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Education and Schools

Costa Rica - Education and Schools

Public education is free in Costa Rica and it is mandatory for every child to attend primary school between the ages of 6 and 13. Secondary school education is voluntary. After extensive efforts to improve the education system over the last few decades, Costa Rica has now proudly reached an adult literacy rate of 95% and boasts one of the most effective school systems in Central and South America.

Public schools in Costa Rica will offer education only in Spanish. Most Costa Rican children will attend 6 years of primary school and 5-6 years of secondary school, depending on whether the pupil attends an academic or technical school. During secondary education the first 3 years will cover general topics of study and in the remaining 2-3 years the pupil will specialise in a field. When the pupil completes their secondary education they will receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma in either arts or sciences. This qualification is necessary to attend a Costa Rican university, but may not be sufficient for a student to enrol in university in a country outside of Costa Rica, so do check this carefully as you may need to consider a private school instead.

Private schools in Costa Rica will set their own curriculum, and may even follow U.S. curriculums. Some private schools will offer the opportunity to study for the International Baccalaureate Diploma or the U.S. High School Diploma. Most private schools in Costa Rica are located in San Jose or the Guanacaste region.

When enrolling a child into school in Costa Rica the school may ask for proof of residency or evaluations and transcripts from previous schools, so make sure you are prepared with any relevant documentation. Do also check which year of education corresponds to your child’s current grade level, as it may not be obvious. Every child in Costa Rica is guaranteed a place in primary school (it is mandatory by law) and places in secondary schools are amply available.

The school year in Costa Rica runs from February to December, with two months off in between which coincides with the driest weather and the coffee picking season. Exact term dates can vary but pupils will likely be given 2 weeks’ holiday in July, and may also have public holidays off, including a few days at Easter time (April). Holidays for private schools may differ, and some may even have a break for Thanksgiving (November). A typical school day will begin at 7am and will run for around 6 hours.

On average there are about 28-30 pupils per classroom in Costa Rica and all children in Costa Rican schools must wear uniforms. Very few public schools in Costa Rica offer extracurricular activities therefore it is recommended to enrol your child in a private school if you want them to have plenty of opportunity to learn sports and other activities. Every school in Costa Rica will be able to provide students with access to a computer.

Universities in Costa Rica are divided into public and private universities. It can be competitive to secure a place in the public universities and non-residents must be in possession of a student visa in order to attend university. In public universities courses are provided in Spanish, but individual classes in English may be available on request. Some private universities offer full courses in English. You may wish to contact the following universities for information about their English language degree courses:

Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnologia (ULACIT)
The Latin American University of Science and Technology of Costa Rica.
Tel: +506 2523 4000
Email: info@ulacit.ac.cr

Universidad de Iberoamerica (UNIBE)
An international university specialising in medicine.
Tel: +506 2297 2242
Email: info@unibe.ac.cr

Universidad Veritas
A private university specialising in architecture, art and design.
Tel: +506 2246 4600
Email: info@veritas.cr

The most highly regarded public university in Costa Rica is the University of Costa Rica. For public university, a student can expect to pay tuition fees of around $2500 - $3000 per year for an undergraduate course or around $4000 per year for a post-graduate course, not including living costs. The cost for both private schools and private universities in Costa Rica is likely to be a lot lower than in Western countries such as the US, Canada and the UK.

Read more about this country

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