Public School in Costa Rica

Public school in Costa Rica is not as cheap as some would think and it is definitely not free. When you add up the cost of materials and uniforms there are children that drop out of school each year because of the exorbitant cost of these items.

School starts the first or second week of February for public schools as they are on the Costa Rica calendar, usually around the 8th or 10th of the month. When school starts the children are required to motor in with a bag of supplies that equals anywhere from $80-$250.00 worth of supplies. This amount would include the mandatory uniforms that they are required to wear. Add this to the transportation cost which is always extra. And don’t forget the backpack which was not included in the cost mentioned above.

When there is a family of 3 or 4 children this amount adds up for a family of a modest income. There is financial support of some sort but honestly I don’t quite understand how that works. This is built in so that children do not drop out of school before the 11th grade and they go onto to University.

Costa Rica is all about education. They pride themselves on the strong educational backbone of the country and to have this they must support the children in the public schools.

The public schools are very over populated and the children to not get the same education that they do in the private schools, this much I know for a fact. They are short on teachers and the schedules are shorter in hours than the private schools meaning they are not in school for as many hours a day.

I’m sure that there are many bright kids that come out of public schools but I feel that the children have a definite advantage if given a private education in Costa Rica.


July 4th Celebration

Last year, as many of you living in Costa Rica might know, for the first time in almost 50 years, the 4th of July picnic was canceled.  This was very disappointing to all of us that meet many of our friends there each year.

Approximately 3500 expats attend this celebration each year and many plan their vacations around this event.  I know our family never misses it as many of our friends.

You must have a US passport to enter the grounds where it is held.  So only Americans or spouses of Americans are permitted to enter provided you have a US passport.

This year the fun is back on and I’m sure it will be great fun as always for everyone.  Besides all the hot dogs and beer you can consume, there are games for the little kids. There is enough cotton candy and frozen yogurt to keep the kids on a sugar high for the balance of the day.

I think the highlight each year is when the Marines come out in all of their uniforms and straight faced look to raise the flag and sing the US National Anthem.

It still brings a tear to my eye, each year, when thousands of people gather to celebrate their heritage in another country.

We are still, very much, Patriots even though we live in Costa Rica.  Don’t let the term “Ex-Patriots” fool you for a minute. Ex-pats as we are called only means that we are citizens living outside of our home country.  It in no way implies that we are no longer patriots or followers of our country as you can see each year at this fabulous event.

Hope to see you there!


Schools in Guanacaste

Private schools and a good education are not easy to find in Guanacaste.  There is one school that offers the US Diploma and an American style education and that is Country Day-Guanacaste located in Brasilito, 400 meters south of Paradisus Playa Conchal hotel.  This school opened up in 2000 and is a branch of the larger school located in Escazu.

Tuition for this school pre-k to grade 12, full day is $7,040 per year according to a recent article in the Tico Times.

Teocali School is another school located in Liberia, 2 km north of Burger King.  This school offers classes for pre-k-grade 11 but does not offer the US Diploma.  They say that they teach in English and Spanish.  This normally means that the majority of classes are taught in Spanish and only English class is taught in English.  I have not verified this information as I have been unable to contact the school.

Del Mar Academy is another school that is due to open in September of 2007, located in Nosara, between Playa Pelada and downtown Nosara.  They will teach grades pre-k through grade 12 according to the report I referred to earlier.  Tuition is $6,000 per year.

For more information on these schools or schools in the Central Valley, contact us by email.


Spanish classes in Costa Rica

In the better schools of Costa Rica, children are offered one hour a day of spanish instruction. They begin at the beginning for children that know no Spanish at all to intermediate classes where children speak a little Spanish. After one to 2 years your children can be bilingual and after 4-5 years they will be totally bilingual. This is one of the great advantages to living in Costa Rica.

All 3 of our children are completely bilingual and often times we use them to translate the more complicated things and they do it without even thinking about it. Our daughter speaks with a perfect Spanish accent and her spanish is as good as or better than her english.

If you are considering moving to Costa Rica to give your children a chance to learn a second language, I highly recommend it. They learn proper Spanish and this sets them up for great jobs in their future. My daughter can translate most anything given to her after only 5 years of Spanish and my boys aren’t far behind.

For more information on which schools offer SSL (Spanish as a second language) contact Guardian Angels and we can point you in the right direction.

If you are looking for Spanish classes for adults there are literally hundreds of schools to choose from. Some are definately better than others and again, we can recommend the best for your needs.


Schools in Costa Rica

If you are considering relocating to Costa Rica with school age children, schools will be a main concern and more than likely determine your choice of where to live. There are many choices in the Central Valley, which is rich in educational options, offering anything from mainstream public schools to your American based private institutions.

Living outside the Central Valley or surrounding area will decrease your choices for schools. Public schools are available in most areas but generally offer instruction only to the 9th grade as required by law for children ages 6-14. Some of the larger communities will offer private Montessori or Catholic schools, which offer instruction to the 11th grade and the National Baccalaureate.

Primary education lasts 6 years while high school might be 5 or 6 years depending on the school of your choice and which degree/degrees are offered. There are three types of diplomas offered in Costa Rica and this will vary with each school.

* The Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education. (MEP) This is the National Baccalaureate/Diploma of Costa Rica.
* The International Baccalaureate Diploma, accredited by the IBO in Geneva, Switzerland.
* USA High School Diploma, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 9th grade are required to offer the Bachillerato de Educación de Diversificada or National Baccalaureate. With this degree the student will take MEP (Ministerio de Educación Publico) testing in the 6th, 9th and 11th grade. This degree allows entrance into University in Costa Rica. With this diploma alone, it is very difficult if not impossible to enter a University in the United States.

The second type offered by the European Schools is the IB or International Baccalaureate. To earn the IB diploma, students must complete and test in six IB subjects; write an extended 4000 word essay of independent research guided by a faculty mentor, complete 150 hours of (CAS) creative, action, and service activities; and participate in a critical thinking course called Theory of Knowledge. The program begins in the 11th grade and is completed in the 12th grade. Entrance into University in the USA, Europe or Latin America is tenable with this degree accredited by the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) in Geneva Switzerland.

The third type of degree is the United States Diploma, which will allow entrance into University in the United States or Europe and other parts of the world. You cannot however enter University in Costa Rica with this diploma alone. The United States Diploma is available at all of the American Schools in Costa Rica. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, otherwise known as SACS, accredits all of these schools.

Where the IB is not offered, in the American Schools, many students opt for 2 diplomas to open more doors and allow more opportunity for them when choosing a University. They work for the National Baccalaureate then go onto the 12th grade for the United States Diploma. When this is the case, during the 12th grade many students take AP (Advanced Placement) courses, with passage leading to college credit. In addition, many students are bilingual by this time and are able to test out of foreign language in University by passing the AP Spanish test.

AP courses are offered in most topics from English to Calculus. If interested in Advance Placement Courses, you will need to check with your school of interest to see which courses are available because this too varies from school to school.

Public, Catholic, and some of the private European schools operate on the Costa Rican schedule which runs mid February to the end of November. Schools following the United States curriculum operate on a United States calendar starting the middle of August and finishing in June with a month off for Christmas in December and January.


More on Children’s Day

The children came home today full of candy with painted faces and high on chocolate.  They had a blast at the school festivities in their honor.

This is not supposed to be anything like Christmas but I have found through the years that any excuse to buy presents for my children, I tend to go overboard. Bouncyballs, stuffed animals, hotwheels, baseballs and bats and more.

Tomorrow (the actual Children’s day) they are participating in a neighborhood party for the children.  They will have more candy, more chocolate, pinata’s and lots of fun.

This country really loves their kids and I think it’s great that they have a day, or in this case 2 days celebrating the life of the children.


Kids out of school for the summer

TaraJon, Sladyn and Ronan are out of school for the summer and driving us nuts. I suppose all parents have the same problem that we are having with trying to keep them entertained. They want to go go go everyday but with John and I both working that is not possible. They have so much energy when they don’t get out they make us crazy by the end of the day. Unfortunately there are not a lot of summer activities in Costa Rica for kids. Since Costa Rican kids are still in school, there are no camps that we can send them to. They don’t really do that here so it’s up to the parents to come up with activities to keep them occupied…this is going to be a long summer. Fortunately for the parents, they are only out for 2 months since they get a month off in December/January. Any suggestions on what to do with them would be appreciated. I’ve run out of ideas.


Birthday parties

If you have children, you will have birthday parties. This particular weekend we had 2 parties in one day at the same time. Time to clone the kids so you can make it to both without offending anyone. The thing about the parties here are that EVERYONE comes….the parents, the siblings and sometimes even the cousins. Parties are so much different here from what I remember in the states. Of course there has to be a theme, easy enough but then it gets complicated…you must have 2 menu’s, one for the children (usually hamburgers, hot dogs or old faithful pizza) then a sit down dinner for the parents (rice/chicken or something like it). Imagine 20-30 kids plus all their family. You need a lot of space and a LOT of patience to pull this off. Thank goodness some things are cheaper here than in the US so you don’t need to take out a loan to give a birthday party, even one as extravagant as I have described.
Two of my children are getting into their tweens so it’s not cool for mom to stay at the party THANK GOD!!! I much prefer the drop offs where you don’t have to make conversation for 3 hours with people you don’t know and often don’t speak the same language. Don’t get me wrong…people here are very sweet and very accomodating to those of us that are not completely fluent in the language but it can still be very uncomfortable to be in this type of situation for several hours when you would much rather be doing something else…anything else.

At any rate…the children do have fun and we are creating memories so I guess it’s worth it.