Private Schools in Costa Rica

There are a fairly large number of private schools in Costa Rica.

What is VERY important to understand is that the diplomas these schools offer (and several schools offer a choice) is critical based on what are your child's post high school (colegio) plans.

Contributor Angela Passman was kind enough to provide a very detailed description of these diplomas and her article appears below.  I strongly urge you to read carefully her contribution.  For example, certain diplomas will not be accepted by US colleges and universities.  Some schools only teach through 11th grade.  Other follow different calendar years.  Without reading Angela's article, you will not have a clear understanding of Costa Rica schools and how they are structured.  You will also not understand the abbreviations used in describing these schools in our list of private schools that appears below. 

Table of Contents

Private high school degree programs in Costa Rica Private Schools
List of Private schools, web sites and contact Information


Private Schools of Costa Rica

by Angela C Passman with updates and changes by Tim Lytle
© Angela Passman
© 2012  Angela Passman and Tim Lytle
Used with Permission

Costa Ricans feel that their high education level sets them apart from other less fortunate countries in the world. Therefore, there has been a great importance placed in the expansion of primary and secondary education even in the most remote areas of the country. Because of this and ongoing reforms, Costa Rica holds a 93% literacy rate, one of the highest in Latin America, second only to Cuba. Costa Rica also has the most stable democracy in Central America and it is believed that the emphasis on education has a lot to do with that status.

If you are considering relocating to Costa Rica with school age children, schools will be a main concern and more than likely determine your choice of where to live. There are many choices in the Central Valley, which is rich in educational options, offering anything from mainstream public schools to your American based private institutions.

Living outside the Central Valley or surrounding area will decrease your choices for schools. Most are located in the Central Valley. Public schools are available in most areas but generally offer instruction only to the 9th grade as required by law for children ages 6-14. Some of the larger communities will offer private Montessori or Catholic schools, which offer instruction to the 11th grade and the National Baccalaureate.

Primary education lasts 6 years while high school might be 5 or 6 years depending on the school of your choice and which degree/degrees are offered. There are three types of diplomas offered in Costa Rica and this will vary with each school.

  1. The Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education. (MEP) This is the National Baccalaureate/Diploma of Costa Rica.
  2. The International Baccalaureate Diploma, accredited by the IBO in Geneva, Switzerland.
  3. USA High School Diploma, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

Schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 9th grade are required to offer the Bachillerato de Educación de Diversificada or National Baccalaureate. With this degree the student will take MEP (Ministerio de Educación Publico) testing in the 6th, 9th and 11th grade. This degree allows entrance into University in Costa Rica. With this diploma alone, it is very difficult if not impossible to enter a University in the United States.

The second type offered is the IB or International Baccalaureate.

To earn the IB diploma, students must complete and test in six IB subjects; write an extended 4000 word essay of independent research guided by a faculty mentor, complete 150 hours of (CAS) creative, action, and service activities; and participate in a critical thinking course called Theory of Knowledge. The program begins in the 11th grade and is completed in the 12th grade. Entrance into University in the USA, Europe or Latin America is tenable with this degree accredited by the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) in Geneva Switzerland.

The third type of degree is the United States Diploma, which will allow entrance into University in the United States or Europe and other parts of the world. You cannot however enter University in Costa Rica with this diploma alone. The United States Diploma is available at all of the American Schools in Costa Rica.


The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, otherwise known as SACS, accredits all of these schools. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools does as well, as do perhaps others. SACS used to be the only accreditation association here due to geographic boundaries drawn up by the accrediting agencies.  This has apparently been changed.

Where the IB is not offered, in the American Schools, many students opt for 2 diplomas to open more doors and allow more opportunity for them when choosing a University. They work for the National Baccalaureate then go onto the 12th grade for the United States Diploma. When this is the case, during the 12th grade many students take AP (Advanced Placement) courses, with passage leading to college credit. In addition, many students are bilingual by this time and are able to test out of foreign language in University by passing the AP Spanish test.

AP courses are offered in most topics from English to Calculus. If interested in Advance Placement Courses, you will need to check with your school of interest to see which courses are available because this too varies from school to school.

School Calendar year

Public, Catholic, and some of the private European schools operate on the Costa Rican schedule which runs mid February to the end of November. Schools following the United States curriculum operate on a United States calendar starting the middle of August and finishing in June with a month off for Christmas in December and January.


List of Costa Rica Private Grade,
High Schools or Secondary Schools in Costa Rica

This is only a small list of schools available to students in Costa Rica. There are many good Catholic and public schools that are not included in this list simply because there are so many. This list is comprised of the more popular schools in Costa Rica.


When considering any private school in Costa Rica, you MUST do your own investigation.

Not only should you get good references from other parents who have children enrolled, but you MUST verify who is accrediting agency for that school.

Accreditation is critical. No accreditation (or accreditation from a poorly respected accreditation agency) can and will affect your child's ability to continue their edication.

Investigate BOTH school and their accreditation.

American International School Pre-K – 12

School of 180 students located in Cariari, Heredia. Classes are taught in English and the school follows the United States calendar and a United States curriculum. English as a second language (ESL) and Spanish as a second language (SSL) are both offered at no additional fee. What distinguishes AIS from other international schools is its family-oriented environment, student to teacher ratio of 12:1, and acceptance of all siblings including those with special needs. Two diplomas are offered at AIS, the National Baccalaureate and the United States Diploma.

Contact information:

Telephone +506-2293-2567
Fax +506-2293-0964

General Info:

Director: Larue Goldfinch

Principal: Neli Santiago


Blue Valley School Pre-K – 12

School of 580 students located in Escazu. Classes are taught in English, and Spanish is offered at an additional fee with private tutors. What distinguishes Blue Valley from other international schools is that they run on both the Costa Rican and the United States calendar. This school offers the IB (International Baccalaureate) and the MEP (National Baccalaureate) but does not offer the United States Diploma.

Contact Information:

Telephone 506-2215-2203 Primary-Susana Cisneros
Fax 506-2215-2205 Secondary-Ana Cristina Marti  website: 

British School Pre-K –12

School of 900 students is located in Rohrmoser and operates on the Costa Rican calendar. Classes are taught in English, however, ESL and SSL are offered only at the primary level. Eighty-five percent of the student body is native Costa Ricans while the remaining 15% consists of 21 different nationalities that includes British, Canadian, US and other European nationals. What distinguishes the British School, is the International Primary Curriculum, the International Certificate of Education, and the (IB) International Baccalaureate.

Contact Information:

Telephone 506-2220-0131 Primary-Susan Bird
Fax 506-2232-7822 Secondary-Trevor Davis
Email:   For their website: Click Here


Country Day School Pre-K – 12

School of 800 students located in the hills of Escazu, which operates on the United States calendar with a United States curriculum.  All classes are in English, except for Spanish. A minimum level of English is required for admission, however 100% proficiency is not required.

ESL (English as a second language) is offered. 

CDS also has a branch in Guanacaste. See below.

CDS offers the National Baccalaureate as well as the United States Diploma.

Contact Information:

Telephone 506-2289-8406 Director-Robert Trent
Fax 506-2228-2076 Primary- William Large
Email:  website:


Country Day School Guanacaste

A branch of the Country Day School,  this campus offers a similar curriculum. All subjects are taught in English except Spanish.

Contact Information:

Guanacaste Operations Director: Patrick Brown
Telephone: 506 2654-5042
Fax: 506 2654-5044,


European School Pre-K – 12

School of 300 students located in San Pablo de Heredia follows its own calendar from late July to late June, breaking every nine to ten weeks for short vacations. Classes are taught in English only, and if you are not fluent in English you will not be accepted in this school. Students that do not speak Spanish require additional tutoring supplements ($$) to the regular curriculum. In other words, students should be bilingual when entering this school or be prepared to pay additional fees for tutoring. Both the IB (International Baccalaureate) and the National Baccalaureate are offered at the European School.

Contact Information:

Telephone: 506-2261-0717 Director/Owner- Anne Arronson
Fax: 506-2237-4060 Principal- Anne Arronson
Email:    website:


Humboldt School Pre-K - 12

Located in Rohrmoser with approximately 950 students.

Classes are taught in German, English and Spanish. To be accepted into this school you must complete the admission process described in our Website.

The German Baccalaureate (Abitur) and the National Baccalaureate are offered in the Humboldt-School.

Telephone 506-2232-1455
Fax 506-2232-0093



International Christian School Pre-K – 12

Located in San Miguel, Santo Domingo de Heredia. Operates on the United States calendar year with a United States curriculum. With 600 students, ICS is a multi-national school teaching in English. What distinguishes this school from others is that it promotes the active lordship of Jesus Christ in all respects of life with Bible classes being a part of the curriculum. ICS has both ESL and SSL program, and offers both the National Baccalaureate and the United States Diploma.

Contact Information:

Telephone 506-2241-1445 Director/Owner: William Tabor
Fax 506-2241-4944 Principals: Mike & David Tabor
Email:  website:


Lincoln School Pre-K – 12

Largest private school in Costa Rica with 1100 children enrolled, located in Santo Domingo, Heredia, Costa Rica outside of San Jose. Classes are taught in English following the United States curriculum and United States calendar. ESL & SSL are offered in addition to the regular schedule. What distinguishes Lincoln from other schools is that it offers all three diplomas, the International Baccalaureate, National Baccalaureate, and the United States Diploma.

Contact Information:

Telephone 506-2247-6600
Fax 506-2247-6700
Apdo. 1919-1000 San José Costa Rica
Director-Jack Bimrose
High School Principal - Charles Prince
Email:  website:


Marian Baker

School of 200 located in San Ramon de Trios, between San Jose and Cartago. This school offers a United States and Costa Rican based curriculum following the United States schedule. Classes are taught in English however ESL and SSL are taught for those that are not at the same level of the other children. Marian Baker offers both the National Baccalaureate and the United States Diploma.

Contact Information:

Telephone 506-2273-3426 Director-Linda Niehaus
Fax 506-2234-4609 Principals-Sylvia Soto & Sandra Krause
Email:  website:


Pan American School Pre-K – 11

School of 600 students located in San Antonio de Belen, and operates on a Costa Rica calendar with a Costa Rica Curriculum. Classes are taught in English and in Spanish. This is the only school on the list that doesn’t go to the 12th grade. Classes go to the 11th grade finishing with National Baccalaureate. This school is very popular in the Central Valley because of the excellent education that is offered.

Contact Information:

Telephone 506-2298-5700 Director-Alegria Lores
Fax 506-2293-7392 Principals- Janet Odio & Carmel Chimienti
Email:  website:


The Monteverde Friends School, Monteverde, Costa Rica  K-12

Nestled in the cloud forest community of Monteverde, Costa Rica, the Monteverde Friends School was founded over 50 years ago by Quakers who left the United States in search of a country and community that supported their peaceful principles. Today, the school continues to promote the universal values of peace, love and respect in the context of a challenging bilingual education and a sense of community.

Contact Information:

Mailing Address in the U.S.:

Monteverde Friends US, Inc.
P.O. Box 88
New Gretna, NJ 08224

In Costa Rica:

Monteverde Friends School
5655 Monteverde, Puntarenas
Costa Rica

Telephone +506-2645-5302
Email:  website:


The Cloud Forest School, Monteverde, Costa Rica, K-11

The Cloud Forest School, locally known as the Centro de Educación Creativa, is a bilingual school located in the tropical cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Founded in 1991 to increase educational opportunities for a growing population of school-age children in the area, this independent school offers creative, experiential instruction to over 200 students with an emphasis on integrating environmental education into all aspects of the school.

Mailing Address:

Centro de Educación Creativa
Apartado 23-5655
Monteverde, Puntarenas
Costa Rica

Telephone: +506-2645-5161
FAX:  +506-2645-5480

Email: Web Site:



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