Colombia’s troubled education system has become the primary issue for many of the candidates in a presidential campaign that has, in the past few weeks, largely degenerated into back-and-forth mudslinging. When Colombians go to the polls this Sunday, these are the proposals they will have to select from.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
Juan Manuel Santos (U Party — Partido de la U)
Vying for his second term in office, President Juan Manuel Santos has the benefit of running on the policies his government has already put in place, and education is no exception.
The “Zero to Forever” program has enrolled 1.2 million children, providing families in poverty with early childhood education and services, according to the president’s website. The program is led by President Santos’s wife, and together, they would like to double the size of the program in a second term.
Another program Santos wants to improve is the “Let’s all Learn” by including mothers and fathers. This program promotes tutoring and more interaction between students and teachers.
Additionally, the president claims to have invested over $1 billion in education during his first term.
That notwithstanding, the incumbent was the last of the five candidates to announce his education agenda, and has not attended any presidential debate covering education.
Santos proposes the following for education, according to his campaign website:
- Improve the quality of public primary and secondary schools
- Build and improve 4,500 schools in rural areas
- Triple the number of scholarships and loans with zero interest rates provided by Colombia’s Institute of Educative Credit (ICETEX), which provides financing to students
- Continue to improve the National Apprenticeship School (SENA) to respond better to the nation’s production needs
- Give computers to 350,000 teachers across the nation and improve the technological abilities of 1,000 rural schools per year
- Expand bilingual education so that students in primary and secondary schools get at least six hours a week
Clara Lopez (Democratic Pole — Polo Democratico)
Along with running mate and onetime presidential candidate Aida Avella, Clara Lopez would expand access to public education by prioritizing education within the national budget and passing tax reform policies, especially taxes on the wealthy.
Clara Lopez’s education proposals make the higher education system her priority. Lopez would like to bring financial stability to the public university system, currently operating under a $6 billion deficit, and pay off existing debt.
According to Clara, universities play a vital role in the development of the country. Students should have their final investigations and practices dedicated to developing strategic areas in the fields of biodiversity, agriculture, water management, and climate change adaptation, a position that reflects the candidate’s broader emphasis on sustainable environmental policy.
Clara Lopez proposes the following for education:
- Tax financial dividends and eliminate tax exemptions to fund education
- Comprehensive free education in all public universities and schools which includes costs associated with a university life for those who cannot afford it
- Double the financing of universities in her first year as president to cover the salary and contract deficit, recurring structural debts, and the tuition paid by Colombian families
- Pay off $4.5 billion of accumulated public university debt throughout five years to stabilize the higher education system as stated under the 1992 Law 30, which outlines how the public universities are administered and financed
- Make the national student scholarship office (ICETEX) a non-for profit enterprise
- ICETEX zero-interest rate loans to finance undergraduate and post-graduate studies in private universities and study abroad programs
- Bring 1.5 million additional children into early education programs
- Build 500 schools throughout the country, each with 350 student capacity
- Rent or renovate 2,500 school buildings
Oscar Ivan Zuluaga (Democratic Center — Centro Democratico)
Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, Santos’ primary rival throughout most of the campaign cycle, has perhaps done more than any other candidate to associate himself with education.
His agenda around providing more technical training starting in high school and improving the quality of teachers and professors. The Democratic Center candidate said he would propose a $3.5 billion investment in education for 2015.
His biggest proposals establish a standard school day and integrate the National Apprenticeship School (SENA) with secondary schools. Students will then be able to graduate high school with a technical degree from SENA.
Zuluaga proposes the following for education:
- Standard eight-hour school day
- Free quality nutrition at all primary and secondary schools
- Higher salaries for teachers and professors
- Integration of the SENA with secondary schools so that students graduate with a technical degree from SENA
- Increase financing for SENA by $750 million
- Free higher education for students in Colombia’s three lowest socio-economic classes
- Increase english education for Colombia’s teachers and students
Enrique Peñalosa (Green Alliance — Alianza Verde)
Peñalosa signaled his desire to make education a priority through his choice of former Minister of Education Isabel Segovia as his vice-presidential running mate.
Peñalosa’s education proposals focus primarily on early childhood education. Peñalosa believes an early childhood education paves the way for success in higher levels of education.
The Green Party candidate’s education reforms revolve primarily around an action plan titled “Behind Teacher Excellence” devised by “Fundacion Compartir.” The plan focuses mainly on training teachers and increasing the resources at their disposal. The action plan calls for competitive salaries and continuous feedback allowing for professional development and mobility.
Peñalosa proposes the following for education:
- Comprehensive attention to all children from zero to five years old to ensure quality early education
- Train and empower preschool educators
- Special emphasis to help children in high-risk zones affected most by the violence and poverty
- Encourage the use of student investigations and final year practices as the key for professional development
- Improve the cooperation between the Ministry of Education and Colciencias, an agency charged with promoting science, technology, and innovation. Increase funding for the sciences from royalties
- Integrate SENA with higher education
- Increase subsidies and access to credit for undergraduate and post-graduate studies
Marta Lucia Ramirez (Conservative Party — Partido Conservador)
Ramirez’s proposed approach to education finance involves redirecting 1% of national GDP to education. The right-leaning candidate, who has made a fight against corruption the focal point of her campaign, says she would reinvest $1 billion of the $4.5 billion she claims to be able to recover from corrupt government contracting to education.
Ramirez would like to see the continued development of a business class in Colombia. One of her main proposals is the formation of a National Polytechnic Institute focused on business education.
Marta Lucia proposes the following for education:
- Establishment of a National Polytechnic School to teach students to be businessmen and women with the schools dedicated to the different needs of each state
- The creation of a National Rural University thats purpose will be having a presence in rural zones and meet farmers’ needs
- SENA will become part of the Ministry of Education to incorporate it better with the national education system
- Each year, 2,000 of Colombia’s brightest students will be offered scholarships to study teaching
- Guarantee nutrition of children zero to five years old, when “their intellectual and capacity to learn is defined”
- Expand virtual education through more computer and internet access in schools
- Incorporate bilingualism in every public school
- Free higher education for people in Colombia’s two lowest socioeconomic classes, and citizens who have served in the military
- Stricter quality control of teachers
- Clara Lopez (Campaign Website)
- Enrique Peñalosa (Campaign Website)
- Juan Manuel Santos (Campaign Website)
- Martha Lucia Ramirez (Campaign Website)
- Oscar Ivan Zuluaga Programa de Gobierno (Campaign Website)
- Más allá de los escándalos, esto proponen los candidatos (La Silla Vacia)
- Zuluaga, Clara, Marta Lucía y Peñalosa y sus propuestas en educación (Semana)