Secondary education is divided into basic secondary education and pre-university secondary education. At the end of basic secondary education, pupils can choose between pre-university education and technical and professional education. Those who complete pre-university education are awarded the Bachillerato. Technical training leads to two levels of qualification - skilled worker and middle-level technician. Successful completion of this cycle gives access to the technological institutes.
Higher education is provided by universities, higher institutes, higher pedagogical institutes, centers of higher education and higher polytechnic institutes. All institutions of higher education are public. The Ministerio de Education Superior (MES) is responsible for policy in matters of undergraduate and postgraduate education. It controls teaching, methodology, courses and programs and the allocation of student places, as well as the specialization courses offered by centers of higher education which come under the control of other ministries. All institutions have the same status.
Stages of studies:
Post-secondary studies (technical/vocational type):
Technical/vocational studies are provided in Institutos superior politécnicos. Studies last for two-and-a-half to three years.
University level studies
University level: Licenciatura:
The first and main stage of higher education usually lasts for four or five years. In Medicine, studies last for five or six years.. Courses that are offered to workers usually last longer than traditional courses. At the end of the first stage, students are awarded a Licenciatura or a Título profesional (professional diploma). Professional titles are awarded in all fields.
University level second stage: Diplomado, Maestría, Especialista:
Diplomado courses have three levels, each requiring some 200 hours of theoretical instruction, practical work, industrial internship and a final project. Students can gain academic credit towards completion of a Master's degree and are allowed to work on a Master's thesis as they progress through Diplomado studies. The second stage corresponds to a period of in-depth study and research which leads to the Maestría after two years. In Medicine, the first stage is usually followed by a course of professional specialization leading to a specific specialization. Especialista programs are designed for people in industry.
University level third stage: Candidato a Doctor en Ciencias:
Three to four year programs lead to the Candidato a Doctor en Ciencias. This qualification is required for entry to studies for the Doctor en Ciencias.
University level fourth stage: Doctor en Ciencias
The Doctor en Ciencias is awarded following additional years of scientific research. The thesis has to be defended before a jury, and once approval is forthcoming, it's then published in academic journals.
Training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers
A five-year course is provided for elementary or special-education teachers in Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos. They obtain the Licenciado en Educación Primaria or other types of degrees.
Training of secondary school teachers
Secondary school teachers are trained in Institutos Superiores Pedagógicos which offer five-year courses to qualify students for basic secondary and upper secondary teachers' certificates. They are conferred a Licenciatura en Educación. Admission to these courses is based on the Bachillerato.
Training of higher education teachers
Higher education teachers are offered specialized upgrading courses in the subjects they teach as well as teacher training courses. Many teachers are professionals from the production field. They also receive teacher training. Where teachers are specially selected graduate students, as has mostly been the case in the last ten years, they receive initial teacher training simultaneously with their studies.
Distance higher education
Non-formal studies are offered in many centers of higher education which provide courses for workers in addition to their traditional full-time courses. Candidates must have completed secondary school, have at least one year's work experience, be between 25 and 35 years of age and pass an entrance examination. These studies are offered as evening or correspondence courses (week-ends) and generally last six years. There are also 'guided' or free courses open to all secondary school or higher education graduates.