Private Schools in Costa Rica

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    The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – In the late 19th Century private schools and education in Costa Rica was under full control of the government. During this time secondary education became a means for social adaptation outside the influence of the church.

    By the beginning of the 20th Century (1915-1920), with an emerging economy in the field of crop exportation –coffee in particular- social differences became more and more evident. This is how the children of the wealthy owners of coffee plantations began to have more exclusive education, separated from the rest of the society.

    Thus, between 1915 and 1920 the first schools that offered non-governmental education were created. From 1915 the following institutions began to function continuously: Nuestra Señora de Sión High School, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus School, Don Bosco Technical High School, and Maria Auxiliadora High School. In addition, Evans School, Montero and Humboldt were open for a year. Along the next decade other private institutions were created, which were mostly attended by children of wealthy families.

    In the 1940’s there was a significant expansion of secondary private education, which was supported by the new legislation in the 1949 Constitution. The article 79 established: “Freedom of education is guaranteed, however, every school will be under the scrutiny of the State.”

    As a result of the increasing number of private schools, in 1963 The Association of Private Schools was created. It later became the Private Educational Centers Association (ACEP in Spanish), which aims to foster respect for the principle of freedom of teaching and improvement of private education in Costa Rica. In 1992 the Constitutional Chamber ratified respect to this principle as a response to a demand against attempts from the government to control the operation of private schools and high schools.

    There are more than 450 private schools and high schools registered in the Ministry of Education, and most of them are bilingual (they teach English, German, French and Hebrew), and they offer internationally recognized programs such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB). Also, 73.000 children and youngsters are enrolled in private schools, a number that represents 8.6 % of the total number of students in public schools in Costa Rica.

    Last year, 8 out of 10 of the highest grades in the admission tests to state universities came from private schools, whereas 2 came from public schools.
    Definitely, private education has proved to be valuable when it comes to teaching foreign languages such as English, as well as improving the results to admission tests of public universities in Costa Rica.

    Tracy Vargas

    The Costa Rica News (TCRN)
    San José Costa Rica

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