Colombia: in Antioquia More are Finishing High School, Going on to University

January 18, 2013

  • Less than 50% of young people were going to high school in 2007.
  • Thanks to an education project, more students are completing high school and going on to university.
  • The program offers subsidies for students, grants for schools, teaching based on problem-solving and creating a safe environment.

With its green hills and quaint valleys hidden under a layer of fog, the department of Antioquia in Colombia, looks very much like a landscape out of a fairytale. However, it was once the scene of violent conflict, which is still not over.

Between 2004 and 2006, about 163,000 people became internally displaced. If in 2005, 90% of children went to primary school, less than 50% of the young people went to secondary school in 2007.

But the department represents also 13% of the country’s GDP, the second most important department after the capital, Bogota, according to 2011 government numbers, and represents thus a great potential for young people.

Learning again

A project managed by Antioquia’s Secretary of Education and supported by the World Bank increased the opportunity for youth to receive quality education and acquire skills demanded by the labor market, thus improving their potential to pursue a higher education path or a successful career.

Through subsidies for students, grants for school and improved pedagogical methods, adapted to the youth’s living reality, almost 60% of young people in the 25 poorest  municipalities of Antioquia went to secondary school in 2012 and almost 73% all over the department.

A little more than 82% of students of those enrolled finished school, compared to only 78% five years before. Almost 30% of the students go on to university, an increase from 23.3%.

International experts, brought together with the help of the World Bank, came to Antioquia to give workshops on how to teach students problem-solving, team work or conflict resolution in school.

" The students take control of this new methodology and make it necessary for the teacher to change his or her way of working "

Ruben Dario Santamaria


Giving peace a chance

Ruben Dario Santamaria, biology and sports teacher in the Francisco Maria Cardona school in La Ceja, attended one of the workshops. He felt it was of practical use for his work.  “It implies a change in the way of designing and planning a class,” he said.

“The students also changed mentality,” explains Ruben Dario. Now, when he arrives in the school, the students ask him about the competences they will work on and how will they measure their progress.

“So the students take control of this new methodology and make it necessary for the teacher to change his or her way of working,” Santamaria added.

Because of the many years of armed conflict that affected the region, teachers and parents worked together on developing methods adapted to Antioquia’s schools to teach the students how to live together peacefully.

A soccer game with a different goal

To teach kids to solve conflicts through dialogue and mutual respect, the Francisco Maria Cardona school resorted to a Colombian passion: soccer.

They developed a system where the winning team is not the one that scores more goals, but the one has solved conflicts not by fighting, but by dialoguing and helping each other out.

The school is also on the brink of finishing another project – a local museum, with information the students gathered in their district by talking to parents and grandparents. By knowing about their past, they can build on their future.

This project with all its component is part of the World Bank’s larger engagement with Colombia on education and creating more opportunities for youth, which the World Bank supports with a wide array of financial services, as well as technical assistance and analysis, and by bringing together key actors and stakeholders.