Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Private School in Atenas to Public School in Grecia and Cebadilla

As aforementioned, we chose to relocate our family from Texas to Atenas, Costa Rica  last year because of the great climate, family friendly, small town feel and close proximity to major infrastructure and airports. Our main concern was school options.  There are many websites out there with emphasis on retirees and empty nesters, so when it came time to research education for our children, more in depth investigation was required.  What we found, which again is why we chose Costa Rica, is the educational options are quite good. After abolishing their military in 1949, many of those funds were funneled into the education system. The public school system provides some of the lowest illiteracy rates in Latin America and the opportunity for most every student to attend a Costa Rican university.  Unfortunately, the public school system does fall short in some areas. The system does not have the funding for computer labs, new, up to date textbooks, and substitute teachers and there are currently only three public schools accredited for US universities. We witnessed the lack of substitute teachers every day in Atenas. If a school teacher is absent during a school day, class does not occur, so students hang out in the park for an hour until their next class and then return to school. The interesting thing we've noticed about the culture, at least in Atenas is the kids stay out of trouble and return to school, even with the down time. I don't think I would have been able to resist the temptation. Private schools on the other hand are as good as most in the US and at a fraction of the cost. We have included a link to search all schools in Costa Rica provided by the Ministerio de Educación Pública. It is an excellent resource using a google map to pinpoint schools, private, public, grantee, from Preschool to College plus Special Education. As you can see from the map below, I have only included Private schools and most of the pins are in the Central Valley. 
There are not many private school options around the beach towns, but there are plenty of options throughout the Central Valley, so if you still want to live on the beach, and you have children, this is something to think about.  Atenas has 2 private school options and some of the larger Central Valley towns have many.  While the public schools might be adequate with plenty of backup teaching at home, we definitely want our children to have the option of going to any university or college when the time comes; and in order to do that, they must graduate from an accredited school.  As far as we know, the only public accredited high schools are in Palmares, San Ramon and Limon. At this time, the program is very young and we need to investigate more, but the article we read about Palmares and the newly adopted program IB program (International Baccalaureate) seems to have very positive feedback, and we even know a Tico family who drive their son to Palmares every day from Atenas so he may receive the opportunity of an accredited education within the public sector.  We have hopes that this will spread throughout the central valley and so on, further cultivating the education options in Costa Rica; which is still currently one of the higher ranked systems in all Latin American countries. There are 16 schools in the program, 3 of which are public. The IB program is only necessary during the high school years so we have plenty of time to advocate enriching Grecia and Atenas schools with the likeness of this wonderful new program and plans to spread throughout CR.


Next we moved to Grecia and really felt the need to assimilate into the Spanish language and Tico culture, so we decided to enroll Max into the local public school at the end of our street when he was only 4 1/2 years old. He did not need to be in a private school this year. He is very social and had already met just about every kid in the neighborhood, so he was begging us to go to school with his new friends. He began speaking better Spanish immediately, but he will really be able to communicate fluently after a year of assimilation. As long as we back up his teaching at home, we feel like this will benefit him well. We also did some checking and, for some reason or another, the school was more structured in San Francisco, than in Atenas. If the teacher could not make it that day, they would shift the kids into another class, not send them out for a walk about. And, since we were living about 300 meters from the school, we can walk him back and forth. This saved us about $60 US that we were paying the bus driver in Atenas, not to mention the $200 US we were paying for his private school tuition. We walked the school and one of the teachers speaks excellent English, but I still conversed in Spanish to practice. The school has plenty of supplies and nice, open air rooms with beautiful views of the mountains surrounding Grecia, along with a large basketball court and playground. There are lovely murals painted on the walls and all the students were extremely attentive to their teachers. When Max began his first day of school, he was so excited to walk to school alongside his new friends. His progress was amazing and he quickly became fluent in Spanish compared to barely learning Spanish in the private school. I highly recommend assimilation to grasp the foreign language. The school is terrific too. There is an apoyo class that Max attended twice per week to help with his Spanish and any other learning issues occurred. We quickly realized he was great at math and he loves science. He has entered the science fair 2 years in a row. 




In the meantime, I found this list of private schools in Grecia. 
Now we have moved to Cebadilla, a small village outside of Atenas because although we loved Grecia, it was far from our business needs. We prefer the location here, but we do miss the school in San Francisco. Max and Sara both attend Víctor Argüello Murillo. This school does not have an administrator, which is the principal and we have noticed several differences. This school does not seem to have as much cohesiveness or direction, but it is still a good school and Max and Sara are learning well. They are both fluent in Spanish and teaching us some of the rules. The teachers are wonderful and welcoming, the main difference has been the cost. Escuela San Francisco often displayed civics with performances called acto civico during, or after food was often served, either in treat form, or a full party with cake and chicken or pizza and a bouncy house. This school seems to always need donations, perhaps because there is not administration. It is not expensive, but it is money, usually weekly. Hopefully they will catch up and hire a principal because I think the teachers are a bit overwhelmed doing both jobs. To read more about our life in Cebadilla, visit our developments' webpage at www.valleverdequintas.com. Pura Vida!


8 comments:

  1. Seriously? You let a 4 1/2 year old walk to school alone with his friends?

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    1. Hello Anonymous, thank you for your comment; however, I do not think you read and understood our blog. Feel free to read it again. We have never let our son walk to school with friends or alone. I clearly stated that we walk him back and forth the whole 300 meters, a short walk in our book. I am sorry if you feel misinformed, but it looks like you need some Pura Vida in your life if you are attacking this story because you missed the whole point. I wrote this blog over a year ago and our son is thriving in his school. He wins science projects and has many friends and is fluent in Spanish. We enjoy walking him to and from school every day, casting our eyes across our lovely mountain views, greeting our friends and neighbors and he will be 6 in less than a month. He will never be in a position to walk alone, this is why we moved here, to spend more time with our family. Have a beautiful day and please only post positive and informed comments on my blog in the future or I will delete them. And questions are always welcome:) Pura Vida!

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  2. Congratulations on your son's fluency and on your ability to remain civil in the face of ignorant disapproval, especially when they question your parenting skills and indeed your love for your kid. What got me about the post is that you were able to resist using English to the bilingual teacher. It is sooo easy to slip back into English when you get a chance, instead of continuing to practice Spanish when you know you should. I took six weeks of lessons in Mexico and at the end I'd still cling to what was comfortable. I need to find that switch and flip it.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. Sounds like you might be looking at a visit to CR. It is way easier to convey feelings in English, but as we practice more and more each day, we are learning the simple phrases in Spanish that help us through many conversations. We have also learned that Spanish only uses 1 word to convey many meanings while English has several words for 1 meaning. In that sense, it is easier. The conjugations are the hardest at this point. We joke that we speak "cave man Spanish". Pura Vida!

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  3. The link for the schools on the map is in Spanish, how do you view in English? Thanks

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    1. Hi and thanks for your comments. If you try searching in the Google Chrome browser, you can enable it to always translate pages to English. Works great! Pura Vida!

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  4. Thanks! Thank you for the blog, this is great information! My husband and 3 children ages 9,7 and 5 are from Canada and are seriously contemplating moving to Costa Rica, especially Grecia in particular or somewhere where there is a private school. I would love to have your email and pick your brain ;) My email is marna60@hotmail.com, Marina. Pura Vida!

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  5. We are looking for information about Centro Educativo Infantil Elisa Alvarez in Palmares. Our twin grand daughters are being enrolled there by their mother. If you could call us on whatsapp 205-299-1800 or email jackbeebe@bellsouth.net. Thanks in advance... Jack & Lynda Beebe Alabaster, AL

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