Education in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country that takes education very seriously. When the government abolished the army after World War II, they moved a large amount of the budget to education, thus raising an "Army of Students." This has been incredibly successful; the adults of Costa Rica boast a 96% literacy rate.
Costa Rica's first elected president, Jose Maria Castro, was a former educator and set the tone with government by making education a priority. In 1869, Costa Rica became the first country in the world to make education free and mandatory. There are several clauses in the constitution which address education, at present more than a quarter of the national budget is spent on education. Costa Ricans are very proud of the fact that they have "more teachers than police."
Even though Costa Rica is located above the equator, the school year runs from mid-February through November. This is a holdover from the days when the whole family was needed to work the harvest in the dryer "summer" months of December & January.
Primary school runs from first through sixth grades and secondary school goes from seventh through eleventh or twelfth grades. You will notice as you drive around Costa Rica that all of the students appear to be wearing uniforms- all public schools have uniforms in an effort to lessen distinctions between students. The uniforms are subsidized by the government so that they are very affordable for all. In the 1980s a law was past making English & computer sciences mandatory in all public schools.
Although public education is free & mandatory, there are also a growing number of private schools all over Costa Rica. The majority of these are in the Central Valley (along with the majority of the population) but there are also some in our area. Along with traditional private schools, there are also North American schools & European schools (including a German school, a French school & even a Japanese school).
There are 3 types of secondary school degrees that are awarded in Costa Rica:
Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma: this is accredited by the Ministry of Education and is awarded after the 11th grade and will prepare you for any university in Costa Rica but will not help you to enter a university overseas.
International Baccalaureate Diploma: This degree begins in the 11th grade and runs through the 12th. It relies on competence in 6 subjects and completion of an independent research project. There are also service & creative requirements. This diploma is accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization in Geneva and should give you the option of attending any university in the world.
United States High School Diploma: The US diploma is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools and is the equivalent of graduating from high school in the States. However, you cannot go to a Costa Rican university with this diploma.
Local Private Schools
While Costa Rica offers a free and mandatory educational system, some people will find that a private education makes more sense for their family. Here is a quick list of private schools in the general vicinity of Del Pacifico which cater to ex-pat families.
Colegio Los Delfines: Located between Parrita & Quepos to the south of Del Pacifico (Paquita, 400 meters east from Lubricentro Costanera Sur, in Quepos). This school runs from kindergarten through 11th grade. Classes are taught in Spanish but they offer intensive English classes as well.
Falcon International School: Located about 30 minutes north of Del Pacifico in Herradura. Opened in 2006, they are a private bilingual school which operates on the North American school calendar. Classes are taught in English except Spanish, art, music & Costa Rica social studies. Currently this is a primary school but with plans to include a high school.
Las Nubes School: Las Nubes is located on the Costanera between Jaco and Herradura. It is a primary school and follows the Costa Rican calendar.