Costa Rica Education and Children’s Day

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, Newsletters

Costa Rica Education  

In honor of Children’s Day in Costa Rica Children's Day Libertad School 03– September 9, 2013 – We decided to BBQ Burgers for all the kids at one of our favorite local Public Schools in Libertad, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. 

OH MY GOD these kids are growing fast!!! Not to mention they are super happy and overly cute and they all were practicing their English speaking skill on us. 

We could have BBQ’s 500 burgers and they would have eaten every single one but 72 Burgers, 8 Huge Bags of Potato Chips and 24 liters of Soda Pop was enough to fill them up for a few hours.

Costa Rica educationThese kids were more than happy and then the teachers brought out a huge cake and each kid received a bag of treats and candies along with a bunch of school supplies.

We left just as the kids were hitting the high gear of their BBQ Burger and Cake high.  We escaped just in time!

The literacy rate in Costa Rica is 94.9%, the highest in Central America.  When the army was abolished in 1949, it was said that the “army would be replaced with an army of teachers.”

Costa Rica education spending beats the entire American Continent by a long shot.  The government spends 22.4% of its total budget on education.  The United States spends just 17.1% on education, Nicaragua 15%, Canada 12.7% and Panama a mere 7.7%.

Elementary and High Schools are found throughoutChildren's Day Libertad School 10 the country in practically every community. Universal public education is guaranteed in the constitution. Primary education is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are free. There are only a few schools in Costa Rica that go beyond the 12th grade.  Students who finish 11th grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican Ministry of Education.

In 1869, Costa Rica became one of the first countries in the world to make education both free and obligatory.

Children's Day Libertad School 14Costa Rica has continued throughout the twentieth century to make education a priority and especially in the last 20 years. President Figueres (elected in 1994) has promoted a computer in each of Costa Rica’s 4000+ schools and has made English obligatory in the curriculum.

Elementary school is divided in 6 year grades and kindergarten. Basics such as mathematics, language (Spanish and English), science, social studies, religion and physical education are covered in elementary school. Students are required to pass tests to move to the next level.


For Students who maintain good grades but do not have the economic means to buy school materials, uniforms, transportation, etc. the government gives out thousands of grants yearly to ensure that as many disadvantaged kids haveChildren's Day Libertad School 01 the opportunity to study.

There are private schools in Costa Rica.  Students attending the private schools have much the same curriculum as public school students but also have the chance to take SAT exams and can also receive the IB diploma through special studies in their Junior and Senior years.

There are also several private universities in Costa Rica whose numbers are increasing rapidly due to the difficulty of getting into a state- funded university.

IMG_1944The Public University of Costa Rica (UCR) is the largest and oldest university and over 35,000 students attend this university – mostly all on scholarships. But even if no scholarship is available to the student, the tuition is only about $200 USD a semester. The main campus is in San Pedro, but there are regional campuses in Alajuela, Turrialba, Puntarenas, and Cartago.

Libraries offer adults a way to continue their education beyond sixth grade. Costa Rica has over 100 libraries spread throughout the country.

Evidently, the Costa Rica education system really takes care of it’s Children!

Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 26


Having a Baby in Costa Rica

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, Costa Rica Medical Care, EX PATS in Costa Rica, FAQ's, Newsletters

Having a Baby in Costa Rica

So you are thinking of moving to Costa Rica and possibly starting a family?  Raising your children in this land of peace and prosperity sounds like a great experience for everybody but maybe you have some questions about what it’s like to give birth in Costa Rica?

Many of our clients were asking these same questions so we spoke to a few ex-pat couples who either have had babies recently or are just about to have them in Costa Rica.

Before the fun stuff here are some interesting numbers:

Costa Rica ranks 51st in the world for infant mortality rate at 9.89.  Here are how the countries in North and Central America compare to each other: 

Infant Mortality Rate per 1,000 live births 

24.       Canada                         5.22
34.       United States             6.81
51.       Costa Rica                  9.89
80.       Panama                      18.18
82.       Mexico                        20.50
98.       El Salvador                21.54
99.       Nicaragua                  21.59
106.     Honduras                   28.12
119.     Guatemala                 30.12 

Out of the whole American Continent (North, Central and South America) only Chile (#44, 7.19) rates better than Costa Rica.

Some say that infant mortality is an indicator of a countries health care system and wealth.  If you look at the list of countries that rank better than Costa Rica they are all highly developed 1st world countries. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) rated Costa Rica’s Health Care System at the 37th best in the world just ahead of the United States who ranks 38th.  What is even more interesting is that the United States Health Care system is the most expensive in the world whereas Costa Rica’s is just the 50th most expensive in the world.

As reported by CNN in 2013 giving birth in the U.S. is more expensive than any other country in the world. Total costs average $18,329 for a vaginal delivery and $27,866 for a C-section, with the bulk of the bill going to insurers. However, families with insurance still have to pay about $3,400 out of pocket.

Krista and Chris, one of the ex-pat couples we interviewed for this blog, extensively researched the costs of having a baby in Costa Rica in a private, state-of-the-art maternity hospital facility in either San Jose or Liberia.  Total costs for what they call a luxury natural birth are $3,000.  The cost for a C-Section is around $1,500 more.

For those of us who are math challenged – The cost to have your baby delivered in Costa Rica with first class doctors and facilities is $3,000 – Still less than the average out of pocket costs of $3,400 for a fully insured birth in the United States.  From what Krista and Chris tell us, the level of care offered in the private birthing facilities in Costa Rica are a level above the average of what you would receive in The US.

But this is where the story gets interesting…

You are probably thinking you would hear how Krista was pampered by the ever attentive staff at the CIMA private hospital in San Jose or how the doctor they had chosen for delivery of their first child is a pioneer in the field of natural child birth or how Chris was able to be in the private room throughout the process and be the birth coach as they had practiced, then load up baby pictures to Facebook using the free WiFi in the private recovery room while Krista and their new child rested and got acquainted in the after birth bliss?

The story definitely has a happy ending but it did not go quite as planned…

So, as Krista Says, the baby “was in a hot hurry” and decided to come 2 weeks early.  Well Grandma was not there to help and the trip to the swank birthing palace at the CIMA Hospital in San Jose was off and it became a scramble to not become the first baby to be delivered in a Pacifico Condo.  They called Michael Simons and in no time a rental car was delivered personally by Nelson from Adobe rent-a-car, a dog sitter showed up and off they went with Krista in full labor.  They arrived at the Liberia Public Hospital, were whisked into the Maternity Ward and literally within 35 minutes Kruz was born.

So the birth of Kruz, Krista and Chris’ brand new bouncing baby boy was natural as they had hoped and planned, in the well equipped, capable and efficient Public Hospital Maternity Ward where they were able to do everything they had planned to do in the fancy private facility except for three things:

•Chris did not have WiFi to load up the newborn pictures
•Chris had to sleep on a very uncomfortable chair instead of a nice bed the private facility offered and

Couple who are having a baby in Costa RicaAnia and Drew, the other ex-pat couple we interviewed, are expecting their first baby in the middle of September 2013.  During their research they decided right away on having a baby in Costa Rica at the public hospital in Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.  So far the pre-natal care they have received locally has been wonderful, detailed and free.  All they have to do is pay their monthly contribution to the “Caja” which is the Costa Rican version of the Social Security system.  The average monthly contribution per family is about $50. 

We are all anxious to see their new baby so check back for another baby blog for details on their birthing adventure.

Costa Ricans who receive a paycheck from their employer are required to contribute to the caja based on their salary and it is an automatic payment.  If one person in your immediate family is contributing to the Caja then your whole family automatically has free health care.  So basically everyone in Costa Rica has very inexpensive, relatively good health care that always covers having babies.

So what are you waiting for?


Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 25

March 2024
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