Education and International Schools in Costa Rica

Education and International Schools in Costa Rica

  • Costa Rica Resort and Estate Properties S.R.L.
  • 10/17/23
If you’re considering a move to Costa Rica with your children, you’ll be happy to know that the country offers a variety of educational options. The education system in Costa Rica is not as rigid as in other countries and is highly regarded and quite affordable. The school year lasts from February to November, with a two-week break in July.
The country’s constitution guarantees free and compulsory education for children between the ages of six and 18, so you can rest assured that your children will have the opportunity to attend school at no cost if this is what you want. The quality of education is good, with a high literacy rate and many university graduates.

Public schools in Costa Rica

Costa Rican public schools are generally considered to be of high quality. The country has a system of both primary and secondary schools, and several steps are taken to ensure that all students have access to education and extracurricular programs. Public schools in Costa Rica are typically smaller than those in the United States, which can benefit students who learn better in a more intimate setting.
Costa Rican public schools tend to be less formal than international private schools. However, students have access to bilingual education in both Spanish and English. They are usually divided into grades 1-6 and 7-11. Most students in Costa Rica attend public schools. There are about 4,000 public schools in the country, with a total of about 1 million students. The average class size is 40 students, but it can be much higher in some areas.
Elementary schools are called “Escuelas.” The second level of the public school system is called “Secundaria” or “Colegios.” If a student wishes to pursue higher education, then they must attend this level. There are three types of high schools in Costa Rica. The first is called “Liceo” which lasts for five years and ends with a general education degree (Bachillerato). The second type is called “Técnico” and is focused on vocational education. The third one is called “Científico” with an intense emphasis on math, physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science.
The university level of education includes at least four years at a public school like “Universidad de Costa Rica” (University of Costa Rica) or a private institution. Upon completion, students receive a “Licenciatura,” a degree that follows the European system. Students can take the “Bachillerato,” a three-year program that ends with a degree similar to a technical degree and one or two years for the “Licenciatura”
The education system in Costa Rica is public and free for all residents, including international students. The quality of education is high, with many programs accredited by the United States. International students who come to study in Costa Rica will find that the public school system is a great option. There may be some challenges with language barriers, but overall, students will be able to receive a top-notch international education while living in Costa Rica.
Though English is spoken in Costa Rica by many people, Spanish is the country’s official language. English instruction typically begins in elementary school and continues through high school. Students attending international schools will most likely be taught by both native Spanish and English speakers, providing them with an immersive experience that will help them become fluent in both languages. For international students, in addition to learning Spanish, students will also learn about Costa Rican culture and history.

The curriculum

The Costa Rican Ministry of Education requires all public and private schools to follow the national curriculum. However, many international schools choose to supplement the national curriculum with their own course offerings and extra-curricular activities. This allows students to receive an internationally recognized education while taking advantage of all that Costa Rica has to offer.
There are many curriculum options available for students in Costa Rica. The International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) programs are the most popular curricula. In Costa Rica, there are three levels of the International Baccalaureate: Primary Years, Middle Years, and Diploma. The Primary Years is equivalent to kindergarten through fifth grade. The Middle Years is equivalent to sixth through tenth grade. The IB is a popular program for students in Costa Rica. The IB program’s main advantage is the curriculum’s flexibility and practicality. Students can choose to study math, science, social studies, and other subjects in either English or Spanish.
The Advanced Placement (AP) programs are designed to challenge students and prepare them for college-level coursework. AP courses are offered in various subjects, including English, History, Science, and Math. The school’s core curriculum includes English, Social Studies, Math, Science, and Spanish classes. The technical schools usually called “institutes” or “technical centers,” offer a three-year program that ends with a national certificate of vocational aptitude (CAP).
The University of Costa Rica (UCR) is the oldest and largest public university in Costa Rica. It was founded in 1843, making it the first university in Central America. The school has three campuses located throughout the country. UCR is a member of the Association of American Universities and offers degrees in medicine, law, engineering, science, social sciences, humanities, art, architecture, and more. The University of Costa Rica has been involved with research projects related to the country’s development since its inception.
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Accreditation: what does it mean?

Accreditation is the process by which a school or educational program is evaluated against a set of standards to ensure quality and improve student outcomes. In Costa Rica, the National Commission for Higher Education (CONESUP) is responsible for accrediting higher education institutions.
There are two types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation applies to the entire institution, while programmatic accreditation applies to specific programs within an institution. For example, a university might be accredited by CONESUP, while its business school might be accredited by the AACSB.
The benefits of attending an accredited institution or program include improved job prospects, greater access to financial aid, and increased transferability of credits. In Costa Rica, employers often prefer candidates who have graduated from an accredited institution, and CONESUP-accredited institutions are eligible for government funding. Most institutions offering higher education in Costa Rica are accredited by CONESUP.

International Schools in Costa Rica

International schools in Costa Rica are becoming increasingly popular as the country becomes more developed and appealing to retirees, foreigners, and investors. Families are drawn to Costa Rica for its safe environment, low cost of living, reliable healthcare system, and, of course, year-round tropical climate.
The number of international schools has grown from just a handful a decade ago to over 20 today. These schools offer a high-quality education comparable to what students receive in their home countries. Students at international schools come from all over the world and bring with them a wealth of different cultures and perspectives.
One of the main reasons that families choose to send their children to international schools is because they want them to be able to attend universities abroad. The curriculum at these schools is typically geared towards preparing students for university-level studies. In addition, many of the teachers at international schools are from other countries and have a wealth of experience teaching students from a variety of backgrounds.
Furthermore, students have the opportunity to learn from experienced and qualified teachers and receive access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources. In addition, most international schools offer a bilingual or immersion program, allowing students to become fluent in another language and achieve academic excellence.
International schools in Costa Rica can be divided into private and public. Private education in Costa Rica is becoming increasingly popular as the country’s economy grows. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), the number of private school students has grown by nearly 60% over the past decade. Private schools are more expensive than public ones but offer a richer curriculum and better facilities. This is definitely true for the country’s international universities, which are considered to be among the best in Latin America.
Prestigious schools typically offer an English-language curriculum and are geared towards students whose parents are expatriates, investors, or diplomats. By attending an international school in Costa Rica, students benefit from a strong academic program and gain a well-rounded education that will prepare them for success in college and beyond. They will also come away with a valuable skill set that includes bilingualism and biculturalism.

Reputable international schools in Costa Rica

There are many great schools to choose from in Costa Rica, all equipped with dual enrollment programs. However, some locations stand out as being particularly ideal for students and their families due to their focus on college preparation. Here are three of the best places to find excellent educational institutions in Costa Rica:

San Jose

The capital city of Costa Rica is home to many top-rated schools, both private and public. In addition to various curriculum options, San Jose also offers a cosmopolitan environment with plenty of cultural and extracurricular activities for students to enjoy. One of the best international schools in San Jose is the British School of Costa Rica. This school offers an excellent education to its students, many of them members of international families, and it caters to children from 3 to 18 years of age.


Just north of San Jose is the city of Heredia, which is home to several excellent international schools. Families looking for a more rural setting will find that Heredia provides a peaceful environment for learning while still being close enough to the capital for easy access to all its amenities. The American International School of Costa Rica, situated in Heredia, has an excellent reputation and challenges both Costa Ricans and international students with a comprehensive curriculum. It is one of the most popular international schools in the country.


Guanacaste province, home to the Pacific coast’s beautiful beaches and resorts, also houses excellent international schools. The province has a distinctly international feel, with many English-speaking expats living year-round there due to the booming real estate market that offers amazing housing opportunities for lower prices than in the capital city. Private schools in Guanacaste are bilingual with an emphasis on teaching courses in both English and Spanish. Tamarindo, one of the most beloved cities in Guanacaste and a popular surfing town, is in close proximity to many of the top-tier daily and boarding schools, including the famous Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA), La Paz Community School, Journey School, Outside the Box Guanacaste, and Educarte.
If you’re looking for a great international school while enjoying sublime ocean views, you could never go wrong with Playa Flamingo. The fabulous Marina Flamingo houses luxurious villas while offering easy access to the classes provided by all of the above-mentioned schools, including the nearby La Paz Community School. La Paz Community School is a bilingual school focusing on the arts and sciences, as well as “peace practices” and environmental topics. This International Baccalaureate authorized school offers Spanish immersion classes and traditional classes taught in English and provides instruction from preschool through high school.

Cost: what is the price tag?

The cost of education and attending an international school in Costa Rica can vary greatly. It all depends on the school you choose and its location. For example, a private school in San Jose will be more expensive than a public school in a smaller town. The average cost of tuition for a private elementary school is around $5,000 per year, while the average cost of tuition for a public elementary school is around $2,500 per year.
Other costs to consider are things like room and board, transportation, and extracurricular activities. If you choose to live on campus at the international school, your room and board costs will be included in your tuition. If you live off campus, you must factor in additional costs like rent, food, and utilities. The cost of education at the high school level is similar to that at the elementary school level. Private schools average around $8,000 per year, while public schools average around $4,000 per year.
However, it is important to note that some excellent scholarships are available for students who wish to attend an international school in Costa Rica. These scholarships can provide a significant amount of financial assistance, so be sure to explore all of your options to make an informed decision regarding the academic future of your children.

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