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The Structure of the Educational System in Costa Rica

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Educational System of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is recognized in Latin America for the quality of its educational system.   The structure of the Costa Rican educational system has provided Costa Rica with one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America.

1. Pre-School Education.The pre-school education in Costa Rica accepts children between the ages of 5 years 6 months upt 6 years and 6 months.

2. General Basic Education.The General Basic Education is mandatory and free for all children without restrictions. To begin the student must be at least 6 years and 6 months old. Costa Rica divides this education into Cycles, from I to IV. Cycle I encompasses grades 1-4. Cycle II are grades 5 and 6. Cycle III are grades 7-9 and Cycle IV is grades 10-12. At the end of cycles I and II the child will receive a diploma for the conclusion of Elementary Education. The children then move to the Cycle III, which is the equivalent of High School, where they must complete Cylces III and IV in order to receive their Secondary Education diploma.

3. Mandatory Testing. The Costa Rica Ministry of Education requires testing of all students (private and public schools) during the final year of high school. The students must pass these exams in order to get their high shcool graduation diploma.  The Final Exams known as Pruebas de Bachillerato, to earn the High School diploma (Bachillerato) centers on Math, Social Studies, Spanish, English, French, Biology and Civics.

4. University Education.In order to be admitted to a Costa Rican University, the applicant must have a high school degree (Bachillerato) recognized by the Ministry of Education. Costa Rica has four public universities: The University of Costa Rica (Universidad de Costa Rica), located in the capital city of San José, was established in 1941.

The National University (Universidad Nacional)  located in the city of Heredia was established in 1973.

Costa Rica Technological Institute (Tecnólogico de Costa Rica). The main campus is located in the city of Cartago and was established in 1971.

UNED (Universidad Estatal a Distancia). The main campus is located in the city of San José and was established in 1977. In addition to the public universities, Costa Rica has more than 65 private universities.

There are also the following specialized Universities:

A. The University for Peace (Universidad de La Paz). This university was established in 1980 by a mandate of the United Nations. The Foundation Charter indicates that it was founded ‘to contribute to the great universal task of educating for peace by engaging in teaching, research, post-graduate training and dissemination of knowledge fundamental to the full development of the human person and societies through the interdisciplinary study of all matters related to peace.

B. EARTH  (Escuela de Agricultura de la Region Tropical Humeda) , located in Guácimo, Limón, Costa Rica is a private, international, non-profit university dedicated to education in the agricultural sciences and natural resources in order to contribute to sustainable development in the tropics by seeking a balance between agricultural production and environmental preservation.

C. INCAE Business School INCAE describes itself as a “a private, non-profit, multinational, higher-education organization devoted to teaching and research endeavors in the fields of business and economics aimed at training and instructing, from a worldwide perspective, individuals capable of successfully holding top management positions in Latin America.”


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