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Costa Rica


Inadequate efforts to provide higher education in Limon, with its large Afro-Caribbean population, is still not close to parity with the schooling available in the central valley. An increased emphasis on privatization has led to an increase in the number of private institutions in recent years. Expenditures declined during the 1980s and 1990s. The affects of this reduced funding could result in increased illiteracy or lower graduation rates. The school system experiences a high number of dropouts, which contributes to an increase in illiteracy.

Private spending on education in 1995 differed significantly in terms of income. Of those in the top quintile, 49 percent were spending funds on private education; in the next to the top quintile, 24 percent; in the middle quintile, 13 percent; in the next to lowest quintile, 7.5 percent; at the lowest quintile, only 5 percent spent funds on private education. Attendance at public and private educational institutions differs significantly depending on income. At the top quintile, 60 percent attend public institutions and 40 percent private; at the second highest quintile, 82 percent attend public institutions and 19 percent private; at the middle quintile, 90 percent attend public institutions, and 10 percent attend private; at the second to lowest quintile, 98 percent attend public and 2 percent private; at the lowest quintile, 99 percent attend public and 1 percent attend private.

When data on students who are passed, held back, or failed in basic education is compared between public and private institutions, stratification is apparent. At the primary levels, 87 percent of public school students pass exams, compared to 95 percent of private students. Students who fail at the primary level comprise 8 percent in public schools and 2 percent in private schools. At the secondary level, 56 percent of public school students pass exams compared to 72 percent of private school students. Failure rates at the secondary level are 12 percent for public school students compared to 6 percent at the private schools.

Differences appear regarding school attendance by age group and income level. In the top quintile, 68 percent attend preschool; 52 percent at the second highest quintile; 41 percent at the middle quintile; 34 percent at the second lowest quintile; 29 percent at the lowest quintile. In primary education, 99 percent attend at the highest quintile; 98 percent at the second quintile; 96 percent at the middle quintile; 92 percent at the second to lowest quintile; 39 percent at the lowest quintile. At the secondary level, the numbers range from 85 percent attending at the highest quintile to 50 percent attending at the lowest quintile. With regard to university education, 52 percent of those at the highest quintile attend universities; 32 percent at the second highest; 22 percent at the middle level; 17 percent at the second lowest quintile; 13 percent at the lowest quintile.

School attendance by age group and geographical setting indicates that, at the preschool level, an average of 39 percent attends school—55 percent in urban areas and 25 percent in rural areas. At the primary level, an average of 94 percent attends school—95 percent in urban areas and 92 percent in rural areas. At the secondary level, a clear difference emerges with an average of 60 percent attending school, translating as 75 percent in urban areas and 45 percent in rural areas. At the university level, an average of 27 percent attends school, meaning 39 percent in urban areas and only 14 percent from rural areas. Schooling is obviously not adequate to meet the needs in rural areas.


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—Donna Langston

Additional topics

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