Here’s everything you need to know about Costa Rica’s education system The Costa Rica News

According to various reports, Costa Rica ranks fourth among the 94 countries most accessible to education. These studies show that education in the country covers most of the population since the rate of people able to read and write is 90.27% and illiteracy is only 9.73%.

Through constant attention to education, Costa Rica has achieved the highest literacy percentage in Central America, which competes with the world’s largest and most industrialized nations. Since 1970, Costa Rica has invested 28% of the national budget in education and this would not have been possible if armed forces had still existed in the country.

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The education system in Costa Rica is divided into four levels – preschool, primary, secondary and higher education. Article 78 of the country’s Constitution creates the Ministry of Public Education, it is the governing body of the entire education system; which is responsible for promoting the development and consolidation of an educational system of excellence, which allows access for the entire population to quality education, focused on the integral development of the person and the promotion of a Costa Rican society integrated by opportunities and social equity.

The institutional vision is characterized by effective, timely and transparent administrative coordination, which promotes the integral development of the human being in his capacities, necessary to live and integrate into a global society, based on ingenuity, knowledge and the capacities. A ministry that contributes to discovering, understanding, expressing and rebuilding ourselves as citizens of the world capable of being guided in the permanent and critical search for what is just and just.

Some of the many features of the Costa Rican education system include:

Public education: organized as an integral process correlated in its different cycles, from preschool to university.

Preschool education and general basic education are compulsory and free. These and the diversified education in the public system are free and paid for by the Nation.

State-sponsored education, including higher education, public spending will not be less than six percent (6%) of annual gross domestic product, according to the law.

Costa Rica’s education system is recognized as one of the best in the Americas, with Costa Rica having one of the highest rates of literacy, educational coverage and public expenditure on education in Latin America and the best in the Central American region. Likewise, in the country there has been a consolidated public higher education system since the twentieth century, characterized by its excellence.

In 2018, there were around 900,000 students in 1st, 2nd and 3rd. diversified educational cycles, as well as 50,000 teachers. When it comes to physical space, there are around 5,000 schools and colleges.


Since colonial times, education in Costa Rica had primarily religious and political aspects, however, ideas from the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Positivism, and the French Revolution changed the course of Costa Rican education. At first, education was not accessible to Creoles and Aborigines, only to whites of Spanish origin.

The first teacher in the history of Costa Rican education was Father Diego Aguilar, who ran the first primary school and worked there for over 40 years. The Spanish Crown ordered in the 17th century the creation of schools in each province of the then Central American Republic, for “the literacy of the children of the settlers.
the Spanish language and Christian doctrine ”.

A century later, the municipalities of Cartago, San José and Heredia conform to the provisions of the Spanish crown and hire dozens of teachers who are often Catholic priests. At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, education was limited to teaching the most basic aspects and there were no secondary schools or universities. Therefore, students had to go to universities in León, Nicaragua or San Carlos Borromeo in Guatemala.

Dr Florencio del Castillo, Costa Rican representative to the Cortes de Cadiz, played a key role in Costa Rican education since one of his accomplishments was the establishment of schools to teach reading, writing and counting. indigenous children from colonized areas. As a result of Dr. Castillo’s work, the “Santo Tomás Educational House” was established in 1814, teaching philosophy, sacred canons and moral theology.

This is how the Costa Rican education system continued to evolve throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with successive reforms such as: the right to education for women in an education system previously strongly centered on men , the declaration in 1844 that education is a right of The Costa Ricans and the State will guarantee it in all concepts by means of legal provisions and the creation of the Secretariat of Public Instruction in 1869, which was the first regulator of education in the country.


Education in Costa Rica is generally among the best in America. The country – with an educational investment of nearly 8% of its GDP and US $ 800 per student – is one of the few nations that has succeeded in universalizing primary education, practically eradicate illiteracy and have broad coverage for secondary and higher education.

Costa Rica has the best enrollment rates in the region, so at least 90% of its population have completed EGB and between 30-40% have entered the diverse education level and graduated from high school. . In terms of success in pursuing higher education, the national average is the highest in Latin America, with 23% of the adult population being professional graduates.

The Costa Rican education system has been recognized on several occasions as one of the best in the region: according to the Global Competitiveness Index, ethics education is among the most outstanding in the region, with notable strengths in quality of higher education. The University of Costa Rica is the main center of higher education in all of Central America and the Caribbean, and stands eighteenth in the Ibero-American position.

In addition, in the standardized tests of the International Program for the Assessment of Students, Costa Rica ranks third in the subcontinent only behind Chile and Uruguay.

However, decades have lagged behind in the quality and competitiveness of some aspects of Costa Rican education, ranging from severe infrastructural deficiencies in many institutions to the disparity of opportunities that may exist between private education centers and those in the public system. .

The latter marked gaps in its pedagogical model related to updating its content and methodologies, having intense debates on the implementation of far-reaching reforms on topics such as the standardized national high school test, its usefulness. and the form of application.

Education levels

Preschool (1st cycle)

It is the initial part of the formal education system. It includes at least one year and the entry age is 5 years and 6 months completed at the end of February, with a lower margin of 5 years and 3 months completed on the same date. In general, preschool education aims to provide the foundations for the integral development of the child.

General basic education (2nd cycle)

Primary (from 06 to 12 years old). He is the one who ensures correct literacy, that is, the one who teaches reading, writing, basic arithmetic and some of the cultural concepts considered essential. Its objective is to provide all students with a common training that allows the development of individual motor skills, personal balance, relationship and social performance with the acquisition of cultural elements.

Secondary education (3rd cycle, 13 to 17 years old, last compulsory level)

It is the one that aims to train the student to pursue higher education. At the end of secondary education, it is expected that the student will develop skills, values ​​and attitudes sufficient to achieve good development in society. These are the Diurnal and Nocturnal Academic High Schools (3rd Cycle and Diversified Education).

To enter this cycle, it is necessary to have approved the 1st. and 2nd. Cycle. These centers meet the educational needs of the students of these institutions called Liceos (high schools) with the fundamental aim of providing the students with the basic knowledge necessary to interpret, understand and manage the socio-economic and cultural reality of the country.

Diversified education (4th cycle)

As the name suggests, seeks to provide students with various options that tend to meet their educational needs and interests. More specifically, diversified education is divided into three main branches, namely: academic education, technical education and artistic education, which in turn are subdivided into modalities and these into specialties.

The academic branch ends with the award of the high school diploma (called baccalaureate in Spanish), provided that the student passes the final exams of the three annual exams. This diploma gives the person the right to opt for entry into higher education (college). The academic branch only includes two years (tenth and eleventh). As for the Academic Diversified Education program, it includes the subjects of Spanish, social studies, civic education, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, foreign language (English or French), d plastic arts, physical education, religious education, psychology, Philosophy and technology.

Higher education (university)

The aim is to train everyone in the different branches in which they can work. The idea is to create real professionals, people who adapt to the social needs of the country and with the acquired knowledge, help the professional, intellectual and economic growth of the country; as well as developing the capacity of each person to aspire to a higher quality of life.

Rating system

The Ministry of Public Education qualifies on a scale of 1 to 100, one being the lowest grade and one hundred the highest. Likewise, the evaluation system varies depending on whether the institution is public or private. The pupil is tested quantitatively from the second year of primary school and throughout basic general education, the minimum qualification to pass will be 65. From the diversified education, the minimum mark authorized to pass is of 70. With regard to higher education, the evaluation scale and its application vary from one institution to another.

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Janice G. Ball