20 de Enero de 2018
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La Educación
Número: (132-133) I,II
Año: 1999

2. The State of Rural Education in Colombia

In terms that are absolute and relative to urban areas, the quantity and quality of rural education is lacking in Colombia. Primary education coverage has increased substantially among all income quintiles and regions of the country since the early seventies. Nonetheless, coverage is still superior in urban areas, and some 20% of rural children ages six to twelve are not attending school at all (see Table 1). Students in rural Colombia have, on average, 1.7 years of schooling, compared to 3.8 for their urban counterparts, which qualifies many rural students as functionally illiterate.1

Other indicators paint an equally dismal picture. Dropout rates in rural areas have remained fairly constant in the period 1978 to 1987, while promotion rates have risen slightly (see Table 2). The urban/rural gap is again evidenced, with the urban dropout rate in first grade some 7% lower than the rural rate. The promotion rate is particularly striking, with only 59.2% of rural first-graders advancing to the second grade, compared with 73.8% of urban students. Achievement test scores also point to poor educational quality in rural areas. A nationwide educational quality survey found that mean scores on tests of Spanish and mathematics at the third and fifth grade levels are higher in urban areas in most Colombian departments.2

In general, basic inputs like textbooks and a well-equipped school building are deficient. Schedules are often quite rigid, such that students cannot leave to participate in agriculture without being forced to repeat the entire year. Pedagogy in language and mathematics is passive, centered around rote memorization and imitation. Many teachers are not trained in multigrade teaching methods, even though most teachers must deal with more than one grade at a time. They are often estranged from the rural community, living apart from it and receiving little supervision or support from educational authorities. Finally, communities and parents participate little in their children’s education.3