Costa Rica Country Guide

Everything you need to know about moving to Costa Rica

Expats Guide to Schools in Costa Rica

Young expat families have options when it comes to schooling in Costa Rica

For families with children, one of the most significant considerations is the quality of education available in the host country. Luckily, Costa Rica boasts accessible, affordable, and quality schooling options. 

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Overview of Schooling in Costa Rica

Educational institutions receive accreditation from the Ministry of Public Education (MEP). The country dedicates 6.5% of its GDP to education, one of the highest rates in the world.  It’s literacy rate is 97.9%, which also ranks highly. Costa Rica’s “Rights of the Child” underscores the significance of education in the public system. The primary schooling options in Costa Rica are: public, private, international/bilingual, and home-schooling. 

Public Schools in Costa Rica

Public schools in Costa Rica have distinct differences from their North American counterparts. A typical school day runs from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm, and the academic year spans from February to early December. In some cases, overcrowded schools may divide the day into two sessions. Unlike North America, public schools in Costa Rica do not employ substitute teachers, so if a teacher is absent, students are often sent home for the day. These schools provide a fundamental educational service with limited resources and teaching tools. The prevailing teaching methods prioritize didactic and rote learning, with students typically seated at desks copying information from the board. Public schools also place significant emphasis on music programs, particularly marching bands, and offer cultural studies such as traditional dance.

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Private Schools in Costa Rica

Private schools in Costa Rica, also known as “escuelas privadas,” are a preferred choice for many expat families. These schools provide a higher level of education with a more comprehensive curriculum, often including English language instruction. The advantage of private schools is that they adhere to global educational standards, which can be crucial for expat families planning to return to their home countries. The tuition fees for private schools vary widely, depending on the institution’s reputation and the range of programs offered.

Note: StartAbroad maintains an active database of private institutions across Costa Rica. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.

Bilingual and International Schools in Costa Rica

For expat families looking for a schooling option that offers a seamless transition between Costa Rica and their home country, bilingual and international schools are an excellent choice. These schools follow international curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and offer instruction in both English and Spanish. This setup allows students to maintain proficiency in their native language while becoming fluent in Spanish. Bilingual and international schools often have smaller class sizes, providing personalized attention to students.

Note: StartAbroad maintains an active database of bilingual and international schools across Costa Rica. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.

Homeschooling in Costa Rica Costa Rica

Homeschooling is legal in Costa Rica, but it is subject to fairly stringent regulations and requirements. Homeschooling is regulated by the Ministry of Public Education (Ministerio de Educación Pública or MEP) in Costa Rica.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re interested in homeschooling.

  1. Notification and approval: Homeschooling parents or legal guardians are required to notify the MEP of their intent to homeschool. Approval from the MEP is typically required to establish a legal homeschooling arrangement. The MEP assesses the educational plan and conditions to ensure they meet certain standards.
  2. Curriculum and Eevaluation: Homeschooling parents are generally expected to follow the national curriculum, and there might be periodic evaluations or assessments to monitor the progress of homeschooled students.
  3. Teacher qualifications: In some cases, parents who wanted to homeschool their children need to meet specific qualifications or standards to ensure that they are capable of providing an adequate education.
  4. Regulations and requirements: Regulations and requirements for homeschooling could vary by region within Costa Rica, and it is advisable for parents interested in homeschooling to contact their local MEP office for specific information and guidance.

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