El Camino Academy (ECA) was founded in 1980 by a group of North American missionary parents who desired a U.S.-based curriculum for their children’s education, allowing for easier transition upon return to the States. Its motto is “Training for Life,” based on Deuteronomy 6:5-7. Providing an education based on biblical values at a moderate cost was also important.
ECA was created as a non-profit association, Asociación El Camino Real – El Camino Academy, and the goal was to serve children of Christian North American families who shared a common language and cultural traditions. Since its foundation, ECA has been a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and has been accredited for three terms. Currently, ECA is moving toward its fourth accreditation term, this time with a joint accreditation with Middle States of America (MSA).
ECA had 25 students and 3 teachers its first year, with children in 1st – 7th grades. Classes were held in a church in the San Nicolás neighborhood in northern Bogotá. The school later moved into one rented house, and then two houses, and finally three houses in the Pontevedra neighborhood. The school gradually grew to 75 students in kindergarten – 12th grade. The first high school graduation was held in 1989 with two graduates.
By that point, the board decided it was time to buy property for the school, and a lot was purchased on Calle 222, a few blocks west of Autopista Norte. With a donation of some used prefabricated buildings, the school moved to the new location to begin the 1994-95 school year, with a student body of close to 100 students. Gradually, the new site was developed, and the school continued to grow. The annual spring play became well-known for its excellence, and other programs began to appear, including service outreaches, student council, and school publications. In 1999, ECA went through the rigorous self-study and team visit process, which led to being accredited by ACSI.
In April 2000, an adjoining lot was purchased with the idea of building a new, more permanent building. That same year Asociación Educando con Cristo was created, with approval from the Colombian Secretary of Education, as the legal entity in charge of managing the school. Asociación El Camino Real moved into a background “watchdog” role with the goal of ensuring that ECA continue true to the original vision of the founders.
In 2002 ECA became a member of the Colombian Association of Christian Schools, OBED, in which it continues to be active. In 2003, ECA was officially recognized as a Colombian school by the Colombian Secretary of Education, and the graduating class that year was the first to be able to receive both a U.S. and a Colombian diploma.
In 2004, 12th grade Colombian students started taking the ICFES exam, a test similar to the SAT or ACT in the U.S., and the test results, now called SABER, have ranked ECA in the top category every year except two. ECA has ranked #1 in the country (out of around 12,000 schools) in English 2 years, and multiple times has been in the top .1% in English. ECA has also placed in the top 15 schools overall, and ECA students have placed in the top .1% of individual scores multiple times. Due to the small size of the senior class (under 25 students), scores can vary year-to-year, but ECA consistently places as the top Christian school in the country and ranks well overall.
In spring 2006, classes were held for the first time in the first phase of the newly constructed building. The second phase was inaugurated in 2009, including the library, computer labs, additional classrooms, and administrative offices. The main soccer field was extended to better serve the sport Colombians are passionate about. In 2011, the Colombian government recognized ACSI as a valid accreditation organization in Colombia.
Construction continued, and in spring 2015, the third floor, with a science lab, music and art rooms, and a multipurpose room, began to be used. God’s grace was evident as all construction was done without incurring a standing debt.
Service and mission opportunities became more varied, and all students are involved in some type of regular outreach throughout the year. In 2017 over 50 students and staff participated in five different mission outreaches during Holy Week, reaching different regions and people groups within Colombia. Students also participate in model United Nations, multi-school speech contests, spelling bees, and friendly sports matches, among other things.
ECA continues true to its vision as an interdenominational Christian school that offers an American education to approximately 300 students in grades pre-kinder to 12th. About 70% of the almost 50 teachers on its staff are North American missionaries. ECA serves families from about ten Christian missions and about 80 different evangelical churches. All students graduate with an American high school diploma, and Colombian and foreign students who so wish may receive a Colombian high school diploma, as well. Over 80% of the students are now Colombians – the population has changed radically from the first years – and ECA continues to emphasize high academic standards, bilingual skills, discipleship, service, and leadership.