The Education System in Colombia and School Mathematics

It is natural to assume that the education of teachers in a country should be aligned with its education system. Therefore we are obliged to begin with a consideration of that assertion. It is equally natural that the preparation of Mathematics teachers should be aligned with the nature and specificity of school Mathematics. Therefore, other themes that we treat below are justified.

Features of the Education System in Colombia

Before the end of the last century the enactment of the Constitution of 1991 changed the political and social dynamics of the Nation. Education was declared a social and cultural right, obligatory and free from pre-school through grade 9. Liberty in developing curricular approaches matched to the needs of their communities was proclaimed for the educational institutions serving those communities.

To develop what had been established in the Constitution, in 1992 Law 30 was enacted to regulate higher education and Law 115 (known as the General Law of Education) in 1994 to regulate elementary and secondary education. Law 115 restricts the functions of the National Ministry of Education (MEN) to formulating national curricular programs and grants it an orientation role with respect to public policy in education. Thusly, every educational institution in the country acquired the right to define its own curriculum which must be articulated with general guidelines formulated by the MEN as part of public education policy. Among the documents that regulate such policies with respect to school Mathematics are “Curricular Guidelines in the Area of School Mathematics” (Colombia 1998) and “Basic Competency Standards in Mathematics” (Colombia 2006).

The cited Laws establish, among other conditions, that education be organized by school levels and schooling cycles as is shown in Table 2.1.

Basic Education (Elementary and Secondary) is offered to almost all children, but there is a high dropout rate. There is both public and private Basic Education. The population from lower socio-economic levels usually attends public schools while private schools are attended by students from higher socio-economic levels. In general, the standard of quality is much higher in private education as compared to public.

Table 2.1 Organization by cycles and levels in the colombian education system


Schooling cycle

Age of the students

Years of schooling




Between 3 and 6 years

Up to 3 years

Basic education


Between 7 and 11 years

1st to 5 th grades

Lower secondary

Between 12 and 15 years

6th to 9th grades




Between 16 and 17 years

10th and 11th






3 years


5 years



Up to 2 years


Up to 3 years


Up to 5 years

Higher Education also has both public and private (not for profit) providers. Graduate education is not publicly financed; therefore, students of Specializations, Master’s and Doctorates pay tuition to fund such programs. The technical education cycle is considered non-formal education, and is oriented to developing a series of workplace competencies for specific crafts and trades, and does not require that students have completed academic Upper Secondary Education. It is offered by both public and private organizations and is not considered to be Higher Education.

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