When making a move abroad, the education system is a factor that weighs heavily upon the minds of families with young children. You want your move to be the beginning of a new and better life for your family, so ensuring that your children will receive quality education is of utmost importance. Fortunately, Costa Rica offers one of the most well-developed education systems in Latin America, from kindergarten to the local universities. Primary and secondary schools are available in both the public and private sectors, and private schools include bilingual academies, faith-based schools, and top-tier academic private schools.
Deciding on Public vs. Private Schooling
Public schools in Costa Rica are free and easily accessible in any part of the country, but with a poor teacher-to-student ratio, many families chose not to pursue this route. The quality of the schools and curricula vary significantly depending on the city, so it may be worthwhile to schedule an interview or tour with a couple of schools in your chosen area. If your child is to enter the public schooling system, he or she will already need to speak a basic level of Spanish. They will not have services to help your child during the language transition, so you may need to hire a private tutor as well.
For incoming families, private schools have been deemed the favorite for both students and parents alike. Almost every city in Costa Rica will have a variety of private school options, including faith based, bilingual immersion schools, and even international academies that can offer their students US diplomas upon graduation. While a Costa Rican high school diploma still qualifies your student to apply to US universities, a US diploma may ease the process. Bilingual high schools are a common choice for relocating families as they can help ease the language transition for your children. The students can attend school in their native languages while being given an incredible opportunity to learn Spanish through language classes and meeting local, bilingual classmates. Your child will most likely not be the only international student at these schools, and having a familiar culture can put your student at ease. Bilingual schools are commonly praised for the quality of education offered and are available in a variety of languages including English, French, German, Japanese, and many more. Catholic or Baptist schools are common in almost every city in Costa Rica as well. These schools will offer your student a faith-based education similar to the religious education school system in the United States. While these schools are usually not bilingual, they do offer small class sizes and quality education.
What are the best schools in Guanacaste?
In the end, what type of schooling system you choose for your children is a deeply personal choice. Both public and private schools have their advantages and disadvantages, something that your family will have to consider depending on your priorities and values. While many families do pursue the public schooling route, it is a less popular choice. Taking all factors into consideration, we comprised a list of the three top schools in the Guanacaste department, and all three are within the private education system.
Option 1: La Paz Community School
La Paz Community School offers education from preschool through high school, a common system in Costa Rica. It is not only accredited and Baccalaureate authorized, it is also a nonprofit organization. This bilingual school utilizes a top-tier academic curriculum while focusing on the teachings of peace within one’s self, family, community, and the entire world. La Paz prioritizes these values by stressing student conduct and offering community events and services, such as “morning peace meetings” and farmers markets. This school is located in Playa Flamingo, close to the Tamarindo beaches and just one hour from the Liberia International Airport.
Option 2: TIDE Academy
TIDE Academy is located right in Tamarindo and boasts an alternative schooling style. This private academy emphasizes academics while trying to find a better balance between school and life. Currently, TIDE operates on a Monday-Thursday schedule, from 8am to 12pm, then with optional activities and classes until 2pm. While this is already an alternative schedule, TIDE goes one step further, letting families set their own unique educational schedules depending on their lifestyle. According to TIDE’s website, “The school will allow students with additional commitments to complete their studies in another location without having to play catch up when they return. Students should not be penalized for living a non-traditional life.” This school is very diverse, having nearly as many international students as local students, and is geared toward families that travel for a significant part of the year. This school is bilingual, but communicates with the families and in online campaigns mostly in English.
Option 3: Waldorf School
Costa Rica has its own Waldorf School in the international Waldorf system. This school is also near Tamarindo, on the road to Santa Cruz. While this school teaches the international principles of the Waldorf education system, it puts a special emphasis on environmental topics, especially preserving local resources. Environmental principles are taught daily and reinforced with a 100% vegetarian lunch menu. This school may be your best bet for those of you wanting your children to learn Spanish quickly, as approximately half the curriculum is taught in the local language, while the other half is in English. Additionally, German is taught up to twice weekly, depending on the grade level. They also emphasize nutrition and physical well-being. This school is only for preschool through fifth grade, so the environment is geared toward young children and preparing them for higher education while still celebrating their childhood.