Costa Rica boasts about having more teachers than policemen, and this affirmation is a source of great pride, since Ticos feel that their high education level sets them apart from many less fortunate countries in the world. Many of Costa Rica's leaders have been educators as well, and have placed great importance in the expansion of primary and secondary education, even in the most remote areas of the country. Thanks to these and to ongoing reforms, Costa Rica has a 93% literacy level. Primary education lasts six years, while high school education might be five or six years, the first being academic and the latter technical or professional.
Costa Rica Educational System
A normal school day starts at 7:00am and can finish between 1:00 and 4:00pm. Costa Rica is considered to have one of the best educational systems in Latin America, with even the smallest of towns having their own high school. Students who attend school in Costa Rica concentrate on achieving well academically. Elementary and High Schools are to be found in every community. Students are not required to pay for assistance; a nominal charge of around $20 per year applies. Elementary School .has 6 year levels; where as high school has 5 year levels. Each is divided in two cycles, and upon completion .of each cycle, students are required to pass tests on all subjects studied during those years. The most notorious of these tests are the Bachillerato Tests, which are required to get the high school diploma needed for admission to Universities.
Local community groups provide opportunities for sport, music, art, ecology, and many other interests. At the end of high school, the student will receive a title in "Letras" (similar to "Arts") or in "Ciencias" ("Science). The system which I've described applies to all public schools, but there are also private grammar schools and high schools, which utilize an American or European system. The Ministerio de Educacion or Ministry of Education is responsible for regulating education in all of Costa Rica. There are several articles in the Constitution of Costa Rica that insure the integrity of this system. Jose Maria Castro, the country's first elected president was also a teacher, and because of his reforms and that of following presidents, in 1869 Costa Rica became the first country in the world where education became free and obligatory.
Article 79 guarantees the freedom of education, meaning that educational institutions may confer grammar and high school degrees. Article 80 decrees that the government should stimulate private education; but this is limited mostly tothe elimination of taxes on school supplies. Students in public schools wear an official uniform, in order to lessen social and economic distinctions between students. All of these articles and several others conserve an institution that is sacred in Costa Rica.
There are several North American schools, like Marian Baker School, Country Day School, International Christian School and several others. There is also the German school - Humboldt the French school Franco Costarricense - and the Japanese School -Escuela Japonesa. The explosion of private Costa Rican and foreign schools has lessened over-crowding in the public schools and has provided an alternate educational system for those who can afford it. President Jose Maria Figueres (1994-1998) declared the teaching of English and Computer Science as mandatory in all of the nation's public schools. This implied the training of 500 teachers and a huge expense from the part of the government.