Dr. Jose Castro Madriza established the normal school in the capital of San Jose in May 1887 to train teachers. The program was five and a half years in length with five years mandatory teaching after graduation for students who had received financial aid. In 1968, a new normal school was founded in Heredia next to a previously existing one, but the new school had the purpose of educating teachers specifically for secondary schools. This Escuela Normal Superior lasted until 1973 when the Universidad Nacional was created and absorbed the program.
Reductions in teacher salaries caused many to leave the profession. Many teachers had to work at second jobs. Some worked at markets on weekends. When teacher's salaries were cut in the 1980s, teachers went on strike to bring their salaries back to 1970 levels. They were successful, but little progress has been made since then. The Ministry of Education has been forced to hire aspirants, probationary teachers who are recent secondary school graduates. This has affected the quality of education, especially in rural areas. Books, supplies, maps, and libraries are scarce in many rural and inner-city schools.
State universities in Costa Rica are also responsible for training teachers, and three state universities offer this course of study. Students can obtain the title of professor or teacher after two years of training at the university. Two more years lead to the bachiller degree in education. The licenciatura degree education can be obtained after a further period of two years of study with specialization in educational administration, preschool education, primary education, and teaching curriculum development.
Ninety percent of primary school teachers are female. The low salaries for primary teachers draw few males to the profession. More males teach at the secondary level and occupy administrative positions. Teacher salaries account for more than 50 percent of the education budget, but the salaries are low when compared to those of other public employees. Additionally, many teachers must buy supplies and pay for school repairs out of their own salaries.
Teachers are classified by their level of preparation. Profesores titulados (teachers with titles) occupy the highest rank and posses university degrees. Profesores autorizados (authorized teachers) do not posses a degree for teaching, but have other education or qualifications beyond secondary schooling. Profesores aspirantes (aspiring teachers) have only a secondary school degree.
The largest teacher association, the National Association of Educators (ANDE) was founded in 1941. Two additional professional organizations, the Association of Professors of Secondary Education founded in 1955, and the Syndicate of Costa Rican Educators, exist as well. In the mid-1970s, the government supported the construction of housing for teachers in order to draw more qualified candidates into the field. Local communities were asked to donate land and lay the foundation for a home. The national government then erected prefabricated houses large enough for a family of six.
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