San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican students head back to school

On Wednesday, a new school year started across the country for public grade school and high school students. From remote schools in the Costa Rican countryside, where some students have to walk an hour to reach classrooms, to urban schools in the Central Valley, students descended on more than 4,000 public schools for a new year of classes.

This year, the José Joaquín Gutiérrez Mangel high school in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados, a suburb south of San José, was the setting for the official school year inauguration. President Laura Chinchilla and Education Minister Leonardo Garnier attended the first day of classes in brand new facilities at this 37-year-old high school.

The new school is the result of an Education Ministry investment of more ₡1 billion ($2 million). A two-story building houses 21 classrooms and new computer rooms.

“Only a year ago we were moving desks. It was an adventure and we had no idea how much of an effort it was going to be. It was worth it,” said student council president María José Rojas.

For the Education Ministry, the 2012 school year is crucial for an educational reform plan to help improve curriculum. The plan will change the way mathematics is taught.

“In 2012 we are expecting several approvals [of programs] from the Superior Education Council. We will have lots of workshops and pilot programs,” Garnier told the daily La Nación.

During the school’s inauguration, both Chinchilla and Garnier mentioned the need to improve school infrastructure as a way of encouraging students to stay in school and reduce the dropout rate.

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