Costa Rica: The state of teacher policies

This post is also available in: Español 

In countries with highly developed education systems, the review and revision of teacher policies has been a basic component of the strategies to promote education quality. The role of teachers is fundamental to generating an impact on the student population and building an educational system of quality and equity.

In the past fifteen years, the Costa Rican education system has enacted important efforts in areas such as curricular reforms, better training and salary increases for in-service teachers, investments in infrastructure, support for vulnerable student populations and increases in teacher accreditation. These initiatives have borne relevant fruits, such as the increase in coverage and attendance at the pre-primary, primary and secondary levels. Costa Rica has the necessary scaffolding to achieve and substantive improvement in student learning. However, there are actions and linkages remaining to achieve this qualitative jump.

This report (available in Spanish) from the Inter-American Dialogue and the program Estado de la Educación presents the principal advances and challenges in Costa Rican education and focuses on the current state of teacher policy in the country. Finally, it argues for a series of recommendation to tackle the challenges identified.

Key Recommendations

  • Raise the quality of pre-service teacher education and its alignment with the needs of the education system. In order to do this, concrete actions are required, such as: expanding and improving selection mechanisms, revising the existing training mechanisms, setting the accreditation of 100% of education programs as a national goal, creating spaces for exchange and linkages between the Ministry of Education and universities.
  • Revise and update the mechanisms for teacher recruitment and hiring. Highlighted in particular the establishment--by the Ministry of Education--profiles that define the minimum quality standards that must be met by aspiring educators.
  • Update and strengthen existing incentives for already contracted teachers, with the objective of achieving an better connection between these mechanisms and improvements in student performance. Additionally, it is advisable to create non-monetary incentives geared towards promoting the professional development of educators.
  • Encourage the professional development of in-service teachers, by way of update policies improving quality. The country should develop a national policy in this area, which links pre-service training with in-service professional development, keeping as its central focus classroom practices and the quality of interactions between teachers and students.


The Inter-American Dialogue leads a project that seeks to strengthen civil society’s support of improving teacher policies in Latin America. The aim is to stimulate debate and help to build the necessary consensus for governments in the region to adopt effective teacher policies.

The first phase of the project (2013-2015) focused on teacher policies in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. The second phase (2016-2018) is focused on teacher policies in Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru, and includes an analysis of lessons for Latin America from the educational system in Shanghai, China.


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