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Costa Rica

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Organization of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Organization of the Ministry of Higher Education are the two administrative sections of the educational system in Costa Rica.

About one-fourth of the national government budget is devoted to education with two-thirds of this allotted to primary education. About 4 percent of Costa Rica's Gross National Product (GNP) is spent on education, a rate comparable to many industrialized nations. The traditionally strong anti-militarist policy allows more money to be spent on education in Costa Rica than in other Latin American countries.

In 1995, government spending by the ministry department listed 20.0 percent of the money spent on education, 39.0 percent on finance, 6.0 percent on works, 3.5 percent on public health, 9.9 percent on public labor, and 2.2 percent on public housing.

The Ministry of Education regulates the school system and heads the national school board. The educational system is directed by the National Education council presided over by the minister of education. Each school district has a board of education appointed by the municipality. Employees of the ministry of education and all school employees have civil service status. Of all the government ministries, the ministry of education has the largest number of employees—28,000. The ministry of education has separate departments of finance, teacher preparation, personnel, and the national library. Seven provinces in Costa Rica each have their own local administrator and school boards.

The Officinal de Educacion Indigena is the institutional counterpart of community groups that concern themselves with educating Amerindians. The Commision Nacional Indigenista works to preserve culture and maintain indigenous languages through the public school system. The school system is broken down administratively by regions and subdivided by districts. A community needs 25 eligible children to establish a school. Public spending on education is financed from Costa Rica's general budget, which is primarily generated by indirect taxes. Increasingly, the cost of higher education is borne by the Costa Rican people. Schools are funded at the national level, not at the local level.

Ninety percent of Costa Rican educational funds are spent on salaries. Under Costa Rican law, the country changes the president and presidential administration every four years, as well as high and medium level officials. The percentage of the national budget devoted to public education dropped from 30 percent to 18 percent from the mid-1970s to the 1980s. A special tax levy allowed vocational education to expand in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. The National Liberation Party (PLN) social democratic governments of Luis Monge from 1982 to 1986 and Oscar Arias from 1986 to 1990 limited the development of higher education to the private sector due to economic pressures the country faced. During the Arias Sanchez administration in 1990, more resources were devoted to education (approximately 25 percent of the national budget in 1990).

Fees are charged at higher educational institutions, but all institutions have a system of scholarships. The National Commission for Educational Assistance offers financing for study in priority subject areas. In 1974, the public university set up the council of coordinating bodies for state universities.

The constitution of 1949 established state financing of university education with no less than 10 percent of the annual national budget diverted to this purpose. In 1982, the national, higher-education, planning office was created to provide technical support to the council of state universities. In 1990, 33.4 percent of students in the University of Costa Rica and 63.8 percent in the UNA paid no tuition.

A coordinating commission consists of the ministers of home affairs, education, and planning, as well as representatives from the Office of Higher Education Planning, and the rectors of the four state universities oversee the funding for higher education. The rectors of state universities also form the National Council of Rectors, which is attached to the Office of Planning. This group coordinates decision-making regarding state university policies in the country.

The National Council of Higher Education, which oversees coordination related to private institutions, governs private universities. Parauniversity institutions of higher education (colegios universitarios and institutos) are organized under the provisions of Law number 9541, which was passed in 1980.

Direct payment by students is less than 10 percent of the university budget. The government, as dictated in the constitution, funds the University of Costa Rica. In order to finance educational reforms, Costa Rica has gotten loans from the Inter-American Development Bank. From 1962 to 1966 the university also received funds from the United States and from the Ford, Kellogg, and Rockefeller Foundations.

Transfers from the Ministry of Public Education finance university and parauniversity higher education. Direct payments by university students account for less than 10 percent of total expenditures. In 1995, the total public expenditure on education was 5.0 percent of the national budget. Basic education accounted for 2.8 percent of the national budget, with 1.9 percent being spent on primary education and 15.0 on secondary education. Public expenditures on higher education accounted for 1.7 percent of the national budget, with 1.6 percent directed to universities, and.1 percent to parauniversities.

The minister of education serves as chair of the Higher Council of Education. The budget of the University of Costa Rica is to be no less than 10 percent of the budget of the minister of education. The Higher Council of Education makes decisions concerning curriculum, budget, textbook selection, teacher certification, supervision, and other policy decisions.

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Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceCosta Rica - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education