Colombia’s New Role as a Higher Education Destination in South America

Leonardo Tissot
Leonardo Tissot
27/02/18
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Quick take: Natural beauty, great culture and education levels on the rise: check out why Colombia is being chosen by more international students as a higher education destination every year.

With high investment and an increased quality in university education – especially when compared against South America’s strongest economies – along with a much welcomed decrease in violence rates, the magical realism of Gabriel García Marquez’s literature seems to be inspiring daily life for Colombians, and also turning the country into a great choice for students looking for an international higher education experience in the region.

Colombia’s Demographics

Illustration Colombia´s demographics - MAP AND FLAG

Illustration Colombia´s demographics - Ubication of Bogotá

COUNTRY NAME
Colombia

CAPITAL
Bogotá

MEDIAN AGE
30

LANGUAGE
Spanish

POPULATION
47.69 million

BIGGEST INDUSTRIES
Agriculture, Cattle Raising, Hunting, Forestry, Fishing, Finance, Insurance, Social Services1,2,3

CURRENCY
Colombian Pesos

GENDER
50.64% female, 49.36% male

Top 6 Education Indicators

Graphic top 6 education indicators

Building the Most Educated Nation in Latin America

Colombia’s education system is assembled by five main levels: educación inicial (initial education), educación preescolar (pre-scholar education), educación básica (basic education) – divided in two cycles, primaria (primary), with five grades, and secundaria (secondary), with four grades –, educación media (medium education), which consists of two grades, and, finally, educación superior (higher education). The country establishes education as an ongoing personal, cultural and social process, guaranteed by the government as a right for all citizens.17

In 2017, the average score of medium education graduates was 249.34, whereas the maximum grade was 500 points. Most specialists in Colombia agree that as much as education has evolved in the country in the past few years, there’s still a long road ahead.18

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “over the past two decades the Colombian education system has undergone a fundamental transformation. The most visible outcome is the impressive expansion of access at all levels as a result of ambitious policies to tackle barriers to enrollment and bring education services to every corner of the country.” The goal is to become the “most educated” country in Latin America by the year 2025.19

Colombia’s population seems to be engaged with the country’s development in education as well – as per OECD’s Better Life Index, Education ranks as the highest priority among Colombians, closely followed by Health and Work/Life Balance.20

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Colombia’s Achievements in Education
Rise in enrollment at all levels
Introduction of profession
New governance and funding strategies to modernize secondary and tertiary education
Reforms in the teaching schemes for education
Development of strong information systems

Source: OECD

Higher Education: Strategies to Attract More International Students

In order to get admission into one of Colombia’s higher education institutions, one has to obtain the bachiller (high school diploma) title, which students receive right after finishing medium education. Another requirement is to take the Prueba de Estado (State Test), administered by the Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educación Superior (ICFES), a governmental institution that evaluates the quality of the country’s education.21

Currently, 42.5% of the country’s universities are public.22 However, these are not free of charge, as in other South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador.23 The government, nonetheless, offers student credit at low interest rates, as a way not only to allow the population to access higher education, but also to increase retention rates.24

In fact, government expenditure for education is quite high in Colombia. Comparing it to the education investment in Brazil – a country with almost eight times Colombia’s territorial area and more than four times its population – it’s possible to clearly see how education is taken seriously in the country. While Brazil had an education budget of US$ 8.9 billion in 2017, Colombia invested US$ 10.7 billion in the previous year. The number of universities is also striking in comparison to Brazil, the largest nation in the continent – Colombia has 134 universities, while Brazil only has 61 more to serve the world’s 5th biggest population25.

In recent years, international students are becoming more interested in Colombia as a higher education destination. In 2016, more than 14,000 international students made their way to Colombia – many from neighboring Latin American countries, and also from China, Japan, France, Italy and Germany, among others. This is part of a government strategy to promote Colombia’s interest in hosting international students.

Since 2011, the government has been keen on highlighting the benefits of studying in the country, including high quality education, hospitality, cultural diversity and great natural beauty, as the strongest attributes Colombia has to offer. The Ministry of Education has also been working hard to ensure higher education institutions in the country are engaged in designing and implementing internationalization processes.26

Universities are also investing to attract international students. Ideas such as obtaining international level certifications, offering innovative programs, bringing in international professors, among others, have been put into practice to improve the quality of education and arouse foreign interest.27

Two of the main initiatives that drive these goals are:

1. Strengthening the processes of self-evaluation by improving the functions of higher education.

2. Promoting training at the master’s and doctorate’s levels by consolidating the evaluation system of students, teachers, programs and institutions, to account for the evolution of the system and its actors.28

Graphic distance education on the riseDistance Education on the Rise

Colombia has also been investing in distance education. From 2010 to 2015, the number of students enrolled in distance courses has grown 400%, from 12,000 to 65,000. Currently, at least 21 universities offer distance courses in the country.29

5 Facts About Colombia’s Culture and Education

1. Colombia’s population is quite young, with a median age of 30 years.

2. The Colombian government as well as higher education institutions have been investing heavily to improve the quality of education and attract more international students.

3. The number of students enrolled in distance education courses has grown 400% in the last five years.

4. Colombian author Gabriel García Marquez won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to literature in 1982, especially the “magic realism” style seen in classic books such as “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” released in 1967.30

5. International tourism has increased significantly in recent years due to peace deals that have encouraged travel in the region. Foreigners have discovered Colombia’s culture and natural beauty, with the country being the second most bio-diverse in the world. Most visitors are attracted to its landscapes (which include the Andes mountains, Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, rainforest, and plains), historic cities, indigenous sites, and diverse musical rhythms.31,32,33,34

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Final Illustration, special country Colombia

Infographic:

TRiiBU Studio

Sources:

D. (2017, August 15). Cuánto creció Colombia en el segundo trimestre 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://www.dinero.com/economia/articulo/cuanto-crecio-colombia-en-el-segundo-trimestre-2017/248613.

2 (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.indexmundi.com/colombia/demographics_profile.html.

3 Nace, S. (n.d.). Colombia – Statistics & Facts. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.statista.com/topics/3506/colombia.

4 Education at a Glance 2016 | OECD READ edition. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/education-at-a-glance-2016_eag-2016-en#page411.

5 A. (2017, February 24). Academic salary in 29 countries. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://chileno.co.uk/chile/academic-salary-in-29-countries.

6 A. (2017, February 24). Academic salary in 29 countries. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://chileno.co.uk/chile/academic-salary-in-29-countries.

7 Alvarenga, M. (2017, January 23). Número de estudantes estrangeiros vem crescendo no Brasil. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://ondda.com/noticias/2017/01/estudantes-estrangeiros.

8 Jairo A. Cárdenas A. / @Jairo_Cardenas7. (2017, June 27). Colombia, un destino académico cada vez más apetecido. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/educacion/colombia-un-destino-academico-cada-vez-mas-apetecido-articulo-699872.

9 Estudiantes Extranjeros en México. (2017, September 11). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://clinicadelviajero.com.mx/2016/11/28/estudiantes-extranjeros-en-mexico.

10 World University Ranking. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.webometrics.info/en/world.

11 Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais Anísio Teixeira. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://inepdata.inep.gov.br/analytics/saw.dll?Dashboard.

12 Education in Colombia [PNG]. (n.d.). World Education Services.

13 (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.altillo.com/en/universities/universities_mex.asp.

14 Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais Anísio Teixeira. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://inepdata.inep.gov.br/analytics/saw.dll?Dashboard.

15 Education in Colombia [PNG]. (n.d.). World Education Services.

16 (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.altillo.com/en/universities/universities_mex.asp.

17 Sistema educativo colombiano. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.mineducacion.gov.co/1759/w3-article-233839.html.

18 D. (2017, December 13). Mejores colegios de Colombia según prueba Saber 11 en 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://www.dinero.com/edicion-impresa/caratula/articulo/mejores-colegios-de-colombia-segun-prueba-saber-11-en-2017/253328.

19 Education in Colombia -Highlights 2016 [PDF]. (n.d.). OECD. Retrieved 29 January, 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/Education-in-Colombia-Highlights.pdf.

20 ¿Cómo va la vida en Colombia?[PDF]. (2017, November). OECD. Retrieved 29 January, 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/countries/colombia/Better-Life-Initiative-country-note-Colombia-in-Espagnol.pdf.

21 Requisitos para ingresar a la educación superior. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.mineducacion.gov.co/1759/w3-article-235581.html.

22 Education in Colombia [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://wenr.wes.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/WENR-1215-CountryProfile-Colombia.png, by World Education Services.

23 Martínez, A., Mantilla, E., Echeverry, V., & Mina, J. (2012, November 19). “No es posible la gratuidad en educación superior de Colombia”: directora Icetex. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://www.elpais.com.co/colombia/no-es-posible-la-gratuidad-en-educacion-superior-de-directora-icetex.html.

24 Financiación de la educación superior. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.mineducacion.gov.co/1759/w3-article-235797.html.

25 Population ranking. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2018, from https://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/Population-ranking-table.

26 Jairo A. Cárdenas A. / @Jairo_Cardenas7. (2017, June 27). Colombia, un destino académico cada vez más apetecido. Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/educacion/colombia-un-destino-academico-cada-vez-mas-apetecido-articulo-699872.

27 Fomento a la internacionalización de la educación superior. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.mineducacion.gov.co/1759/w3-article-307859.html.

28 Fomento al mejoramiento de la calidad. (n.d.). Retrieved February 05, 2018, from https://www.mineducacion.gov.co/1759/w3-article-307590.html.

29 Universidades de educación superior a distancia – Colombia. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from http://www.caled-ead.org/vinculacion/universidades-de-educacion-superior-distancia/colombia.

30 The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1982.

31 Colombia on Track for Least Violent Year in 3 Decades. (2017, September 20). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/colombia-on-track-for-least-violent-year-in-3-decades.

32 Richard, S. (2016, October 18). Colombia: Too Dangerous or The Next Tourist Hotspot? Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.gapyear.com/features/217796/colombia-dangerous-or-tourists.

33 Colombia 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Bogotá. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2018, from https://www.osac.gov/Pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=21159

34 The top 10 most biodiverse countries. (2017, April 25). Retrieved February 05, 2018, from https://news.mongabay.com/2016/05/top-10-biodiverse-countries/.

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