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The Costa Rica K-12 Education System

The Ministry of Public Education (MEP, or Ministerio de Educacion Publica) manages the K-12 education system in Costa Rica. The K-12 education system in Costa Rica is split up into three levels:
  • Preschool education (Educacion Preescolar)
  • General basic education (Educacion General Basica)
  • Diversified education (Educacion Diversificada)

Understanding the Costa Rican K-12 Education System

Pre-school Education (Educacion Preescolar)/Early Childhood Education

Preschool education is the foremost step of the regular formal education system in Costa Rica. Pre-school education in Costa Rica is divided into 2 cycles:
  • Maternal-infant cycle (Ciclo Materno Infantil): This cycle caters to children up to five years and six months of age.
  • Transistion cycle (Ciclo de Transicion): This cycle is for children aged 5 years and 6 months to 6 years and 6 months.
This educational level work towards the overall development of the child. Preschool education in Costa Rica is offered by nurseries, kindergartens, education and nutrition centres (CEN), community homes, and children’s’ comprehensive care centres. 

Compulsory Education

Compulsory education in Costa Rica last for 9 years. All children aged 6 through 14 are required to attend compulsory education in Costa Rica. 

General Basic Education (Educacion General Basica, or EGB) 

General basic education in Costa Rica is compulsory to attend and free of charge. 
  • Ages: 6 to 14
  • Duration: 9 years
This educational level is divided into three cycles.
  • Cycle I: This cycle is for children aged 6 to 10
  • Cycle II: This cycle is for children aged 10-12
  • Cycle III: This cycle is for children aged 12 to 14

Primary Education

Primary education in Costa Rica covers cycle I and cycle II. 
  • Cycle I: Covers grades 1 to 4
  • Cycle II: Covers grades 5 and 6
Common curriculum (Cycle I and II): Social studies, mathematics, Spanish language, home economics, science, music, a foreign language- English or French, religious education, art and design, and religious education. 

Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of cycle 2, students are awarded a “diploma of completion of primary school (Diploma de Conclusion de Ensenanza Primaria)”.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Costa Rica comprises of cycle III and IV. 

Cycle III: This cycle is for children aged 12-15 and is a part of secondary education in Costa Rica. This cycle is taught by subject specialist teachers.
  • Grades: 7 to 9
Curriculum: English, Spanish language, mathematics, art education, social studies, industrial art studies, religious education, French, science, physical education, and music.

Diversified Education (Educacion Diversificada)

Students who have completed general basic education (EGB) are eligible for diversified education in Costa Rica. Diversified education comprises of Cycle IV. 

Cycle III and IV are functionally called as “secondary education”. 
  • Ages: 15 to 18
The diversified education in Costa Rica provides many study options to pupils depending on the interest of the students. Diversified education is divided into three branches of study: 
  • Academic 
  • Artistic
  • Technical

Academic Branch (Rama Academica)

The academic branch of studies is carried out in traditional schools. 
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Grades: 10 and 11
  • Curriculum: Civic education, Spanish, physical education, social studies, technology, foreign language-French or English, psychology, mathematics, biology, visual arts, physics, religious education, chemistry, and philosophy. 
  • Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of the studies, students are required to undertake the final exam-bachillerato. Students who pass the exam are awarded a bachelor’s (Bachiller) degree in secondary education.

Artistic Branch (Rama Artistica)

This branch focuses on artistic theory and practices. This branch covers following areas: dance, music, ballet, theatre and fine arts.
  • Duration: 2 years
Upon successful completion of the studies, students are given a certificate on the form art that have specialized

Technical Branch (Rama Tecnica)

The technical branch of study comprises of 3 modalities: agricultural, industrial, commercial and services, media communication and health. This educational branch is provided in the form of diversified education, workshops and exploration. This branch consist of both technical and academic classes.
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Grades: 10-12
  • Ages: 15-18
Students are trained in a specific field of work. Upon completion of the studies, a middle-level technician title is given (specialty name), or a bachelor in secondary education certificate is awarded. 

Registration Procedure

The admission requirements of each school in Costa Rica vary. However, each school needs school records/certificate to know the child’s level. International students must get their school records authenticated at the Costa Rica embassy in their place of residence. 

General Documentation

  • Birth certificate of the child- photocopy and original
  • Identity card of parents- photocopy and original
  • Medical certificate
  • Residence certificate
  • Passport-size photos
Some schools in Costa Rica conduct admission test also. 

School Year

The school year in Costa Rica is split up into 2 terms:
  • Term 1: Commences in February and ends in July
  • Term 2: Commences in August and ends in November/early December.
Holidays- There is a 2-3 week break at the end of term 1 and a longer break at the end of term 2.

School hours: The schools in Costa Rica is divided into 2 sessions-morning and afternoon.

School timings: Schools in Costa Rica usually begin at 07:00 and ends at 17:00. The timings may vary from school to school. 
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