For updated Guanacaste school information, please see our recent posts on Tamarindo-area private schools and Playas del Coco-area private schools.
One of the key considerations for a family when deciding on where to live is their children’s education. Some areas do not have a large selection of schools to choose from, so if you want to reside in a smaller country with a lower population, you may want to look a little harder when finding that perfect school for your kids.
Take Costa Rica, for example. A tiny island country with a limited population, it makes sense that it is home to very few schools. There’s just not enough people to warrant a need for a myriad of educational options. But don’t let that dissuade you. Costa Rica may be small, but it boasts a first-rate schooling system that rivals many more developed countries.
The education system is divided into four parts; preschool, primary, secondary, and higher. All schooling from commencement up to and including the first three years of primary school is completely free and compulsory. This is something you and your children will need to be able to commit to if you choose to reside here; schooling up to age 15 is not optional, it is legally mandated. And the results of this mandate are clear and universally positive.
Costa Ricans take education seriously, and this has led to consistent literacy levels of 95% and higher for all children over age 15. While not quite as high as the USA, UK, and Australia, which sit comfortably at 99%, it is still very impressive. After this initial mandatory and free education period, residents can opt to send their children to college but need to pay. The on the flow of this, is that very few Costa Rican children go on to complete college degrees, with this rate being only around 5%. But this should not necessarily be taken as a negative. Many residents are on wages far lower than developed countries, and it’s also important to remember that most jobs in Costa Rica do not need university-level education. There is less pressure in this part of the world for young people to go to college, and that is reflected in this very low completion rate. If further education is something your child will want to pursue after they complete their high school, then they can do so in Costa Rica, which has six universities.
Another thing you will need to be able to commit to is that all Costa Rican school children have to wear a uniform. This is mandated by law and not negotiable. The uniforms are stipulated by the schools, but not provided by them. You will need to purchase the relevant clothing items and ensure your child wears them, and of course, replace them as your child grows. While in some other countries this is standard, in others, it is a very strange concept. So, it is worth mentioning here as the school uniform is a critical part of Costa Rica’s education system.
School days in Costa Rica are set up differently to most other countries, with the day being split into two sessions and students attending one or the other. The first session usually begins at around 7:00 am, and the second normally finishes at 5:00pm. This can either be incredibly convenient or inconvenient for parents, depending on their schedule, so it’s important to consider this when enrolling your child into school here.
Costa Rica has both public and private schools available, the choice of which will, of course, depend on your child’s individual needs and your budget. While public education is free, if you choose to send your child to a private school, you will be required to pay an enrolment fee, regular term fees, and a bus service fee if needed. Boarding schools are understandably even costlier, yet comparatively, private schools in Costa Rica are still far more affordable than similar educational institutions in more developed countries.
You want to be sure that wherever you are located, your child will have access to top-quality schools so that they receive the very best teaching available, affording them the best possible start in their journey through life and into adulthood. You should conduct careful and informed research and focus on the needs of your child when selecting an educational institution. You should also factor in your means and lifestyle and consider what commitments you will be entering to send your child to school here. Costa Rica has an overall fantastic education system, but whether it is the right choice for you and your child, is ultimately your call.