Education is highly regarded in Colombia and even Colombians who do not have much money try to complete as much schooling as possible. Many Colombians attend school while working in order to improve their professional credentials.

The 1991 Colombian constitution requires all children between five and fifteen to attend school. This basic education is subsidized by the state. However, facilities in poor city suburbs and rural areas are usually limited. The school day varies according to region and climate. School often starts very early and ends around lunchtime in the hotter areas. Many Colombian schoolchildren wear uniforms.

Most children attend primary school, but fewer than 60% attend secondary school. Many poor Colombian families want their older children to work and earn money, so these children cannot continue their education. Some children in rural areas cannot continue because there is no secondary school in their region. Colombia also has private schools, but they usually charge high fees.

Colombia has more than 200 schools of higher education, including 71 universities. Most universities in Colombia are private. However, Colombia's main university, the National University in Bogotá, is run by the government.

Did you know?

Most early Colombian scholars were priests. One was José Celestino Mutis, who led the Royal Botanical Expedition and made the first comprehensive study of Colombian flora. His study took 40 years to complete and consists of almost 6,000 drawings and sketches.

Colombia has made great improvements in literacy. Fifty years ago, 56% of Colombians over ten could read or write. Today Colombia has a national literacy rate of about 88%. Literacy is much lower among Blacks and indigenous groups (about 60%). The problem of illiteracy is the worst in rural areas of Colombia. In these areas adult education is encouraged. Radio plays an important part in transmitting educational and literacy programs to remote areas of Colombia.