Colombia should improve equity and quality of education


21/04/2016 - Colombia’s education system has made impressive progress over the past two decades, but more needs to be done now to ensure that all children have access to a quality education, according to a new OECD report.


Education in Colombia says that enrolments in early childhood and tertiary education have more than doubled and children today spend two more years at school than 20 years ago. Colombia was also among the top four countries to show a significant improvement in reading in the 2012 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).


“As Colombia enters the global economy, its educational success will be measured by boosting national standards so that Colombian children match up to children around the world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, presenting the report in Barranquilla with Colombia’s Minister of Education, Gina Parody. “This challenge will require ambitious common learning standards, prioritising access to early childhood education for the most disadvantaged and empowering teachers to lead this transformation.”


Colombia needs ambitious national common learning standards that set high expectations for all students, regardless of their socio-economic background, where they live or the school they attend. According to PISA results, 15-year-old students in Colombia are still about three years behind their peers in OECD countries.


Giving all children access to education from the youngest age must be a priority, according to the report. The deep inequities observed in access to tertiary education – 9% of students from the poorest families are enrolled in university-level education, compared to 53% of students from the wealthiest families – begin before children start school. Prioritising access to early childhood education for the most disadvantaged children and ensuring that all children start school by the age of five are key.


Empowering teachers, by boosting the support they need to teach effectively and investing in school leadership, will be essential. What good teaching is needs to be defined, and aligned with training opportunities, effective evaluations, and good career and remuneration structures. Schools and local governments need more and better support, including the right incentives, a better balance of autonomy and accountability, and information systems that enable and encourage school-level reform.


Many students struggle to make adequate progress through basic education. About 37% of students start school late and about 41% have repeated at least one grade by age 15. Colombia makes much greater use of grade repetition than most countries: PISA results have shown it to be ineffective, demotivating for students and costly.


More resources should be allocated to early childhood education and care and schooling to raise education outcomes and ensure that all students have a fair chance of success. Public spending per student in schools is less than half that spent for tertiary students and a quarter of most OECD countries. Current spending levels must be at least maintained and additional resources mobilised.


For further information on Reviews of National Policies for Education: Education in Colombia, journalists should contact the OECD Media Office (+ 33 1 45 24 97 00).


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