There are a variety of reasons people choose to move to Costa Rica, one of them being the excellent education system. Costa Rica has made international headlines for deciding to disband its military and reallocate military expenditures to the education system. Currently, more than 28% of the national budget goes toward primary and secondary education. With more than 20 years of dedicated work toward improving the country’s education, Costa Rica now boasts the highest literacy rates in all of Central America. When moving to Costa Rica, a big decision for a family will be where to enroll your children in school. While it is widely believed that private and religious institutions in Costa Rica still provide education of a much higher quality than the public schools, if you choose to move to San Jose, you may be in luck. While much of this small country still suffers extreme poverty and substandard school options, the greater San Jose area has better developed public schools and modern curricula. According to a 2016 study by the Ministry of Education of Costa Rica, three of these public schools outscored their private school counterparts in standardized testing. These schools implement high quality curriculum, well-trained teachers, and an appropriate student to teacher ratio.
In Costa Rica, the typical public school will consist of 6 years of primary education followed by 5 years of high school. This system is different from the United States, but high school transcripts will still be accepted by the majority of US universities. If you find yourself relocating to San Jose, you may have an opportunity to skip tuition fees yet still offer your children quality education and college preparation.
1. CCC Sede San Pedro
Located in North San Jose, Colegio Científico Costarricense Sede San Pedro earned an average score of 90.06% on standardized testing in 2016. In fact, this small state school ranked fourth out of all Costa Rica’s schools, including public, private, and parochial systems. While many families still prefer private schools over public, this is one of the best exceptions.
The CCC school system offers courses based on science and technology, preparing their students for higher education or work in the technological field, which is booming in Costa Rica as well as world-wide. The curriculum at this school will differ from other public schools as they encourage critical thinking and trial-and-error learning styles, rather than memorization and repetition. They offer countless extracurricular activities, campus tours for perspective students, and college preparation courses.
2. Colegio Cientifico de Perez Zeledon
The Perez Zeledon Scientific High School is in the Sinai neighborhood of San Jose and ranked among the best public high schools in the country from their exceptional standardized testing scores in 2016. This high school is relatively new, founded in 1993 and is acclaimed for its small class sizes. Currently, they enroll only around 40 students a year, keeping an excellent student-to-teacher ratio. While the school is small and new, they have already managed to win awards on the departmental and country-wide levels.
This small school strives to update their curriculum yearly and improve their testing scores with each graduating class. While a new high school with a less prestigious history may cause concern, this school has proven to out-perform its more experienced peers. They also offer professional preparation courses, school sports, extracurricular activities, and community activities to encourage participation from the students’ families.
3. Colegio Maria Inmaculada
The Maria Inmaculada High School in North San Jose has an interesting structure which they describe as sub-conventional, or mixed public. Half of the students at this school pay tuition, while the other half of the seats are saved for scholarship students from under-deserved populations. This gives your child the opportunity to meet students from every walk of life while still studying under a private, religious-based curriculum. While unconventional, this school managed an average of 84.91% on nation-wide standardized tests, ranking them 26th overall school in the country, among both public and private.
Being half privatized, Maria Inmaculada High has a better campus than would be expected for a public school, with modern classrooms, basketball courts, soccer fields, and high-tech teaching equipment. Among the many benefits, they offer academic counselors, on-site nutritionists, and library services. The well-developed curriculum focuses on a liberal arts education, studying each academic topic throughout the 5 years of high school, and emphasizes the need for community service and preservation of Costa Rica’s traditions.