The Study Abroad trip to Costa Rica offered in the College of Education was life changing as we got to experience a new outlook on schools and society.
My experiences in the various schools in Guanacaste illustrated what kind of education a child will have access to based on their socioeconomic status and resources. Two schools we visited, CRIA and La Paz, were exemplary private schools that were structured to give their students a great education and truly prepare them for life after high school. Matapolo and Villarreal were schools with fewer resources that showed us a different perspective of education in Costa Rica.
La Paz is the best school I have ever stepped into, hands down. They start every Tuesday/Thursday with morning announcements where students get to share positive things going on in their lives and one class explains what they were learning to teach those concepts to the other students. On Fridays they have big/little pairings where an older grade pairs up with a younger grade and they work on an activity together so they can create friendships and develop their communication skills. Their learning was more project-based where students would focus on multiple subjects. The teacher I was assigned to, a middle school English teacher, Mrs. Amy, was the best person I could have been with. She demonstrated effective ways to implement classroom management strategies and also let me teach a lesson connecting Animal Farm to the Russian Revolution. La Paz teaches students to be productive citizens who can use critical thinking skills to solve any problem due to their great teaching staff. I also liked some things about another school, CRIA, such as how they divided the students into houses to make competition friendly and fun, however, the school neglects to teach the students the history of Costa Rica which deprives them of an authentic native experience and reflects that this is truly an American School.
Based on my experience, public schools are often a different story. One school we visited, Matapolo, has to split their elementary students into an AM and PM shifts of only 4 hours each as they do not have enough teachers or classrooms to provide the education students need and deserve. Conversely, the secondary school, Villarreal jumps to an 8-9 hour day, so it makes sense why the drop out rate is so high in this community as kids probably have a hard time adjusting to the lengthy schedule in high school after their experience in the lower grades. However, the IB program at Villarreal proves that you don’t need money to get a good education. Students enrolled in those classes were very intelligent and hardworking and the rigorous IB program pushes them to go on to do great things.
Overall, the Ticos were very friendly, very cheerful and always accommodating. Something I picked up early on is they don’t require the constant need to check social media, have lavish accessories or own brand new cars. Ticos live the Pura Vida lifestyle and are content with what they have and don’t have a desire to chase after material objects like many Americans. That is something I hope to continue, to be happy with what I have and care less for unnecessary material objects.