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Culture and Education: Educational System in Costa Rica

Culture and Education: Educational System in Costa Rica

Interview in Spanish with Emily (special ed teacher) and doña Sandra about the educational system in Costa Rica

This is the first of several interviews Emily had with doña Sandra about Latino culture, perspectives and practices in education in Costa Rica. This video is 100% in Spanish with Spanish subtitles for improved comprehension.

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In this interview, Emily speaks with Sandra about the general role that education plays in Costa Rican life and society.

Sandra explains the high level of importance that education has for Costa Rican families and notes that the Costa Rican government has invested a lot in the national education system. Basic education in Costa Rica is obligatory, and public education is free to families. Students in Costa Rica must attend school starting in preschool. After kindergarten, students attend primary school until grade 6. Then, students proceed to ‘escuela secundaria’ or ‘colegio’, which in the US we would call high school. Sandra explains that a large part of students who complete colegio have aspirations to attend a university. To attend a public university, students must pass an admission test, similar to the SAT or ACT in the US.

In terms of the value of education, Costa Rican parents put a great emphasis on the importance of education and students themselves tend to view education as a tool for social and economic progress. She also describes education as a triangle of shared responsibility between the institute itself, the parents and family, and the student. All three play important roles and require a high level of communication in order to be successful. Three times a year, a parent or guardian must come to school to receive the student’s grade report, similar to most school districts in the US. She explains that of course there are other methods to communicate with families should there be challenges to physically come into school.

Finally, Emily asks Sandra about the public perception of teachers in Costa Rica, as it is always interesting to me how this differs from country to country.

She explains that, similar to public perception in the US, there are individuals who believe that teaching involves lots of time off, freedom, etc. But on the other hand, there are some who see teaching as a very difficult job involving a never ending amount of work. She goes on to explain that, as in many other countries, the teaching profession has lost a certain level of prestige over the years. Sandra and I discuss the fact that truly the job of a teacher never ends and teachers have to take on many roles, sometimes acting as a psychologist, doctor, counselor, and even parent. This is a facet of the teaching profession that appears to cross cultural borders.

This video was recorded during our summer Spanish immersion for educators program in Costa Rica

Read the other posts in this series:

Leslie Foster
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