Costa Rica School Systems

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Understanding the School Systems of Costa Rica

Costa Ricans enjoy one of the highest literacy rates in the world: the country boasts 96% literacy in those 10 years old or over. Many of Costa Rica’s early founders, such as the first president Jose Castro, were former teachers concerned with education in Costa Rica. In 1869, the country became one of the first in the world to make education both free and obligatory. In those days, only one in ten Costa Ricans could read and write.

There’s different options for the family moving in Costa Rica. The majority of expats will choose the private education over the public education, especially when their native language is English.


Private Education

Kids enjoying a messy and FUN time painting at Educarte School
Kids enjoying a messy and FUN time painting at Educarte School

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast schools in the Guanacaste province enjoy an exceptional reputation.  There are schools to suit most ages, budgets and education goals. Students from the various academies have been accepted to esteemed North American universities and colleges such as McGill in Canada and MIT in the USA.  Some of the more established private schools in Tamarindo, Playa Conchal and the surrounding areas include :

Educarte Bi-Lingual School 

A great option for young children from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 8.  They also offer a full high school curriculum.  This Bi-Lingual School is affiliated with St. Joseph’s in San Jose.

The “Ocean School” – Costa Rica International Academy
The “Ocean School” – Costa Rica International Academy

CRIA (Costa Rica International Academy)

CRIA is certified and international. They offer from Pre-Kinder to Grade 12. The main language spoken is English and they follow the program in the States. The second language learned is Spanish. All universities of North America and Europe accepts the students from CRIA. They are located in Playa Brasilito, just a few kilometers from the luxury gated community of Reserva Conchal.

La Paz Community School

While a relatively new school – founded in 2012, La Paz Community School is another excellent option.  La Paz holds classes exactly 50/50 for English/Spanish and is internationally certified. They offer from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and are located in the Mar Vista Gated Community in Playa Flamingo.

Kids and teachers gathered around the huge Guanacaste Tree at La Paz School, Costa Rica
Kids and teachers gathered around the huge Guanacaste Tree at La Paz School, Costa Rica


Public Education

The last 20 years have seen a significant boosts to educational standards. Since the 1970’s, Costa Rica has invested more than 28% of the national budget on primary and secondary education. The Constitution mandates that public expenditure in state and higher education should not be less than 16% per annum of the gross domestic product. The Ministry of Public Education is in charge of awarding scholarships and assistance to those in need.

Elementary and High schools are found in every community. Elementary school has 6 year levels, and high school has 5 year levels.

Although the country lacked a university until 1940, Costa Rica now has four state-funded universities and many smaller private universities whose number has increased dramatically in the last decade due to the difficulty of being admitted to state-funded universities. The government facilitates primary or secondary diplomas for adults who failed to complete their education as children.

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