School system in Bogotá


The Colombian Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación Nacional de Colombia) is in charge of the school system in the country, including preschool, primary and secondary education, as well as higher education. It sets the overall curricular standards, oversees the quality control and monitoring, and coordinates the administrative aspects pertaining to education.

The school system is divided into 12 grades, grouped into four broad categories:

  • Initial education, up to age 3 (doesn't count as a grade)
  • Preschool, ages 4-5
  • Basic education (educación básica), ages 6 – 15, divided into:
    • Primary education (grades 1-5)
    • Secondary education (grades 6-9)
  • Medium education (educación media), ages 16-17, grades 10-11

After medium education, there is the option of pursuing either a higher education degree or vocational training. 

Early Childhood Education in Colombia

Initial education is provided for children aged 3 and below, either at home or in public or private nurseries.

Preschool education is provided in kindergartens, and it is mandatory for children aged 4 or 5. Public kindergartens are free, but their quality standards are not always the best. Most expat families opt for private kindergartens that use alternative instruction methods and offer bilingual education. Schedules are generally Monday to Friday, from 7:30 to 14:30, but longer hours may apply. Tuition varies, but expect to pay between 300 and 800 usd per month.

It is good to apply early, as kindergarten places fill up months before the start of the school year.

Basic Education in Colombia

Basic education is divided into two cycles (primary and secondary) and totals nine years. Children are enrolled in grade 1 at age 5 or 6. The aim of basic education is to provide the students with a general background in scientific, technological, artistic and humanities disciplines, foster their communicative abilities, develop logical and mathematical reasoning skills, and contribute to a well-rounded development of the children. As such, curricula include mathematics, Spanish language, literature, science, history, technology and art.

The school year starts in mid-January and ends in late November, with a one month break from mid-June to mid-July.

There is no exam between the first and the second cycle of basic education. Children are monitored and their performance assessed using three categories: unsatisfactory, good and outstanding.

Many children attend the public schools, but private schools are also common. Also refer to the Private Education section below.

Medium Education in Colombia

Medium education comprises of the last two years of mandatory schooling, namely the 10th and 11th grade. This cycle offers various tracks in addition to the "academic" one: industrial, commercial, agricultural, pedagogical and social promotion track.

Successful completion of medium education results in the obtention of a Highschool Diploma (Diploma de Bachiller).

At the end of the cycle, all students need to pass Pruebas Saber 11, a set of assessment tests that are implemented nation-wide and evaluate the students' verbal and mathematical reasoning abilities. Pruebas Saber 11 are developed by the Colombian assessment institution ICFES. The results are used for admission in higher education or vocational training.

Private Schools in Bogota

Private schools are common in Colombia. Many parents prefer them to public schools due to the higher education standards, better staff to student ratio, internationally qualified teachers and improved safety within their premises.

Some schools were founded by Catholic institutions and their approach is marked by religious stances, so it is recommended you understand the educational philosophy of your chosen school before submitting applications. Many of them are single-gender schools.

Private schools usually have open days where parents of prospective students may visit the facilities, meet the staff and become acquainted with the culture and approach to education. Generally, schools in Bogota don't offer boarding.

Criteria to take into account when choosing a school include:

  • Curriculum: What foreign languages are offered? What are the electives?
  • Staff: Is there stability of staff or is the school facing high staff turnover? What are the qualifications and credentials of the teachers?
  • Single-gender or mixed-gender institutions? 
  • Exam results: How does the school rank in terms of Prueba Saber 11 examinations?
  • Extra activities: Are there science, art and sports clubs? Does the school offer activities to develop leadership abilities?
  • Special needs: Is there a program for children with disabilities? Is there support for talented or gifted children? Does the school offer language aid for children of expats?
  • Location: Do you want a school located in a quiet environment? Do you prefer one close to your work or home?

There are hundreds of private schools in Bogota. Some of the best ones are:

Gimnasio Moderno
Calle 74 # 9-93
(571) 540 18 88
One of the oldest and most prestigious boys' schools in Bogota, located in the heart of the Chapinero municipality. 

Liceo Chicó Campestre
Calle 221 # 53-82
(57) 676 22 72
Humanistic education for boys and girls aged 5-17, with an emphasis on English.

Colegio Los Nogales
Calle 202 # 56-50
(571) 676 11 28
Bilingual school deploying innovative teaching methods for a holistic development of the child's personality.

Gimnasio Campestre George Berkeley
Kilometro 7, Via Suba-Cota
(571) 680 95 92
Offers economics and finance-oriented education in English and Spanish, from elementary to highschool level.

St George's School
Carrera 92 # 156-88
(571) 432 40 00
Offers kindergarten to highschool British-style education, in Spanish and English.

Colegio San Patricio
Carrera 80 # 137-02
(57) 683 86 40
A girls' school offering bilingual Spanish-English education for all levels.

Colegio Santa Maria
Carrera 11 # 185B-17
(571) 671 44 40
Founded in 1963 by Benedictine nuns, it offers high quality education for girls, based on Catholic principles.

Colegio Santo Tomas de Aquino
Carrera 21 # 132-46
(571) 258 00 10
A bilingual private school with excellent exam results, promoting Christian education in a multicultural environment.

Gimnasio Campestre Los Laureles
Kilómetro 27 vía Cajicá
(571) 866 18 48
Programmes from preschool to highschool based on innovative curriculum. It offers English and Mandarin as foreign languages.

Gimnasio de los Cerros
Calle 119 # 4-48
(571) 657 60 00
A Catholic boys' school focused on academic performance. Education based on the International Baccalaureate.

Private School Fees for Bogota

Tuition in a private school ranges from 300 to 700 usd per month, not including transport, cafeteria, enrollment fees and other services. It is important to take into account all the costs and choose according to your budget. 

If you are interested internationally centered schooling for your child, you might consider one of Bogota's international schools.  Refer to section "International Schools" for more information.

Universities in Bogota

The University system in Colombia is divided into undergraduate programmes (pregrado) and postgraduate degrees (posgrado).

Students enter universities aged 17-18, after passing the admissions procedures which require a combination of Saber 11 results, letters of intent and recommendations. Bachelor's degrees are offered in Spanish and usually last 5 years.

The system of postgraduate qualifications includes Master´s (Maestría, Magister), Doctorate (Doctorado), but also Specializations (Especialización), Postgraduate Diplomas (Diplomado). Master´s degrees last two years, Specializations usually one year and Postgraduate Diplomas several months.

The best universities in Colombia are both public and private, with the public universities having lower tuition. University can cost between 5.000 and 15.000 usd per year, depending on the programme and the institution.

In order to apply to a Colombian university as a foreigner, you first need to validate your secondary school diploma with the Ministry of Education. This can be done online, once you have the following documents:

  • The Secondary School diploma in your home country, with the apostille of the Ministry of Education of your home country.
  • Official translations to Spanish of both the dimploma and the apostille, made by an translator  authorized in Colombia, and legalized with the Colombian authorities.

Some of the most important universities in Bogota are:

Universidad Nacional
Carrera 45 # 26-85
(57) 316 50 00

Universidad de los Andes
Carrera 1 # 18A-12
(571) 339 49 99 

Universidad Javeriana
Carrera 7 # 40-62
(571)320 83 20

Universidad Santo Tomás
Carrera 9 # 51-11
(571) 587 87 97

Universidad Externado
Calle 12 # 1-17 Este
(571) 353 70 00

Universidad del Rosario
Calle 12C # 6-25
(031) 297 02 00

Universidad de La Salle
Carrera 5 # 59A-44
(571) 348 80 00

Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas
Carrera 7 # 40B-53
(571) 323 93 00

Libraries in Bogota

There are many libraries in Bogota, some public, others private, that boast an impressive selection of books from around the world. Consultation is generally free, but in order to borrow books you usually need a subscription.

    • Julio Mario Santo Domingo Library, Av. Calle 170 # 67-51
    • Virgilio Barco Library, Av. Carrera 60 # 57-60
    • El Tunal Library, Calle 48B Sur # 21-13

Update 20/08/2018


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