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Costa Rica at a Glance

Education in Costa Rica

Living in Costa Rica, Central America’s green paradise with its amazing scenery, is a prospect that attracts many retiring expats — and a sudden reality for many assignees. Are you one of them? The InterNations Guide to Costa Rica gives tips on healthcare, traffic, safety, and more!

A Well-Educated Population

Since 1948, Costa Rica has been one of the few countries without a military, and is probably the most significant nation without an army after Japan. The expenditures the nation used to have for arms and their standing army were redirected towards, amongst others, education. It is included in the constitution that the government allocates a minimum of 8% of GDP annually to education. This is one of the reasons why today, Costa Rica boasts the most advanced and highest quality education system in the region.

Education is generally free in Costa Rica, and every citizen is obligated to receive education by law. Thus, the literacy rate is one of the highest of all Latin American countries; for youth between the ages of 15 and 24, the literacy rate is 98%. In a report by the World Economic Forum in 2015, the Costa Rican education system was also ranked highest in Latin America.

Primary education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 13, and is attended by almost every child in the country. Secondary education leaves pupils two choices of specification: academic (5 years) and technical (6 years) schools. Both types of institution enable students to acquire high school diplomas, which qualify them for tertiary education at universities.

The Ministry of Education introduced programs to guarantee widespread knowledge in computer sciences and English as a second language (ESL) to keep the Costa Rican youth and workforce on par with international standards. ESL in particular is a main focus. The Ministry hopes to get 25% of high school graduates to C1 level of skill (“competent user”), and all others to at least basic levels of comprehension in the years to come. Including both public and private schools, 85% of students at the primary level attend English classes throughout Costa Rica.     

Schooling for Expat Kids

The nation is also home to a variety of private schools of different cultural backgrounds, including the US, UK, France, Germany, and Israel, amongst others. Expat children will feel right at home at these bilingual schools and remain in touch with their native culture. Expats moving to Costa Rica with their teenage kids could also simply enroll their offspring in the local high schools, as the quality of education in Costa Rica is exceptionally high for the region.

The Costa Rican education system provides the country with a steady stream of new, highly skilled future professionals and is one of the main pillars of the nation’s social and economic stability and prosperity. All this educational excellence unfortunately comes at a price for expats. As we have mentioned in our article on working in Costa Rica, your chances of employment in the country are slim to none if you do not possess special skills that are not available or rare domestically. Only specifically trained professionals or company heads have a real shot at legally working in Costa Rica.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine