Public Schools in Costa Rica

liceoI have noticed that more younger couples are coming to live in Costa Rica and many either have elementary or high school aged children. I would urge these people to read this page carefully.

Costa Rica is touted as a highly literate country, and it is. Ticos are well educated and can read and write well. What is not discussed is that the public schools are generally dirt poor. Some schools, especially in the rural areas, have but one classroom. Even those in the more populated cities lack the "things" that nearly all suburban schools offer in the USA and most parents take for granted.

What do I mean?

  • Textbooks are copies. I mean they have actually photocopied the books and rebound them. Most kids never see a book.
  • There are few if any extracurricular activities of any kind. No after school stuff.
  • No sports, other than futbal (soccer) are offered and sports facilities (pools, running track, etc) do not exist
  • Few public schools even have computers and computer labs are non existent.
  • Playgrounds, if there is one, are not much more than large areas to run around. Stuff like jungle gyms etc, are few.

Get the point? Further, the public school system in Costa Rica often ends at the 9th grade. Schools that offer courses beyond the 9th grade are required to offer the Bachillerato de Educación de Diversificada or National Baccalaureate. These National Baccalaureate school end at 11th grade.  Their calendar year is from February through November.

To me, to bring a child from the USA to that kind of environment, is tantamount to abuse... though maybe that is far too strong a word. To my thinking, if you can not afford to send your kids to one of the private schools, I would urge you parents to consider your child's future and his ability to compete with his peers back home as it is unlikely he will wish to spend his younger years in Costa Rica.

With the National Baccalaureate degree program, the student will take MEP (Ministerio de Educación Publico) tests in the 6th, 9th and 11th grade. This degree allows entrance into University in Costa Rica, but with this diploma alone, it is very difficult if not impossible to enter a University in the United States.

For this reason, most expatriates who move to Costa Rica with school aged children will send them to either a Catholic Schools or to a wide variety of Private Schools.  Most opt for the private schools.

The main function of the public schools is to provide basic literacy not preparation for university here nor college or university elsewhere..  Those students who do have their eye set to higher education will always elect to continue though 11th grade which makes them eligible for admission to most colleges and universities in this country but not in the USA.

For a comprehensive discussion of the various high school (colegio) degrees available in Costa Rica, please see the fine article in Private Schools submitted by contributor Angela Passman.





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