Education Structure, Grading System and Academic Year

Education in Costa Rica starts with preschool. Compulsory education in Costa Rica last for 9 years. Students after completing the compulsory education may go for diversified education that offers them three educational options. After that, pupils may choose to continue onto the higher education.

Structure of Costa Rican Education

Education in Costa Rica is divided into school education and tertiary education.

Pre-higher Education

Preschool Education

  • Ages: Up to 6 years and 6 months

General Basic Education

The general basic education (GBE) is compulsory and free of charge for all citizens in Costa Rica. General basic education is divided into three cycles: Cycle I (I Ciclo), Cycle II (II Ciclo) and Cycle III (III Ciclo).  
  • Ages: 6 to 14
Cycle I and II refers to primary education. Cycle III is known as secondary education.

Certificate awarded: Upon successful completion of the general basic education, a “certificate of general basic education (Certificado conclusion de estudios de educacion general basica)” is awarded.

Primary Education

  • Duration: 6 years
  • Ages: 6 to 12

Cycle I

  • Duration: 4 years
  • Grades: 1 to 4
  • Ages: 6 to 10

Cycle II

  • Duration: 2 years
  • Grades: 5-6
  • Ages: 10-12
Certificate awarded: Upon completion of Cycle I and II, a “Certificate of completion of primary school (Diploma de Conclusion de Ensenaza Primaria)” is awarded. 

Secondary Education

Cycle III: Senior Cycle/Lower Secondary Education

  • School type: Lower secondary school
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Grades: 7-9
  • Ages: 12-14
  • Credential: Certificate of End of General Basic Studies (Certificado de Conclusion de Estudios de Educacion General Basica ) 

Diversified Education

  • Cycle IV: Diversified Education
  • School type: Upper secondary schools, night schools and colleges
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Grades: 9-12

Three streams: Academic last for 2 years; Artistic last for 2 years; and technical last for 3 years- commercial, agriculture, services and industrial studies

Certificate awarded: Upon completion of secondary education, a “certificate of high school” is awarded. 
  • For academic and artistic streams- Diploma of Diversified Education Studies (Diploma de Estudios de Educacion Diversificada) is awarded. 
  • Technical stream- Diploma of Diversified Education Studies and Professional Title of Mid-Level Technician (Diploma de Estudios de Educacion Diversificada y Titulo de Tecnico Medio) is awarded.  

Higher Education

Undergraduate Studies

  • Duration: 1 to 2 years
  • Credential: Diplomado
Bachelor’s Degree
  • Duration: 4 years
  • Credential: Bachiller Universitario
  • Duration: 1 year after bachillerato universitario degree
  • Credential: Licentiate (Title of Licenciado)

Graduate Studies

Masters Degree
  • Duration: 1 to 2 years
  • Credential: Maestria
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Credential: Academic doctorate (Doctorado Academico) 

Grading System

A 100-point scale is used by the educational institutions to grade the performance of the students. Sometimes, an equivalent 10-point scale is also used. 

At primary schools, passing score is 65 out of 100.

At high schools and higher educational levels, passing score is 70 out of 100.

Pupils who score between 60 and the passing score get an opportunity to undertake an additional test that evaluates the whole year’s curriculum. The passing score in the additional test is 70.

 Grade Scale 1 Scale 2 Grade description (In English) Grade description (In Spanish)US Grade 
 S 90.00-100.00 9.00-10.00 Outstanding Sobreasaliente A
 N 80.00-89.99 8.00-8.99 Good Notable B
 Suf 70.00-79.99 7.00-7.99 Sufficient Suficiente C
 I 0.00-69.99 0.00-6.99 Insufficient Insuficiente F

Language of Instruction

The official language of instruction in Costa Rica is Spanish. Study programmes in English are also offered. 

Academic Year

The academic year in Costa Rica runs from first week of February to last week of November or early December. 

There are mid-term holidays of about 2 weeks in July, and many schools in Costa Rica have “Easter Week” in March or April.  
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