Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Education in Costa Rica

​As aforementioned, we chose Atenas initially 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 text books, and substitute teachers and there is currently only one public school accredited for US universities. We witness the lack of substitute teachers every day. 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 there next class and then return to school. The interesting thing we’ve noticed about the culture, at least here 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. 

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. I found a great interactive map to search schools by location and wrote a separate blog about it here.  Atenas has 2 private school options. 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 school is in Palmares, which is a beautiful city at the top of the mountain about 15-20 km from here. The program is very young and we need to investigate more, but the article we read about Palmares' newly adopted 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.
One of the private schools in Atenas is Atenas Preschool Esquela Colina Azul, which means school in the blue hills. Please visit the website for more information and tuitions. While teaching only 1 class per day in English, they offer many excellent school programs and instill an independent growth system within the respects of nature. The other private school is called Green Valley Atenas School. Please visit the website for more information and tuitions. Green Valley offers ½ curriculums in Spanish and the other ½ in English and they boast freedom with responsibility. We chose to put our oldest in Colina Azul because we wanted him to immerse in the Spanish language, knowing we could reinforce the English language at home. Since Colina Azul only offers classes up to grade 6, other options will need to be visited for high school levels. Now that we have moved to Grecia, there are many other school options since it is a much larger city. Max now attends a public school on our street and has homework everyday. He can speak perfect Spanish and teaches us new words everyday. The school year in Costa Rica begins February 1st and includes many holidays. They are not so picky with ages compared to the states. Since Max was born September 2nd, he was skipped by an entire year because the school year in the states begins September 1st. Here, they allow you to place the child in the same year group according to their birth year, not day. We will keep you informed with what we learn and our experience as this is so important to those of us with children.

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