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Expat Life in Costa Rica: Navigating the Educational Landscape

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

Living the expat life in Costa Rica is an adventure filled with new experiences, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant cultures. However, it's not all fun and games, especially when it comes to education for our children. As expat parents, we faced the task of finding the right school for our little ones in a country with its own unique educational system. Allow me to share some insights and options we discovered along the way.

The first thing to know is that schools in Costa Rica don't follow the traditional North American academic calendar shockingly... JK it's not that shocking. They of course follow the Central American School Calendar Year . While we were accustomed to the September-June school year, here it runs from February to December. This fundamental difference can impact your planning and decision-making process. So now you know, and...

Costa Rica offers a variety of schools, each with its own curriculum, schedule, and pricing. International schools that follow a North American-style schedule and curriculum tend to be more expensive in the small sample size that we have knowledge of. Our two oldest children attend Lakeside International, and we've been quite pleased with the experience. The friendly staff and bilingual teachers have been a tremendous asset for our children, who arrived in Costa Rica with no knowledge of Spanish. The registration process was smooth, and the annual tuition of approximately $3500 per child is reasonable. There are even discounts available for paying annually or having multiple children enrolled. Our primary goal for now is Spanish language mastery, so Lakeside meets our needs perfectly.

Dolphins Academy is another school that offers a similar curriculum and schedule at a comparable price. We have friends whose children attend this school, and they speak highly of it. Located in Playas Del Coco, it allows for convenient walking if you reside in the area. Both Lakeside and Dolphins provide bus services, which many expat families utilize.

In the Gulf of Papagayo area that we live in, another notable international school is La Paz. With a main campus near Tamarindo and a smaller location about 15 minutes from Playas Del Coco, La Paz operates on a North American schedule and offers a more advanced curriculum compared to Lakeside. Technology integration plays a significant role in everyday teaching, giving it a prestigious reputation. While we value this approach, our current focus is on Spanish language mastery for our 9 and 7-year-old. However, as our children grow and their educational needs evolve, we may consider schools like La Paz or CRIA (Costa Rica International Academy), which offer a more North American-style education. These schools have a higher price range of around $10,000 per year per child but also provide scholarships and discounts for annual payments and multiple children. Bussing is also available at these schools for an additional cost.

The options are abundant, and your choice depends on various factors such as the length of your stay and your family's priorities. Local public schools are available, but we decided against exploring them initially due to our children's limited Spanish abilities upon arrival. We wanted them to feel comfortable and thrive in their new educational environment. However, as they become more proficient in Spanish, we may revisit the idea.

It's worth mentioning Sea Wonder Academy, where our youngest, Roquito, attends. We couldn't be happier with their toddler/preschool curriculum. Rocco is immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment, and we are witnessing his bilingual development and it is truly remarkable. He switches between English and Spanish in his normal two year old vocabulary, and we couldn't be prouder.

In the end, finding the right school in Costa Rica is a process of exploration and consideration. Each option has its unique advantages, and it's crucial to align your priorities with your children's needs. Whether it's language acquisition, curriculum focus, or cultural integration, Costa Rica offers a diverse range of educational opportunities.


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