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Schools in Bogotá

Many thanks to one of my readers for requesting a post about schools and the education system here in Colombia. I’ll be up front and say that as I don’t have children, this is an area which I have less experience of, but that as a teacher of English, I’ve heard quite a lot about. So here goes…

Public vs. Private

In Bogota, the common view I’ve gleaned from many people I’ve spoken to about the public/state school system (including young people who have recently been through it themselves) is that it is mediocre, at best; this is why anyone who can afford to will choose to send their children to a private school. The private school sector is a booming business in Bogota, and stretches across a large spectrum with regard to price and, to a certain extent, quality. As they are effectively businesses, the pressure on schools from paying parents to provide quality education for their children means that this will usually be delivered.

A list of the best private schools in Bogotá

This website (www.losmejorescolegios.com) is a good guide for the best secondary schools in Bogota (all private). Unfortunately it’s only in Spanish, though some of the bilingual schools have their individual pages in English. Each school’s page shows a break-down of costs in Colombian pesos: ‘Valor pensión’ relates to the monthly tuition fees; ‘Cafeteria’ means the monthly cost of school meals; and ‘Transporte’ relates to the monthly cost of the school bus service to and from school, which is offered by many, if not most, private schools. Tuition fees can cost anywhere between $300,000 pesos per month up to $3 million pesos per month; the most prestigious and exclusive bilingual schools or international schools will charge closer to the latter figure. You’ll find that there’s a big cluster of private schools in the far north of Bogota (around street 200 and above).

Some of the better private schools in Bogotá (and usually the most expensive ones!) are:

The English School

Saint George’s School

Buckingham School

Colegio Nueva Granada

Colegio Anglo Colombiano

These are genuinely bilingual schools. There is also a French school, the Liceo Francés, a German school, Colegio Andino, Deutsche Schule and an Italian School, Colegio Italiano Leonardo Da Vinci.

“Bilingual” Schools

This brings me to the not-so-small matter (in my opinion) of the over-ambitious, sometimes deceptive use of the word ‘bilingual’, which an increasing number of schools seem to be adopting in their title. A word of warning: if you ever happen to be searching for a school in Bogota, be VERY suspicious about the word “bilingual”. This term is, in large part, used very loosely by many private schools and merely means that some subjects will be taught in English; the reality of the matter is usually that teachers of some subjects were at some point informed by the senior management that their school was turning bilingual, and that they would now need to teach their subject in English. This has resulted in students being taught subjects by a teacher often with an intermediate (or even pre-intermediate) level of English, and thus not only are they having to try to learn about a science subject, for example, in a foreign language (which can be tricky enough in your own language!), their exercise books are full of bad English that they’ve copied from the board (I have flicked through a few books in my time, and I guarantee you this is true!). The obvious consequence is that students are neither learning English well, nor probably the subject which is being taught. This is why we have so many teenagers wanting to study English at the British Council who are graduating from their ‘bilingual’ school with an elementary level of English, or pre-intermediate at best. In my view, only those schools at the upper end of the private school sector can truly be called bilingual (in the truest sense of the term i.e. the students are regularly communicating with each other in English during the school day!). In other words, do some research into the schools that you’re considering, and make sure that they really meet the standards that you expect.

The School Day

School generally starts at 7am and finishes around 3pm, which means that kids often get on the school bus at about 6am. My Colombian partner told me that the school he went to (Colegio Nueva York) offered lots of extra-curricular activities (such as horse-riding, music lessons, extreme-skating(!)) which children could participate in after school had finished, but these are usually at an extra cost. Extra activities often take place on Saturdays too, at public and private schools.

The School Year

The school year here runs on one of two calendars – either Calendar A (where the school year starts in January/February and finishes in November) or Calendar B (where the school year is from September to June). This varies from school to school, and is just according to the school’s preference. Children stay at secondary school until they are 16 or 17 (if they have never had to repeat a year) and leave with an average score across all subjects of between 1 and 5 (5 being the highest), unless they are at a school which teaches the International Baccalaureate. If their ambition is to go to university – and it usually is – they will go on to higher education straightaway, and most university courses last for five years.
I hope that this post has been useful, and if there’s anything I’ve missed out, please do leave a comment with your question, or drop me an email!

Are you moving to Bogota with children? What’s your biggest concern as a parent?

11 Comments on Schools in Bogotá

  1. Hi, thanks for this post! I’m actually looking for a good NON-bilingual school for my 3 young girls (3, 5 and 6) that we could enroll in on a monthly basis. We’re not moving to Bogota permanently, but we would like to find a Spanish-only school we could return to each year for a month or two to help the girls acquire Spanish fluency (they’re in a dual-language program here in the States). Can you recommend any schools that would fit this profile? Many thanks!

    • Hi Christel, thank you for your message. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the schools in Bogotá to be able to recommend one to attend on a monthly basis. Would you be looking for a Spanish language program (like a holiday course), or a normal primary school where they would study all subjects? There are quite a few “Expats in Colombia” Facebook groups if you do a search; I would recommend that you post your question there. There is also Internations.org – I’m sure that if you posted on one of the forums someone would be able to advise you or point you in the right direction! The other option might be to try the American Women’s Club Facebook group, or the US Embassy in Bogotá might be able to advise.

      Good luck!

  2. Hiya Naomi

    I see you don’t mention CGB – Colegio Gran Bretaña

    Is there a reason for that?

    Thanks.

    • Hi Andy, there’s no particular reason that I haven’t mentioned it, I gave examples of schools that I know something about, normally through hearsay. Do you think CGB should be on the list? Have you heard good things about it, or had a good experience working there?
      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. Hi!! I will be moving with my 6 year old twins to Chia and need subjects to be taught in english but find the range quite different. Either it is 250 USD per month per child and the schools are not that great OR 1100-1500 USD per child per month. ANy recommendations on a school that is in the middle 500-700 USD per month per child? Thank you!

  4. Travelmusic32 // February 23, 2017 at 1:47 pm // Reply

    Bogota is over saturated with private schools. There are far too many so what ends up happening is that many are just status symbols for average and even below average rich kids. In the usa, most people think of (most) private schools as being places of very high level learning and thinking and for the most part, this is true. This is not so in Bogota and, I imagine, most of Colombia. I have worked at three of these schools including one of the ones on your list (one of the five listed under ¨better¨) and my experience at that school for two years did not mirror my expectations according to what I had heard around the city and on the internet or what the higher ups at the school said about their school. While some students were very studious and worked hard, I noticed a lot of students who were just slacking off most of the time and some had behavioral issues or even severe issues. All three schools preach great things like respect, being proactive, being a positive member of the community, etc. but in practice, many of these kids lacked these basic traits and the schools lacks the ability to properly help students with behavior issues so they often continue for years. Many kids I have worked with at all three schools struggled to show internal control (control their own behavior) and often were not empathetic listeners when classmates were speaking, rather, they were very selfish and did not show much care for what others said. Even if you, as a teacher, were very clear with classroom agreements (¨rules¨) and followed the protocol that the entire class had agreed on at the start of the year, kids would often find any way around those agreements. In fact, some kids work harder at finding ways around those agreements than actually doing work. I think there needs to be higher standards put on private schools moving forward by the government or anyone else who has a say in these matters. Bogota does not need more private schools. They actually need less, and once there is less, the ones that remain need to actually make sure the best of the best are let into these schools and the other average rich kids that populate the plethora of private schools can suck it up and go to a public school (which also need work and money). Because, as I said, most private schools are just havens for spoiled average and below average estarto 5 and 6 kids. Many of these schools do not offer scholarship to gifted estrarto 0, 1, 2, 3 and even 4 kids. Which proves my final point, a lot of these schools are simply elitist and do nothing to stop the widening gap between the haves and the haves not which really sucks if you are gifted but poor…You lose out to some below average rich kid lacking manners and respect.

  5. Are there Boarding Schools in bogota?

    • Hi Jay,
      I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think there are any boarding schools in Bogota. There’s one that I know of but it’s more like an orphanage/school.
      All the best.

  6. Hi Naomi

    Would you be able to advise top tier international/private schools for the elementary/primary level in Bogota?

    • Hi Dee,
      I believe that most private and international schools start from elementary level (i.e. aged 4-5). Here’s an article from the end of last year listing the top private schools in Bogota. You will need to check which ones are bilingual or just anglophone – http://www.dinero.com/contenidos-editoriales/mejores-colegios-2016/articulo/los-mejores-colegios-de-bogota-y-cundinamarca-segun-saber-11/239322
      This ranking is based on academic results only. If possible, I would reach out to the school and ask any questions you have – if you’re in Bogota, ask if you can visit the school too. Some of these schools will be charging up to $10,000 a year for tuition, so you want to be sure you’re making the right choice!
      All the best!

      • Hey Naomi

        Thanks for the helpful information!

        I’m a researcher in education and am looking at finding reputable information around the course curriculum of the top tier private/international schools in Bogota. My focus would be the elementary school. So your recommended list has been really useful. : )

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