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Costa Rica

Overview

Costa Rica is a Central American country with a success story: it has a relatively stable economy and a history of little conflict and violence. The country borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. It has a mountainous terrain with evidence of volcanic activity. Slightly smaller than West Virginia, it is sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama. Costa Rica has a population of approximately 3,956,507. Its basically secure economy depends on tourism, agriculture and electronic exports.

Education

The Ministerio de Educación Pública serves as the country's ministry of education.

During the early immigration to Costa Rica there were very few schools, and all were run by the Catholic Church. The Universidad de Costa Rica was founded in 1814 as a grammar school. In 1821 after gaining independence, Costa Rica established its first university level programs. In the mid nineteenth century primary education became compulsory and free. Reforms in 1964 changed primary education from purely college preparatory, to academic and vocational. The reform created the ciclo basico (academic track) and the ciclo diversificado (vocational track). The responsibility for establishing educational policy for the primary and secondary levels falls to the Consejo Superior de Educacion.

Costa Rica is a sought after investment opportunity for two major reasons: its stable economy and excellent system of higher education. Higher education is regulated by two organizations. Public universities are regulated by the Consejo Nacional de Rectores (National Council of Rectors) and private universities are regulated by the Consejo Nacional de Educacion Superior de Universidades Privadas (National Council of Higher Education for Private Universities).

The census numbers from 2003 indicate 96% of the total population of Costa Rica can read and write, with a literacy rate of 95.9% of the male population over fifteen and 96.1% of the female population.

Primary and Secondary Education

Today the typical student completes six years of primary and five to six years of secondary education from either a religious or public institution. The eleven or twelve year certificate from either type of institution is the minimum requirement to conatinue to higher education.

Post-Secondary Education

After eleven or twelve years of study the student is eligible to pursue postsecondary education that typically lasts four additional years and results in a Bachiller Universitario or Licenciado degree, which is comparable with a US bachelor's degree. This may lead to further study in graduate level programs. The academic calendar runs from January to December and instruction at all levels is in Spanish.


THE CONTRIBUTORS
robert-watkins53FB0EC00E8D
Robert Watkins

Special Assistant to the Director, University of Texas at Austin

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