical and human geography applied to Colombia, general and American
prehistory applied to Colombia, and civics and deportment; in the 2d year-geography of the old continent,
oceania, and polar regions, and ancient and medieval history; in the 3d year-geography of America and history
of the Americas; in the 4thyear-geography and history of Colombia; and in the 6thyear-Colombian institutions
and world affairs.
SOURCE OF DATA: Decree 45 of 1962.
In extracurricular or supplemental activities (actividades coprogramaticas),
student initiative is encouraged to promote well-rounded personal develop-
ment. These activities include: clubs, collective labor, directed study, field
trips, library, literary groups, theater, and vocational guidance. Industrial
arts and home economics (educaci6n para el hogar) in the basic cycle include
elective activities which, while they impart knowledge, also develop voca-
tional skills such as airplane modeling, bookbinding, carpentry, cooking,
farming, first aid, mechanics, photography, and typing. Schools are
expected to choose from those areas most related to their philosophy and
facilities. Students are to choose one or two electives from those offered.
The Advanced Cycle
Required for university admission, the advanced cycle is designed to
provide general education and increase opportunities for securing remuner-
ative and socially useful employment. It includes a core of required subjects
and optional subjects which are to be closely related to the required sub-
jects, to the student's aptitudes, or to vocational or career interests. In
1968, the hours for physical education were increased from 2 to 3 hours
per week, the added hour to be taken from time designated for other
The Bachillerato Program
The basic program of Colombian secondary education is the bachillerato.
This is the branch of education known as secundaria, rather than the more
inclusive term media. It stresses academic learning and preparation for
entry into the university. In 1968, 69.2 percent of all secondary students
were taking the bachillerato, and 56.2 percent of these were in private
A central aim of the bachillerato program is to provide the student with
a broad cultural background. For many years, the possession of the
bachillerato degree-which requires 6 years of academic secondary educa-
tion-implied that the bearer (termed a bachiller) had studied at one of
the exclusive privately-owned colegios. The emergence of Government
secondary schools in the 1950's diminished the prestige of the bachillerato
program by making it more accessible to the middle and lower classes,
although it is still regarded as the hallmark of the truly educated youth.
The long-standing contempt of the upper and middle classes for manual
labor continues to make vocational secondary education unattractive.
To parents, the bachiller is a special person who has earned the right to
be respected. He has become one of those cultured and honorable people
worthy of particular consideration. The social pages of newspapers rein-
force this image of a privileged person, conscious of his competence and
his rights, who will be a member of select circles. Critics of this attitude
suggest that the bachiller is a dilettante-excessively literary and conserva-
tive in his opinions, as a result of a curriculum which stresses traditional
cultural content and memorization of encyclopedic knowledge.18
Because of the prestige conferred by the bachillerato, the subjects studied
under that program form the basis of most programs in agricultural,
commercial, industrial, and normal education.
The Commercial Program
Although the official commercial program lasts 6 years, many schools
do not follow it but grant their own diplomas and certificates instead in
less than 6 years. Many commercial students get a job after only 1, 2, or 3
years of study. The vocational opportunities available to commercial
students after only a few years of study are much greater than those
available to bachillerato students after an equal number of years.
The Industrial Program
The secondary industrial program includes such specialities as cabinet
work, electricity, foundry, mechanics, and motors. Decree 718 of 1966
reorganized industrial education into a 4-year basic cycle followed by a
3-year technical cycle. An institution which devotes itself exclusively to
the advanced cycle may call itself an industrial technical institute. How-
17 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Program de Educaidn Fisicapara Enseianza Media. Bogota: 1967. preface.
18 Alejandro Bernal Escobar. La Educaci6n en Colombia. Bogota: Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, 1964. p.
The cultural values of students are fully documented in: Andre Benoit. El Bachillerato Colombiano: Aspectos
de su Functidn Ideol6gica. Bogota: FERES-Tercer Mundo, 1968.
ever, if a student wishes to enter a university matter leaving such an
institution, he must have a bachillerato degree, which means that in his
5th and 6th years he must take the bachillerato program and specialize
only in his 7th year.
The Normal Program
The advanced cycle of the secondary normal program prepares students
to teach in elementary schools. Decree 1955 of 1963 placed both urban
and rural normal education on a 6-year basis throughout the country.
The 2 years of the advanced cycle have been divided into four 5-month
terms, with promotion in each term. Dropout rates in the normal school
program have been lower than in other secondary programs, probably
because the diploma proves to have a definite cash value for its owner.
Preparing elementary teachers is not included among the functions of the
projected large, comprehensive secondary schools, principally because
Colombia already has a great many normal schools.
The full-time secondary teacher spends an average of 4 hours per day
or about 24 hours per week in class (in addition to the time spent in study
hall, library, and other activities).'1 A great many secondary teachers,
however, serve part time in several schools, thereby teaching more than
24 hours per week. Known as "taxi professors," they teach one or two
classes at one school, taxi to the next school, teach another class or two,
and so move on until their school day ends, often at night. The more
classes they teach, the more they earn. The obvious defect of such a sched-
ule is that it allows virtually no time to prepare for classes.
" Approximately one in six secondary teachers has completed university
study. Although some teachers may have had special training to become
secondary teachers, most of those in charge of natural mathematics,
natural sciences, or literature, history, or philosophy did not, but teach
Only because they started but did not complete training in engineering,
medicine or pharmacy, or law, respectively.20
Most teachers use the lecture method; and their students diligently take
notes. The classroom attitude of most teachers is one of firm confidence
and authority, and fortunately most possess an unusual facility for render-
ing apt, well-phrased definitions in a clear, convincing manner. Grades are
based mainly on written examinations. Teachers consider selecting the
most competent students an important part of their role.
Critics of Colombian education frequently lament what they regard as
Excessive emphasis on memory work; others contend that mastery of a
19 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto. .. op. cit. 1:88.
2o Augustin Nieto Caballero. Una Escuela. BogotA: Antares-Tercer Mundo, 1966. p. 74.
certain amount,~,f factual information on a topic is necessary for fruitful
discussion of it.
Critics also claim that Colombian teachers tend to abuse the principle
of authority by making frequent reference to famous authors and sources
to support an argument and do not encourage students to discuss a topic
in their own terms. Student wall newspapers,21 like much of the Colombian
press, have been described as tending to set forth problems as opportunities
for a display of formal logic in the spirit of an intellectual game, rather
than as a sincere quest to reach a better understanding of the issue.22
Grades and Examinations
Decree 1598 of 1934 established the following grading system for all
5 very good (muy bien)
4 good (bien)
3 satisfactory (regular)
/ 2 poor (mal)
1 very poor (muy mal)
0 terrible (pisimo) (no longer used)
For a student to take a final examination in any subject, he must have
attended at least 90 percent of the required classes and have received at
least five grades-one for each month or nine for two semesters. These
monthly grades may be based upon tests given during regular class periods
or upon recitations, projects, notebooks, or the like. The average of the
monthly grades counts for 60 percent of the final grade, and the final
examination for 40 percent. If a student's monthly grade average is less
than "2," he is ineligible to take the final examination in a subject, and
his monthly grade average then becomes his final grade.23
Until recently, a typical final examination (which is usually read by
two professors) consisted of essay questions, all of which called for a
memorized reply based mostly on the teacher's lectures or on assigned
reading. Many secondary school directors have been so dissatisfied with
the quality of the essay questions, however, that there has been a trend
towards using objective test questions-which, unfortunately, teachers lack
skill in designing.
Class participation, attitude, and other similar acceptable bases for
grading are usually minimized by teachers in order to avoid criticism of
their evaluation methods. Such precautions are especially important
because secondary students show a relatively high failure rate.
Failure of Examinations
In 1964, 16.8 percent of men secondary students and 11.7 percent of
women students failed their year, although only 6.1 percent of the group
21 School bulletin boards which serve the function of a school newspaper in that their content is largely student-
22 Bernal Escobar. op. cit. p. 267.
"3 Decree 45 of 1962.
were repeaters." National University indicated that 30.6 percent of that
fairly select group of students had failed one or two subjects in secondary
school, and 25.3 percent had failed from three to five subjects. Only 36.3
percent had not failed a single secondary subject. As many as 18.5 percent
had repeated 1 year of secondary work.26 Teachers on all levels are inclined
to regard the examination as an obstacle which the student must overcome.
If he fails, it is because he cannot cope with the reasonable but exacting
demands of academic life.
Credit by Examination
A system of free study went into effect in 1965, in which a student over
16 years of age may enroll in the first cycle of secondary education. He
then becomes eligible to consult with teachers and take examinations
without attending classes, thus receiving approval (credit) for his course."2
All schools are required to have individual record books (libretas escolares),
in which are recorded for parents' information each student's grades,
attendance, behavior, and effort. A student who transfers from one sec-
ondary school to another at the end of the first grading term must have
his previous term grades accepted without question by his school.27
Irrelevance to National Development
The academic secondary school program is often criticized for alleged
irrelevance to national economic and social development. Some informa-
tion on this topic was gathered by a study of the ideas and values of 321
6th year bachillerato students in 12 Colombian secondary schools located
in four different Departments. Six of the institutions studied were private
Catholic colegios, three were public schools, and three were Protestant.28
The intellectual currents among these students suggest the kind of ideas
conveyed by the secondary school milieu.
Generally the students expressed their ideas in the vocabulary of tradi-
tional scholastic philosophy, of the Bible, of some French authors (especially
Malraux, Camus, and Sartre in one public school), and of opposition
political parties. They used the direct and spontaneous vocabulary of young
rebels, not the vocabulary of contemporary Christian theology.29
The ideas and values expressed by the students might be judged for their
relevance to national development by the degree of secularization they
reveal, since secularization generally is identified with the values commonly
found in economically developed, complex societies. The study showed
that the greatest secularization occurred in public schools, and the least
in Catholic schools in small cities. For instance, students in public schools
were more likely than students in Protestant or Catholic institutions to
4 Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). La Educaci6n en Colombia, 1963-1964.
op. cit. p. 14. and DANE. "La Educaci6n en Colombia," Boletin Mnsual de Estadistica. 219: 130-31, June 1969.
25 Umversidad Nacional de Colombia. Censo de Estudiantes, Primer Semestre, 1967. Bogota: Oficina de Planea-
cion de la Rectoria, 1967. 1:29.
N Gdmez Valderrama. op. cit. I:VI.
27 Decree 45 of 1962.
2 Andre Benoit et al. "Educa la Educaci6n Colombiana?" in La Hora. No. 53, pp. 4 and 7, September 1967.
29 Ibid. p. 17.
accept the statement that man should seek to change society. Catholic
students were more likely than the others to accept socioeconomic inequali-
ties as reflecting the will of God. In Catholic colegios in smaller communities,
this view was accepted by at least 60 percent of those interviewed. Catholic
students had the greatest inclination to accept the statement that the poor
have the kind of luck they deserve. Over half of all the secondary students,
Catholic and non-Catholic, agreed that social discontent arises from a
failure to accept God's will. This view was even more common among
students in the smaller cities. Over 90 percent of all students, however,
accepted the notion that secondary education ought to be accessible to all
Only 6 percent saw any clear relationship between religion and techno-
logical studies, and only 4 percent saw technical careers as a means of
living and practicing Christianity. However, only 25 percent agreed with
the statement that philosophical studies were more suitable for Christians
than technical studies. Similarly, fewer than 10 percent saw any positive
relationship between technical progress and spiritual values, and 25 per-
cent felt that these two ideas were almost completely unrelated.
As far as the effect of religion on social change is concerned, only 10
percent felt that their religious values obliged them to work to bring
about change; however, 21 percent agreed that God favors greater equality
for mankind. Only about 25 percent felt that the causes of social discontent
are rooted in social injustice and the inefficiency of social organization;
nearly as many insisted upon the need to change these traditions. Only
about 20 percent agreed with the notion that "the Lord helps those who
help themselves." Nearly an equal number believed that the best solution
is to accept things as they are. Fewer than 2 percent, however, believed
than any change in the status quo would be dangerous.
In general, the students in Protestant secondary schools were most
inclined to favor religious values which the researchers judged to be
compatible with the tasks of constructing a new society. Among the stu-
dents as a whole, a conservative outlook was common. For example,
almost half thought that the poor get only what they deserve; and more
than half the students in Catholic colegios recommended resignation, or
acceptance of the will of God, as appropriate behavior.30 Clearly, most of
these schools did not appear to be building the values needed in a develop-
Wastage due to Dropping Out
Many Colombians do not doubt that secondary education, on the whole,
is a positive experience. Their principal concern is more efficient utilization
of its resources. One aspect of this problem is wastage due to dropping
out, which can be seen in the following enrollment data for 1968: 31
Boys are more likely than girls to complete secondary education; and
private school students are more likely to complete their program than
public school students (probably partly because they represent a more
affluent social class).
"0 Ibid. pp. 4, 6-7, 10-11, 13-14, and 29.
31 Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). Censo de Establecimientos Educativos: 1968.
op. cit. pp. 68-71.
Grade 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Year 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Boys............ 42,243 24,618 18,119 13,183 10,715 7,266 204
Girls.......... .24,296 14,899 9,556 6,565 3,805 2,011. 74
Boys............ 36,703 26,503 20,083 15,029 11,829 9,401 356
Girls......... 35,381 24,671 18,529 14,076 8,789 6,727 147
Insufficient Vocational Preparation
Secondary education has been criticized for its lack of vocational
preparation. A national teacher's union favors a basic secondary education
that will prepare students not going on to university study for successful
employment in one of various practical occupations. The union complains
that the present bachiller receives a great deal of miscellaneous knowledge
which does little to prepare him for any specific job.2
Accentuation of Class Structure
Another difficulty concerns class structure. A Ministry of National
Education report to Congress criticized secondary education for its role
as an accentuator of social differences rather than as an instrument for
vertical mobility. While poor families need their children's labor for income
and cannot provide the cost of sending them to school, the well-to-do can
afford to support their children longer in school and thus the children are
able to retain their higher social status. The few secondary schools to
which the poor have the easiest access, such as agricultural, industrial,
and other vocational schools, tend to function in such a way as to dis-
courage upward mobility. For most students, the principal reason for
finishing secondary or higher studies is the social status conferred by the
resultant diploma or degree.33
Critics from the Roman Catholic Church found that the 1962 curricular
reform continued to overregulate secondary education. They expressed
disappointment that the prescribed curriculum no longer included
philosophy nor required Latin in the basic cycle. There was additional
disappointment because accounting was omitted from the 3d year, since
it was of practical value to those who dropped out of school early. The
general theme of the Church's criticism was that secondary schools should
be allowed to determine their own curriculums.3
Social differences are emphasized also by the many private secondary
schools which thrive on their ability to cater to the needs of a particular
elite sector of society. For example, schools conducted in a foreign language
are highly esteemed. They are also usually expensive. On the other hand,
when a North American-inspired school sought to mix students of different
social backgrounds, the idea met with very limited success.
32 Renovaci n Educativa. September 1967, p. 13.
3 Daniel Arango. Informed del Ministro de Educacidn al Congreso Nacional. Bogota: Ministerio de Educacidn
Nacional, 1966. pp. 45 and 70.
4 Alfonso Uribe Misas. La Liberatad de EsefianZa en Colombia. Medellin: Editorial Bedout, 1962. pp. 536-38.
Before the reform of elementary education (which went into effect in
1963) designated the rural elementary school as a 5-year institution, rural
students (most of whom were very poor) were effectively excluded from
secondary education by the shorter rural elementary program which did
not give sufficient education to prepare its students to enter secondary
schools. Now that the institutional barrier to secondary education is being
removed, the pressure of lower social classes for access to secondary educa-
tion is being greatly increased. Church spokesmen have urged that a
subsidy be given to parents of poorer children so that these children may
attend the private or public secondary school or university of their choice.
Assistance would be on a graduated scale in inverse proportion to the
parents' ability to pay. (The present apportionment of aid to Departmen-
tal secondary schools is frequently criticized because it is granted on the
basis of politics rather than necessity.)
A great many secondary reforms have been proposed. One of the more
important to be put into effect was Decree 45 of 1962, whose main purpose
is to guarantee a general academic education to the increasing number of
students who reach secondary schooling, even if they decide to discontinue
their formal education and go to work after a few years of study. Decree
45 requires an increased uniformity during the first 4 years of secondary
schooling, thus enabling students who wish to transfer from one kind of
secondary institution to another to do so before their last 2 years of
specialization. The provision will enable others who change their original
plan to go on to the university or to shift to a middle-level technical
specialization or a teacher-training program during their last 2 years of
secondary study. The 1962 and subsequent reforms offer the student a
wider range of options at a later stage of his secondary career than had
previously been open to him.
Various reforms have paved the way for expanding secondary enroll-
ment by aiding the student with limited resources to complete his secondary
schooling. Decree 486 of 1962 authorized a program for the bacdillerato
which may be taken in no less than 7 years of night study. The following
usual course requirements are deleted from the night school program:
Esthetic education, industrial arts, home economics, physical education,
and extracurricular activities. The rate of study is 630 class hours per year,
as compared with 1,140 hours in the regular bachillerato program.
When space is available in night school, auditing is permitted. If an
auditor attends class regularly, he may be granted a certificate of attend-
ance, which the Ministry of National Education may accept as the basis
of a validation examination. Five public institutions were operating night
schools in various cities in the mid-1960's. The institutions were identified
variously as liceos, institutes, externados (nonresidential), and colegios."
SGd( mcz Valdclrr.aln. op. cit. IV 35.
Another special provision for secondary education is the parallel sec-
ondary school (colegio paralelo), authorized by Decree 455 of 1964. This
school uses public school facilities and students pay only a modest tuition
to cover the salaries of the additional teachers needed for the parallel
school. There is a double session in the basic cycle only, with each session
meeting for 6 hours daily.36 Decree 155 of 1967 set low tuition rates based
on parental income for students attending afternoon sessions of secondary
schools, thus encouraging fuller use of existing facilities. In addition,
children of teachers in public schools and the best two students in each
course are exempted from tuition and snack charges. Similarly, reductions
of 20 to 50 percent of the child's fees are granted to parents with more than
one child in public schools.
One of the first cooperative secondary schools was founded in Ciudad
Kennedy, a new working-class suburb of Bogota. Authorized by Decree
455 of 1964, the law seeks to encourage community groups to function as
cooperative societies and to establish nonprofit schools which will extend
through the basic cycle (4 years) of secondary education.
The 1967-68 prospectus for one such institution in Bogota, Colegio
Cooperative ADEPAF (Parents Association Cooperative Secondary
School), stressed that the economic purposes of the cooperative should not
conflict with the educational function of the school. The school's main
purpose is to provide inexpensive private secondary education to families
of limited income. Entrance requires successful completion of the 5th year
of elementary school plus an admission examination. Features include:
(1) scholarships to students of limited means who possess outstanding
ability and do good work, (2) honorable mention each month to recognize
outstanding students, and (3) annual awards to students for personal
effort, good fellowship, and a cooperative attitude, with the names of the
recipients engraved on a special plaque. The school also provides accident
insurance and barber, dental, and medical services. Charges for members
of the cooperative range from 50 pesos to 75 pesos per month for the 4th
year, plus a 10-peso monthly cooperative fee. Nonmember charges ranged
from 70 to 100 pesos.37
Another such institution, the Cooperative Educational Unit FECODE,38
has been operated by the Colombian Federation of Educators. This
institution seeks to demonstrate that more modern, less rote-teaching
techniques can be carried out in a pedagogically sound manner at low
cost. Despite the gradual extension of this type of private secondary
school, however, there are doubts that cooperative colegios will thrive
because, in an effort to reduce costs to serve the economically marginal
family, they will gradually reduce educational quality and thus will fail
to attract sufficient families who will insist on more than minimum-
quality instruction. Where quality has been stressed, such institutions
have been quite successful.
M Pedro G6mez Valderrama. Conjerencia Dictada por el Senor Ministro de Educacidn en la Escuela Superior de
Administraci6n Publica el Dia 7de Mayo de 1965. Bogota: Duplicaciones Mineducacidn, 1966. pp. 12-13 and 22-23.
37 Pesos were worth about 6.2 U.S.
38 For more information on FECODE, see chapter 10, section on Employment Conditions.
Among other secondary school reforms are (1) trying to combine the
resources of small secondary schools so their advanced courses can function
with greater economy,39 (2) initiating radio schools, described in chapter
11 under the section on Acci6n Cultural Popular (ACPO), and (3) using
The National Institutes of Middle Education (INEM)
The Alliance for Progress stimulated the 1963 expansion of elementary
rural education from 2 to 5 years, thus greatly increasing the demand for
public secondary education. In response to this demand, 19 National
Institutes of Middle Education (INEM) (comprehensive secondary
schools) are planned for Departmental capitals. The first one was inau-
gurated in Ciudad Kennedy, BogotA, in March 1970. President Lleras
committed his government to developing these schools and the newly
elected government seems likely to continue that policy. Plans call for
10 INEM schools to open in 1970 and for all of them to be in full opera-
tion by 1972. Half of the cost is to be financed by the International Bank
of Reconstruction and Development and the remainder by the National
Government. The larger student-teacher ratio expected in the proposed
schools (about 24 to 1) should permit the use of much better equipped
teachers and facilities at little increase in cost per pupil. The U.S. Govern-
ment will provide assistance in training Colombian administrators and
specialists for the new institutions.
The National Institutes of Middle Education are designed to place
students from a wide variety of social backgrounds into a single coeduca-
tional institution. They emphasize helping a student explore his interests
more fully so that he can choose from a larger number of curriculums,
with the aid of a school guidance counselor. They also seek to provide a
kind of education which makes it easier, both psychologically and voca-
tionally, to enter directly into dignified practical employment. In addition,
larger but still more moderate class size will reduce considerably both
teacher and administrative costs per student.
Some specific situations which these new Institutes hope to improve are
the following: 40
1. Small public secondary schools (especially in big cities) have relatively high
costs because their limited size does not permit efficient use of administrative
and specialized personnel.
2. The small, single-curriculum school fails to give the student an opportunity
to select programs related to his ability and interest. (This rigidity is regarded
as a major factor in school dropout.)
3. Small schools attract select social groups which retard the country's develop-
ment by taking a deprecatory attitude toward manual labor.
4. Secondary education is not an integrated whole; each school tends to emphasize
its own specialty.
39 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto . op. cit. I:10.
5. Many existing secondary programs do not relate to recent social and scientific
changes in Colombian life.
6. There is now only limited transfer from one type of secondary school to another,
due primarily to difference in curriculum. Since pupils are frequently too
immature at the beginning of their secondary career to choose an appropriate
professional program, transfer is frequently needed.
During the first 2 years in the Institutes, a student rotates through eight
vocational subjects to acquire vocational information and guidance. In
the 3d and 4th years, he rotates through the various subjects of a more
specialized branch, chosen with counseling assistance and in accord with
his ability and interest. In the 5th and 6th years, he concentrates on one
of the more specialized fields. In addition, all students are required to
take general cultural subjects including esthetic expression, foreign lan-
guages, mathematics, physical education, religion, science, Spanish, and
social studies. Successful completion of these subjects qualifies them to
continue university-level studies.41 Chart 4 shows the vocational program
organization of the Institutes.
It is expected that the new Institutes may encounter certain problems.
Because vocational education lacks prestige and because plans call for
placing the Institutes in relatively poor districts (where lack of secondary
education is most glaring), they may be unable to attract many able
students from other social classes. They would then fail to accomplish the
desired social integration with other classes. Also, the small number of
students who have graduated from vocational courses in the past make it
seem unlikely that there will be enough students in the advanced cycle to
offer a wide variety of vocational courses. And since in the past very few
vocational students have gone beyond the 4th year of secondary school, it
seems unlikely that entry into vocational education can be successfully
postponed until the second cycle-the 5th and 6th years.42
Despite such problems, the new Institutes are expected to be ready to
accept up to 80,000 new students in the next few years. Special university
programs in Bogota, Medellin, and Call are preparing administrators,
guidance counselors, and special subject teachers for INEM Institutes in
their respective geographic areas. The new Institutes are getting off to a
Arizmendi Posada. op. cit. pp. 78-81 and Decree 1962, 1969.
4 Dieter K. Zschock. Manpower Perspective in Colombia. Princeton, N.J.: Industrial Relations Section, Prince-
ton University, 1967. pp. 98-99.
M Z Construction
S = \ husbandry
S. \W o n Health
Service \ development
S JOB MARKET Oppor-
OTHER STUDIES tunity
SOURCE OF DATA: Ministerio de Educaci6n Nacional. Institutes Nacionales de Educacidn Media "INEM": Planes
y Programs de Estudid, Lenguas Modernas, Primera Parte. Bogota: Instituto Colombiano de Construcciones
Escolares (ICCE), November 1969. 18 pp. (Mimeograph)
Chart 4. Vocational Program Organization of the Institutes of Middle
Education (INEM): 1969
8. Vocational Education
Vocational education is generally known to Colombians as educaci6n
professional or educacion vocacional. In Colombia, as in other Latin American
countries, vocational education has developed slowly, priniaril because
of the low status generally acco~Ee~"fianu-ia"bor
VocaioQal schooling is primarily directed toward producing the skilled
workers, and middle-level technicians required in national productive
activity; it also, however, prepares some students to continue a technical
specialization at the university level. For these reasons, it is found as part
of regular academic secondary programs, within the Institutes of Middle
Education, and in vocational schools. Another important part of the
nation's vocational education effort is administered by the National
Apprenticeship Service (SENA), discussed later in this chapter.
The National Educational Census of 1968 identified a wide range of
vocational schools. In order of enrollment size, there were commercial
(business or secretarial)-638; normal, for the training of elementary
teachers-239; general (unspecified vocational)--178; industrial-176;
agricultural-81; nursing-35; and scores of others. Most of these schools
offer programs which qualify their students for further study on the
university level. Many students, however, never complete the entire
The most popular area of vocational study is commercial education.
Private schools predominate, claiming 76.5 percent of the 1967-68 com-
mercial school enrollment.' Approximately three-quarters of the total
enrollment are women, with the vast majority of them in private institu-
tions. Enrollments in this area increased 445 percent between 1950 and
1965.2 The special appeal of commercial education is that it offers a short-
cut to comparatively remunerative white-collar jobs.3
The basic legislation affecting commercial education is found in Decrees
45 and 2117 of 1962.
Commercial education may be taken at two levels. A student who
finishes the first 4 years (the basic cycle) of the secondary commercial
curriculum and who completes 1 year working in a business which attests
I Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Estudio y Proyecto de Educaci6n Media para Presentar al Banco Internacional
de Reconstrucci6n y Fomento. Bogota: Oficina de Planeamiento, Institutos Nacionales de Educacidn Media.
September 1967. 1:44. (Mimeograph)
3 Alejandro Bernal Escobar. La Educaci6n en Colombia. Bogota: Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, 1964.
p. 197. (Mimeograph)
to his efficiency will be granted the diploma of expert expertto. Similar
certification is authorized in technical education.4 The diploma of com-
mercial science (bachiller ticnico commercial) requires the 2 additional years of
the second cycle of commercial study. Table 6 shows the number of hours
in each subject of the academic and commercial curriculums.
Table 6.-Number of hours in each subject of the secondary academic and commercial curriculums,
by grade and year: 1967
[....... indicates source gave no data]
Grade: 6 7 8 9 10 11
Year: I II III IV V VI
Ac. Com. Ac. Com. Ac. Corn. Ac. Com. Ac. Com. Ac. Com.
Total................................. 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38 38
Academic and Commercial
Chemistry_ .................................. ....... . ...... .. ....... .. .. 4 4 4 4
Esthetic education........................ 2 3 2 2 2 1 2 1
Foreign languages....................... 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 5 5 5
Industrial arts and
domestic studies..................... 2 2 2 1 2 1 2 1
Mathematics.... ..................-... 5 5 4 4 5 5 7 7 3 3 2 2
Natural sciences......................... 2 2 2 2 2 2 4 4
Philosophy ........--.. ---.......... .......--... ..- .......... .. ........ ... ..... ............. 3 3 4 4
Physical education...................... 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Physics.. --- ................... .......-....---...... ... .... .................... ...... ................ 4 4 4 4
Psychology................. .............-.... ..........-........ -.. ...... ..... .... ..... .......... 2 2 .. ........
Religious and moral education.. 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1
Social studies........ ................. 5 5 7 7 7 7 4 4 .......... 2 2
Spanish and literature................ 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 3 3 3
Supplemental activities and/or
more intensified academic or
technical studies................ 9 4 8 3 7 3 7 3 10 .......... 11
Bookkeeping......... ................... ... ..... .. 2 ...... ... ......... 3 ......... 2 ..... 3 .......... 2
Business correspondence.....--..... ... ...... ...... .... .... ....... .......... ......... ... ..... ... ... ............ ...... 1
Business m them atics .................. -- .... - ----.... .. .......-. ... ..---- -. .... ....... ........ 2
Business psychology .............. .... ...... .... .... .......... ..... ..... .. .... .......... ..... 1
Economy ics ..........................---- --- ... -- .. ....................... .......... .............................. 2 .
Elements of business law.... ...- -... ..... ............ ...... ... ......... ... .... .. .......... ......... 2
Labor law .... --------- --- -. .. ..........................----- .......- .... ........ ......... 2
O office practice .. ....--- . .... --- ........................... ........ -...... 2 ........ ..... ........... I
Shorthand ....... ......- ......... .......... ...... ... 3 .......... 2
Statistics ...................... .. ......... 2..... ..... . .... .. ... .......... .......... .............. .... 2 .......... 2
Stenography........................ ... ....... 2 ......... 2 .. .............. ..........
T yping......... .. .. ............ ......... ........ 2 .......... 2 .... ............ .. ....... .
SOURCE OF DATA: Pedro Gdmez Valderrama. Memorial del Ministro de Educaci6n Nacional. Bogota:
Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional, 1967. 4:45.
International correspondence courses may in certain circumstances be
accepted by the Ministry of National Education. A certificate is issued
describing work completed and grades received.6 There is a 4-year school
of accounting in Barranquilla which requires for admission prior comple-
tion of secondary commercial preparation.
4Decree 2433 of September 11, 1959. pp. 8-9.
SDecree 2117 of August 1, 1962. p. 8.
Industrial and Technical Education
The principal objectives of industrial and technical education are to
prepare personnel for various occupations or industries while they com-
plete their general education. Programs are established at different levels-
industrial with a 4- or 5-year cycle, technical with a 5- or 7-year cycle.
The industrial schools function in towns and medium-sized cities. Prin-
cipal subjects are cabinetwork, drafting, electricity, foundry, mechanics,
metalwork, printing, smelting and welding, and, in some schools, ceramics,
rattan weaving, saddlemaking, shoemaking, and tailoring. These schools
confer the diploma of expert.
The higher technical institutes are found in major industrial centers.
Basic courses are foreign languages, general education activities, mathe-
matics, natural sciences, religion, shop and technology, social sciences,
and technical drawing. More specialized courses are drafting, electricity,
electronics, foundry, locksmith, mechanics, motors, etc. After 5 years of
study, the diploma of expert is granted; after 7 years, the diploma of
bachiller ticnico (technical baccalaureate). About 39 hours a week are spent
in class.6 Over four-fifths of the nation's industrial education enrollments
were in public institutions.
In large industrial centers such as Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, and
Bucaramanga, there has been a favorable labor market for students from
the technical institutes institutess ticnicos). The proliferation of industrial
schools (escuelas industriales), however, as a result of legislative initiatives
or regional interest, has produced a larger but less qualified manpower
pool. Technical institute graduates often serve as instructors for the
National Apprenticeship Service's (SENA's) worker-training program,
much of which is similar to that of the technical institutes.
The Colombian Institute of Administration (INCOLDA) is the nation's
most important organization for improving the capabilities of executives
and managerial personnel. Founded as a private organization in 1959, it
has six centers in the major economic regions of the country. During its
first 7 years, it gave 46,152 participants courses varying in length from I
week to several months. Its programs are financed through tuition and
Vocational Agricultural Schools
In 1941 the Colombian Government, on the recommendation of a
mission from Puerto Rico, established a system of vocational agricultural
In 1965 only two out of a group of 37 public vocational agricultural
schools offered as many as 4 years of secondary education. Enrollments
6 Bernal Escobarp.op. cit. pp. 71-72.
Dieter K. Zschock. Manpower Perspective in Colombia. Princeton, N. J.: Industrial Relations Section, Princeton
University, 1967. p. 109.
were distributed as follows: Elementary annex (anexo)-457; prevocational-
381; 1st-year secondary-973; 2d-year secondary-592; 3d-year secondary-406;
and 4th-year secondary-36.8 Peace Corps volunteers taught English and
recreation in seven of these schools.
By 1968, there were 65 public and 16 private agricultural institutions.
Enrollments, although small, increased from 350 in 1950 to 7,930 in 1968,
with 87.8 percent of the total in public institutions. Only 15.6 percent
Typically, the program consists of 1 year of prevocational education,
which corresponds to the 5th year elementary school, and 2 years secondary
agricultural education. Normal education, in preparing teachers for this
area, consists of a secondary cycle of 6 years.
Since 1967, all public vocational agricultural schools are to function as
secondary agricultural schools (escuelas agropecuarias), offering the 4-year
basic cycle of secondary education. Table 7 shows the number of hours
in each subject in the agricultural portion of this cycle. Coprogrammatic
activities are to be dedicated exclusively to agricultural subjects. Schools
unable to attain secondary standards will become elementary institutions. 0
In vocational agricultural schools, the director is aided by an advisory
committee of professors of his choice and, together with a chief fiscal officer,
they meet weekly to determine policy. There is also an advisory committee
of vocational teachers. A large percentage of the work done in these schools
is general education, not vocational.
In addition, supplemental funds provide money for special farm projects.
The fruits of this labor are divided between the school (60 percent) and
the students (40 percent) in proportion to their work.
Decree 1003 of 1961 calls for the formation of a parents' association in
every school (asociaci6n de padres de familiar It also calls for the establishment
of a chapter of the Association of Future Farmers of Colombia (Club 4C),
to consist of regular students plus those who have been out of school for
less than 3 years. This latter organization is a required part of the school's
program; it is not extracurricular. Decree Law 1598 of 1963 calls for the
formation of school or youth cooperatives with an agricultural emphasis.
They are to include sections dealing with consumption, credit and savings,
production, and special services. Here the method most commonly favored
is the project method, which aims at developing practical skills." In
addition to the above, there are about 600 4-S Clubs (Saber, Sentimiento,
Servicio, and Salud, meaning knowledge, kindness, service, and health),
with over 12,000 young members of both sexes who work on agricultural
and home improvement projects. There are also 70 home improvement
clubs, which enroll about 800 housewives who receive practical courses in
8 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional and Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario. Solicitud para un Proyecto de
Educaci6n Agricola a Nivel Medio Presentado al Fondo Especial de Naciones Unidas. Bogotd: ca. 1967. Figure 1, n.p.
0 Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE). Censo de Establecimientos Educativos: 1968.
Bogota: April 1970. pp. 28-29.
10 Ministerio de Educacidn Nacional. Decretos, Resolucionesy Convenios sabre la Educacidn Agropecuaria. Bogotd:
Editorial Bedout, 1967. p. 10.
11 Ibid. pp. 56,, 60 and 87.
12 Bernal Escobar. op. cit. p. 226.