Teachers with Flair & Understanding
Teachers with Flair & Understanding
Teachers with Flair & Understanding

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Tales from, anecdotes on, and insights into international school education from a Costa Rican perspective. Welcome to the CRIA family!

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  • Costa Rica International School
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  • International College Preparatory Programs
  • Special Education in Costa Rica
July 22, 2021

When Choosing an International School, Vote with Your Feet

What do you care so deeply about that you’re willing to actually do something about it? Schooling is likely one of those things. The best Costa Rica international schools offer more than academics: Your choice of private school reinforces how you will raise your children – how you will shape their formative years. There’s an old maxim: “If you want to know what people really value, watch how they vote with their feet.” The core idea is that, while casting a ballot or voicing an opinion is unlikely to vastly change an individual’s trajectory, the personal decisions you make, and especially the places you choose to go, can significantly impact your life.  And so, while “foot voting” traditionally refers to political freedoms, today it also extends to the cultural and lifestyle impacts of voting with one’s feet. And in your case, as a caring parent, of seeking out and eventually choosing one of the best Costa Rica international schools. Because you’ve already voted with your feet once: You’ve either made the life-changing decision to move your family and raise your children in Costa Rica, or you’ve chosen to commit your Costa Rican children to an international education. To introduce them to new people and perspectives. To prepare them for a world beyond today.  And now, you’re poised to cast your next “foot vote” – to choose where to educate your children. How you will shape their formative years. What you will do to prepare them for the competitive world that awaits after graduation.  Education: More than Just Academics at the Best Costa Rica International Schools Great parents give their children the very best opportunities in life. And, for most, this begins with education. Not just schooling, but well-rounded, whole-person education. In Spanish, we use the verb educar to refer not only to schooling our children, but to raising them well, in every sense of the word. Educación is the opportunity to explore and grow, to develop thinking skills and build a solid knowledge base. To become someone who is confident and capable, accomplished and yet always hungry for greater learning. To cultivate the skills required for this ever-increasingly competitive world of ours.  Likewise, the verb’s derivative adjective, educado/a, describes someone who is educated both in knowledge and in the world: As learned as they are well mannered and personable. A critical thinker. A compassionate human. The kind of person you want on your team, in your group, and at your workplace.  International Schools: Trending Toward Global Success This transition to a well-rounded education and international schooling has accelerated for expatriate and national families in every corner of the globe. Over the last 20+ years, international school options have expanded rapidly. A recent report from ISC Research summarizes this trend in great detail: In one generation, the number of international school students worldwide has grown over 500%, from less than 1,000,000 to nearly 6,000,000 students. The driving factor: Parents understand that a quality education is one of the best investments they can make in their children’s future. CRIA is one of the best Costa Rica international schools, not only for our rigorous college preparatory program but for our three-pronged, individualized approach to education:  Think: We teach our students how to learn, to help them develop the critical thinking skills that will carry them through a lifetime of success. Aspire: At CRIA, we care about our students’ goals and aspirations. Instead of trying to hammer square pegs into round holes, we have designed our curriculum around a wide range of student interests, including sports, the visual and performing arts, universal values, health, bilingual language opportunities, and leadership/team participation in co-curricular activities, among others. Achieve: Our student-focused program fosters a positive growth mindset rooted in hard work, perseverance, and personal responsibility. Our students – your children – truly are the future, and we work every day to make it a bright one. Strength in Numbers: The Best Costa Rica International Schools Believe in Education Equity Voting with your feet resides at the heart of this education evolution: In almost every country, there is strong demand for Western-oriented, English-medium international schools. And within those schools, there are large communities of administrators, educators, and families who lobby for equity of access to quality education, for ALL students.  The result, especially in a country like Costa Rica – located close to the United States and Canada and, thus, well-positioned for nearshore contracts and employment – is a strengthening of English-language learning throughout the private and public school systems, further leveling the playing field for even the most disadvantaged students. As another maxim goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.   And, it’s true: As this graph from the University of Winnipeg demonstrates, the English language has become a requirement in public school systems across many countries. Out […]

July 8, 2021

3 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Accredited International School

Hey, parents – you have a big job ahead of you! Raising a good human is fulfilling but hard work. Choosing the school where they’ll spend 5, 8, even 13 years… well, that’s a big component to the journey. International accreditation is the first element to look for in the best private schools in Costa Rica. Why accreditation? The short answer is quality assurance. Of the most prominent international schools, accredited programs offer quantifiable benchmarks: a strategic focus on academic outcomes within a balanced program, externally accredited for quality assurance by either one of the accrediting agencies recognized by the US Department of Education, or by Cambridge in UK curriculum schools.  Accreditation is the first step in assessing the quality of international schools. But it’s not the only question. So, once you have that answered, here are three more questions to ask your candidate schools: Question #1: What standards of content and skills do you teach your students? In education, this is what we call the elevator pitch: the quick, off-the-top-of-their-head monologue that any classroom teacher or school administrator should be able to recite, be it on an elevator ride, shaking hands for the first time, or at school drop-off/pick-up. In other words, this is The Question and it shouldn’t be a hard one. In fact, if the school’s chosen representative can’t immediately tell you about student learning outcomes, in the form of international standards and benchmarks, for any subject, then you should be concerned about the program’s quality. Likewise, if teachers or school administrators begin describing teaching – textbooks, strategies, values, or methods they use, in all-too-familiar language like “we offer project-based learning,” “we are inquiry-based learning,” “we are teaching global citizens,” or “we are an anti-racist focused school” – then you’ve come up against another warning sign. This type of answer – or rather, non-answer, as learning outcomes go – is typical in schools with priorities other than improving student academic achievement based upon academic standards. Not that those textbooks, strategies, values, and methods don’t matter. They do. They’re important. We all want children to experience hands-on learning, to be inquisitive, and to grow into mindful, productive citizens. But none of these answers provide clear focus on defined academic student outcomes that can be measured against worldwide peers.  Because, whether your child is headed to the Ivy League, to culinary school, or to any of the world’s other competitive futures, he or she will be measured against his or her peers. An excellent international school makes sure he or she measures favorably. So, if all you hear are buzzwords about transforming student learning, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, transdisciplinary learning, multicultural or cultural competency learning, authentic learning, dismantling or abolishing traditional learning, then you’ll need assurance (and proof) that academic focus will not be deprioritized. At CRIA, we care about our families. Our students are, by definition, global thinkers and we, as a school, have built an individualized approach to learning. But methodology does not define the CRIA academic experience: Instead, we stand out for our academic excellence, benchmarks, and learning outcomes. Go ahead, put us to the test: Ask any teacher or administrator, and see what they say! So, ask the question. And if you get one of the above-cited answers, seek greater detail, “I’m not asking how you teach, but want to know what you teach.” What you want to hear: identifiable content, as well as thinking and learning skills, defined for each grade level and subject area.   Put it this way: As you interview candidate private schools in Costa Rica, remember that every class and subject should have easily understandable and defined student outcomes for English, another language, math, science, social studies, PE/health, visual and performing arts.  Question #2: How do you know that my child is succeeding? Promises and declarations are nothing, without facts to back them up. When seeking an internationally accredited program at one of the top private schools in Costa Rica, parents should receive a very understandable answer, at least for high school-level classes.  The three main prescribed content curricula found at Costa Rica’s best international schools are the US Advanced Placement (AP) program, the British A-level program, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program. Additionally and increasingly, university dual enrollment programs are also gaining important momentum at the best international schools worldwide. (We’ll discuss more on the differences between these curriculum options, in Part III of this series.) At CRIA, we deliver very compelling value in allowing our high school students to achieve university credit for work done while at CRIA. The fastest growing and most robust curriculum to this purpose is our dual enrollment program, in which we partner with Grand Canyon University to allow our students to earn credits not only for high school but toward their college transcripts. […]

June 17, 2021

Special Education in Costa Rica International Schools: Learning Differences, Second Language-Learners, High Abilities, and Inclusion at CRIA

Special education in Costa Rica is more than a checklist: It’s a fundamental element of a well-balanced and diverse international school. At Costa Rica International Academy (CRIA), our incredible student body is incredible, in part, due to our diversity: One-third Costa Rican, one-third U.S., and one-third from 22 other countries – in total, students from 24 nationalities and teachers hailing from 8 countries. Here’s another fundamental element in our equation for incredibility: CRIA’s demographic diversity brings to the table not only valuable and diverse perspectives, but also a diversity of learning exceptionalities: Some CRIA students are of high ability, some come to us with minimal English (ELL) or Spanish skills, and still others have learning disabilities/exceptionalities that require a learning support program (LSP) and Individualized Education Plan (IEP). That’s where we come in. The best international school programs, including at CRIA, value diversity of perspectives above all, with particular importance placed on the inclusion of a wide range of special needs/exceptionalities within the mainstream program.

June 3, 2021

3 Essential Attributes of an International College Preparatory Program: A Parent’s Guide to the Best International Schools in Costa Rica

Looking for a strong international college preparatory program, at one of the best international schools in Costa Rica? Then you’ll be happy to know that yes, there is such a thing as a Costa Rica-based international school with a college preparatory experience, beginning in Pre-Kindergarten.