Preschool and general basic education (nine years) are compulsory and free of charge. Diversified education (the last two years of secondary school) is free and funded by the State. The school-age population of Costa Rica is 1.3 million.
Most of the resources allocated to the education sector are channelled through the Ministry of Public Education budget as transfers. Other resources for the education sector are allocated through different central government institutions to maintain, build and reconstruct education infrastructure; procure materials, furniture and equipment; support the school library programme; and award scholarships. The administration budgets for and allocates resources based on the objectives and goals of each programme. In 2017, Costa Rica’s education spending was 7.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 30.2 per cent of public spending.
Between 2011 and 2013, salary payments accounted for 76 per cent of the total, followed by transfers, which accounted for 12 per cent. The State provides private-sector-managed education through salary payments for some or all of the teachers. In 2017, total transfers to the private sector were USD 134.3 million (76.7 billion Costa Rican Colón – CRC), i.e. 3.05 per cent of the education budget.
Education boards (schools) and administrative boards (colleges) are made up of community members and parents of students; these boards undertake specific administrative and budgetary tasks for the educational centres. The boards receive transfers from the central level for procurement of educational equipment, the School Feeding and Nutrition Programme and the Student Transport Programme. The central government allocates resources to the boards based on the number of pupils in each school, allocated as follows: 60 per cent for education boards, 25 per cent for administrative boards, 10 per cent for boards serving schools with less than 100 pupils enrolled, and 5 per cent to subsidize infrastructure costs where necessary. The boards also receive transfers from the municipalities (2 per cent of the territorial tax) and non-formal contributions from the communities. Overall, the boards are funded through revenue from the national budget, municipalities, autonomous institutions and other special institutions.
Since 2015, the Directorate of Equity has selected equity programme beneficiaries based on social maps developed by the Joint Social Welfare Institute (IMAS) and the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), and redefined the districts with the highest concentrations of population aged between 5 and 17 years living in poverty and extreme poverty. Since 2018, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is also used.
The programmes with the largest coverage and budget include School Feeding and Nutrition and Youth and Adult Education.
- School Feeding and Nutrition Programme: This programme was established in 2015 and provides food supplements to students in early years settings and primary schools through school canteens nationwide. The programme is socially targeted, non-universal and funded by the Ministry of Public Education, which transfers resources to schools for its implementation. In 2017, the programme had 767,664 beneficiaries (59 per cent of the school-age population) and in 2018, had a budget of approximately USD 105 million (CRC 60 billion), i.e. 2.38 per cent of education spending.
- Youth and Adult Education Programme: In 2017, this programme served 186,842 students (14.3 per cent of the school-age population) through different modalities, such as the Aula Edad Programme, the New Opportunities Programme, Professional Community Education Institutes (IPEC), night schools, Integrated Centres for Adult Education (CINDEA), the Primaria y Secundaria Por Suficiencia [Primary and Secondary Sufficiency] programme, and the Yo Me Apunto con la Educación [I’m Enrolling in Education] programme, which focuses on households with a low educational level, with children aged 12–17 years in regions with higher percentages of economic exclusion and households with a poor educational climate. In 2017, expenditure for these programmes was USD 162 million (CRC 92.5 billion), i.e. 3.68 per cent of the education budget.
Social development incentives
An incentive is granted to teachers of Diversified Education (Cycle III), and those teaching at the general basic education, preschool education and special education levels (Cycles I and II) who have worked in a school in a geographic area that ranks low or very low on the social development index. This index assesses the relative development of geographic areas based on economic elements, social participation, health and education. The incentive is equivalent to one-twelfth of the teacher’s salary. In 2017, it cost USD 479,092 (CRC 273.70), i.e. 0.01 per cent of education spending.
These are mainly awarded by the Fondo Nacional de Becas [National Scholarship Fund – FONABE], IMAS and, to a lesser extent, the National Child Welfare Agency. They consist of financial aid or subsidies intended to help children and young people at social risk, and poor and vulnerable populations to remain in the education system. The FONABE scholarship is worth USD 98 per year (CRC 51,500). In 2018, FONABE scholarships benefited a total of 203,344 students (15.6 per cent of the school-age population) at a cost of USD 89.2 million (CRC 51 billion), i.e. 1.88 per cent of the education budget.
This programme is one of the equity programmes. It provides transport subsidies for students enrolled in the formal public education system based on their socioeconomic status, the distance they must travel to the public school (a minimum of approximately 3 km) and access to public transport. The Ministry of Education’s Equity Directorate transfers the subsidies to the administrative board of the school, which provides them to the recipients. In 2017, this programme benefited 138,157 students and in 2017 cost approximately USD 56 million (CRC 32 billion), i.e. 1.27 per cent of education expenditure.
This is a national monthly conditional cash transfer programme, providing USD 52.90 (CRC 30,000) to each student in the third cycle of education (grades 7, 8 and 9) and USD 70.50 (CRC 40,000) for each student in the fourth cycle (grades 10, 11 and 12). The target population are families with young people who have received FONABE scholarships, with economic difficulties and who are located in the 75 poorest districts in the country. The education requirements aim to ensure school attendance and that students complete the school year.
The State funds 77 per cent of the resources for this programme from regular budget resources and the remainder is funded by the National Development Fund, the Social Development and Family Allowances Fund and the IMAS. In 2017, the programme invested USD 102 million (CRC 57.9 billion) (0.18 per cent of GDP) and benefited 183,450 students, i.e. 3.73 per cent of the population.