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Costa Rica schools for expats

Finding the right place for your kids

Table of Contents

A Guide to Costa Rica Schools for Expats

If you are moving to Costa Rica with family, providing your children with a quality education is paramount. Whether it's for a long-term relocation or an extended vacation, one of the most crucial factors to consider when planning your adventure is your children's learning journey.

Key Takeaways:

  • Costa Rica has public (Spanish) and private (bilingual/international) schools for expats.
  • Public schools are free for residents but require Spanish proficiency.
  • Private schools offer more language options but come with tuition fees.
  • School quality varies, so consider factors like teachers and curriculum when choosing.

Moving with Kids: Expat Schools in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers a unique and immersive experience for expat families, and this includes access to a wide array of educational options. From public schools that provide a chance to immerse your children in the local culture to prestigious private institutions that offer bilingual programs, Costa Rica boasts a rich educational landscape for expats.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the world of Costa Rica international schools, including insights into the available public school options, ensuring you make an informed decision that aligns with your family's needs and aspirations.

And, if you're concerned about language barriers, don't worry, we're here to assist you. We provide online Spanish lessons to ensure your children thrive in their new environment. To explore our fee and package options for tutoring sessions, simply visit our website.

So, let's embark on this educational journey together and discover how to give your children the best possible start in their Costa Rican adventure.

Expat Education in Costa Rica: Your Essential FAQ Guide

When considering your child's education in Costa Rica, it's only natural for a multitude of questions to arise. To help simplify the decision-making process, we've gathered some of the most common inquiries expat families have about the education system in this vibrant country. From school hours and language options to school quality and costs, we've got you covered with answers to these essential questions, ensuring you make an informed choice for your children's educational journey in Costa Rica.

Cute siblings resting in green garden

How many hours a day do kids go to school in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, the typical school day for students varies depending on factors such as their age and whether they attend a public or private school. In private institutions, students typically stay at school from 8 AM to 2 or 3 PM. However, in the public system, the schedule varies according to the student's age:

  • Primary school students usually attend classes from around 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
  • Secondary school students might have a slightly longer school day, often from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

It's essential to check with individual schools for specific schedules, as they may vary.

Do schools in Costa Rica speak English?

While there are a great number of bilingual schools in Costa Rica that provide education in both Spanish and English, it's essential to note that in public schools, the primary language of instruction is Spanish. Public school students study English as a second language, but the rest of their subjects are taught in Spanish. Therefore, if you're seeking an English-speaking environment for your child's education, private bilingual or international schools may be a more suitable choice, as they provide a more immersive English education experience.

How much do schools cost in Costa Rica?

The cost of schooling in Costa Rica can vary widely, depending on whether you choose a public or private institution. Public schools are generally free for residents, including expats with legal residency. However, many expat families opt for private schools to access bilingual education or specific programs. Private school fees can range from moderately affordable to quite expensive, depending on the school's reputation and facilities. At the end of this article, you will find a comparative analysis of tuition fees and other relevant factors to assist you in making the most informed decision for your family.

Are the schools in Costa Rica good?

Costa Rica boasts a mix of both public and private schools, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The quality of education can vary from one institution to another. To assess the quality of a school, consider factors such as teacher qualifications, class sizes, curriculum, and student performance. We recommend scheduling an interview with the school administration, which can often be conducted online. These conversations can be invaluable in making an informed decision about enrolling your children in a particular school.

What's the student-to-teacher ratio in Costa Rican schools?

The student-to-teacher ratio in Costa Rican schools can vary depending on the type of school and the grade level.

  • In general, public schools may have larger class sizes, often with a student-to-teacher ratio that ranges from 20 to 30 students per teacher.
  • Private schools, especially those offering bilingual or international programs, tend to have smaller class sizes, resulting in a more favourable ratio of 10 to 15 students per teacher.

These ratios can impact the level of individual attention your child receives, so it's advisable to consider them when choosing the right school for your family.

How long is Christmas break in Costa Rica?

Christmas break in Costa Rica, known locally as “vacaciones de Navidad”, typically lasts for approximately two to three weeks, starting in mid-December.

It's important to note that the duration of Christmas break in Costa Rica can vary between private and public schools:

  • In public schools, this holiday period is often the longest break of the academic year, extending up to two months, starting in December and concluding in February.
  • Private schools tend to have a shorter Christmas break, typically ranging from two to four weeks. This difference is due to private schools aligning their academic calendar with the Northern Hemisphere summer, from June to August.

It's essential to be aware of these distinctions while planning your child's academic schedule, as it can impact your family's holiday plans and overall school experience in Costa Rica.

With these essential questions answered, you're now well-equipped to explore the two main educational options in Costa Rica: the public and the private schools for expats in Costa Rica.

boy climbing up on tree

Public School System in Costa Rica: Unveiling the Basics

(When considering your child's education in Costa Rica, questions like “How many hours a day do kids go to school in Costa Rica?” and “Do schools in Costa Rica speak English?” are likely to pop up. But the crucial question is, “Are the schools in Costa Rica good?” In this section, we'll delve into the Costa Rican public school system, addressing these queries and more. Let's unravel the essential details about the country's educational landscape to help you make the best choices for your child's schooling.)

In this section, we'll delve into the Costa Rican public school system, unravelling its intricacies and providing insights to clear up your doubts. Let's explore the essential details about the country's educational landscape to help you make the best choices for your child's schooling

Costa Rica has a proud legacy of providing free and mandatory education to all its citizens, making it a pioneer in Central America. With a literacy rate of 97.98%, the country boasts one of the strongest educational foundations in the region.

So, what's the deal with the education system in Costa Rica? Here's the lowdown:

  • Primary Education (Ages 6-13): This phase lasts six years, laying a solid educational groundwork.
  • Secondary Education (Ages 14+): Secondary education is voluntary and spans five to six years. The first three years focus on general education, while the remaining two to three years offer specialized training.
  • Choices Abound: Secondary education opens doors to academic (5 years) or technical (6 years) schools, allowing students to tailor their learning journey.

Costa Rican schools typically operate from February to December. Interestingly, the academic year's end heralds the start of the traditional coffee-picking season, year-end festivities, and the arrival of summer.

Here's a crucial point to note: While state-run schools in Costa Rica are an option for official residents, they operate exclusively in Spanish. So, make sure your kids speak the language before enrolling them in a public school. If you're considering becoming an official resident, take a look at this informative post that explains the process step by step. Additionally, if you want to make your kids' lives easier in this new environment, consider booking a package of Spanish tutoring sessions now to help them thrive in their new school.

International Schools in Costa Rica: Diverse Pathways to Learning

In addition to state schools, Costa Rica boasts a vibrant private education sector, offering diverse curricula and language programs tailored to expat families. Whether you're seeking American International schools in Costa Rica or institutions following British or European educational standards with English-speaking programs, the options are abundant.

As you explore the educational landscape of Costa Rica, remember that each institution brings its unique strengths and values to the table. Consider your family's needs, your children's language proficiency, and your educational preferences when making this important decision. The goal? Ensuring your kids receive a well-rounded education that enriches their lives as expats in this beautiful country.

To simplify your search for the right school, we've compiled a list of private international schools in Costa Rica organized by region. This comparison provides insights into the educational programs offered, the academic years covered, and the pricing, helping you make an informed decision for your child's education.

🔵 International Schools in Central Valley

San José City

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
The British School of Costa Rica British International Education Pre-School to High School 7,000 – $12,000/year
European School European International Education Pre-School to High School $8,000 – $15,000/year
SEK International School Costa Rica International Baccalaureate (IB) Pre-School to High School $9,000 – $16,000/year
The Montessori School Montessori Education Pre-School to Middle School $12,240-$18,760/year

Heredia

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
American International School (AIS) American International Education Pre-School to High School $4,080 – 8,420 per year
Lincoln School American International Education Pre-School to High School $9,000 – $17,000/year
European School Heredia European International Education Pre-School to High School $8,000 – $15,000/year

Alajuela

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
Pan American School American International Education Pre-School to High School $7,000 – $14,000/year
Country Day School American International Education Pre-School to High School $8,000 – $18,000/year

San Mateo

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
Real World School (Casa Sula) Regenerative Education Philosophy
Pre-School to High School $6,050 – $6,600/year
Journey School Project-Based Learning and Reggio Emilia Approach Pre-School to High School $6,000/year – $11,000/year

Monteverde

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
Monteverde Friends School Quaker Bilingual Education Pre-School to Middle School $6,000 – $16,000/year
Cloud Forest School Environmental Bilingual Education Pre-School to Middle School $6,450 – $10,200/year

🟡 International Schools on the North Pacific Coast:

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
La Paz Community School International Bilingual Education Pre-School to Middle School $8,860 – $10,580/year
The Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA) American International Education Pre-School to High School $8,000 – $14,000/year
Educarte Traditional Bilingual Education Pre-School to High School $4,000 – $10,000/year
Pacific Waldorf School Waldorf Education Pre-School to Middle School Inquire at school
Wise Project-Based Learning Pre-School to High School $4,000 – $7,000/year
Journey School Project-Based Learning and Reggio Emilia Approach Pre-School to High School $6,000/year – $11,000/year
Lakeside International School International Bilingual Education Pre-School to High School $2,880 – $5,700/ year

🟢 International Schools on the South Pacific Coast

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
Uvita Christian Academy Christian Bilingual Education Pre-School to High School $2,500 – $4,000/year
La Escuela Verde Traditional Bilingual Education Pre-School to Middle School $3,000 – $4,000/year
LifeProject Education Community-Based Learning Education Pre-School to Middle School Inquire at school
Trebol Montessori Montessori Education Pre-School to Middle School $4,000 – $6,000/year
Jungle Academy Project-Based Learning Education Middle School & High School Tuition rates: Inquire at school
Journey School Project-Based Learning and Reggio Emilia Approach Pre-School to High School $6,000/year – $11,000/year

🔴 International Schools on the Caribbean Coast

SCHOOL TEACHING APPROACH GRADES TUITION RATES
Caribbean Bilingual School Traditional Bilingual Education Pre-School to High School Inquire at school
Liceo de Cariari (Colegio del Mundo IB) International Baccalaureate (IB) High School Inquire at school

Keep in mind that teaching philosophies, academic grades offered and tuition fees may vary. I strongly suggest reaching out to the schools directly or visiting their websites for in-depth details. You can find the provided links for easy access.

With this comprehensive overview of Costa Rica's education landscape, you're well-prepared to make the best choice for your family's future.

More Info

Expat Quotes – a list of International Schools in Costa Rica

Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica – a list of International Schools in

Two Weeks in Costa Rica – a travel blog for adventurous families in Costa Rica