San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Franco-C.R. Ties Strong

The French Embassy recently presented to Costa Rica’s Ministry of Education a publication created from a forum held last March.

Called “The new challenges of the French language and francophone cultures in Costa Rica.”

The document outlines the efforts by the French Embassy and Costa Rican agencies to fund education, particularly the math and sciences; better integrate the French language in tourism; and keep the Franco-CostaRicanSchool public.

The efforts are a continuation of a relationship that started more than 135 years ago, and is going as strong as ever.

“The French culture has had an impact on the Costa Rican education system,” said Alejandrina Mata, vice-minister of academics. For example, Mata added, the schools here – liceos – are based on the French system.

It’s a relationship coordinated by the Center for Culture and Cooperation with Central America, which oversees the efforts by the French government to create programs with countries in the region.

Pascal Sánchez, the center’s assistant director, said the relationship with Costa Rica has been one of the better ones.

“It’s one of the oldest operations,” Sánchez said. “Without a doubt, it’s the oldest in Central America.”

With the country’s high levels of education and quality universities, Costa Rica has enjoyed an interchange of professors and students with France. Along with that, the French government has provided money to Franco-CostaRicanSchool, which was created after both governments signed a treaty that created it.

There have been talks of making the public school private, Mata said, but in the last round of meetings between the center and the ministry of education, that idea was scrapped.

Students with limited resources interested in studying in the school can receive scholarship, while those who can afford it pay for it.

All efforts – including funding for schools – total around 3.3 million euros annually. The center works also works with the Alliance Française.

The center also has a strong relationship with the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Students have received scholarships to study and work in France, Sanchez said.

We “think that development at the university level is important,” he said.

Law and medicine are a couple of the areas of studies that UCR has benefited from the partnership with the French.

“There are many benefits,” said Mercedes Muñoz Guillén, sub-director of the Office of International Relations and Cooperation Abroad. “Professors of high-level come here, research support and French knowledge, philosophy.”

Muñoz said the partnership with France allows for Costa Rican students to go abroad, something that is increasingly more expensive Even with efforts from France, Germany and the United States, UCR still has difficulty sending its students abroad, Muñoz said.

Still, UCR’s relationship with France is more than 30 years old. Each year students and professors are sent to France and viceversa.

In terms of tourism, Sanchez said Costa Rica is very much “in fashion” right now as a tourist destination. The embassy’s program, called “Vacaciones en América Central,” aims to prepare Costa Ricans that work in the tourism industry to speak French, not only for visitors from France but for the high number of visitors from the French-speaking Canadian province of Québec.

Mata said the Education Ministry is considering focusing the teaching of French in areas with high tourism rates.

That’s “an important issue with a great demand,” Sánchez said.


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