General InformationWithin it’s 51,100 square kilometers there is a wider variety of species of birds than in all of Europe or North America. With a relatively small population of roughly three million inhabitants, Costa Rica also boast of one of the oldest and more consolidated democracies in Latin America. In 1869 the primary education for both sexes was declared obligatory and free of cost, defrayed by the State.
In 1882 the death sentence was abolished. In the year 1949 the armed forces were abolished and in 1983 Perpetual Neutrality was proclaimed. Prestigious international human rights organizations have their headquarters in Costa Rica.. Beacause of this, of its lush 1500 kilometers of tropical sun-bathed beaches and the wild diversity of flora and fauna to be found in it’s wide array of microclimates Costa Rica has justifiably earned it’s reputation of paradise regained.
Being located within the tropics, seasonal changes in Costa Rica are not as drastic as they are in countries on other latitudes. There is a ‘dry” season (equivalent to summer and spring) during which temperatures pleasantly in the high 20s (Degrees Celsius), which goes from December to May, and a “wet” season from June till November during which mornings are usually sunny and showers might be expected after noon. On areas near the coasts temperatures may be as much as ten degrees higher, where as in the Chirripo Peak, the highest mountain of Costa Rica (3800 meters) temperature may drop down to freezing point although snow is unheard of, even at the Chirripo.Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish.
On the Caribbean Coast a small minority of Jamaican descendants speak a local version of English, and most Costa Rican can understand and speak a bit of English. Quite recently all public schools made mandatory the learning of a second language. The main religion, as in the rest of Latin America is the Roman Catholic, but there is a very wide margin of tolerance.The national currency is the colon.
All air traffic to and from Costa Rica is handled through the Juan Santamara Airport, located 29 minutes from San Jos, in the city of Alajuela.GovernmentCosta Rica is a democratic republic, as stated by the 1949 Constitution, which guarantees all citizens and foreigners equality before the law, the right to own property, the right of petition and assembly, freedom of speech. The government is divided into independent executive, legislative, and judicial powers. This “separation of powers” is stipulated under Article 9 of the Constitution. In 1969 an amendment ruled that neither the incumbent president nor any other president may be reelected. Costa Rica’s executive power is composed of the president, the vice-presidents, and the ministers, all of them conform a group of 17 members called Government Council.
Legislative power is vested in the Legislative Assembly, an unicameral body composed of 57 members elected from proportional representation. Diputados are elected in a period of four year period and can be reelected four years later. The Assembly holds the power to amend the presidents budget and to appoint the Comptroller General, who checks public expenditures and prevents the executive power from overspending. Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly also appoints the Supreme Court judges for a minimum term of eight years.
They are automatically reappointed unless voted out by the Legislative Assembly. Twenty-four judges now serve the supreme court. These judges, in turn, select judges for the civil and penal courts. Together the courts have done much to enforce constitutional checks on presidential power. The courts also appoint the three permanent magistrates on the Special Electoral Tribunal, an independent body that oversees each election and is given far-reaching powers. Costa Rica’s seven provinces, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, Guanacaste and San Jose, its capital, are ruled by a governor appointed by the president.
The provinces are subdivided into 81 counties, which are divided into a total of 421 districts ruled by municipal councils. The provinces play only one important role : as electoral districts for the Legislative Assembly. The number of deputies for each province is determined by its population, with one member for every 30.000 people ; seats are allotted according to the proportion of the vote for each party. In the past three decades, the municipalities have steadily lost their prerogatives of central authority and now are relegated to fulfilling such functions as garbage collections, casino and liquor licensing and public lightning and upkeep of the streets.
Exports / IndustryThe main exports of the country consist of Bananas, Coffee, Sugar, Livestock, cocoa, cotton and hemp. Food, beverages and tobacco constituted 48% of manufacturing in 1994 for Costa Rica. Other main goods in the industry consist of rubber, plastics, chemicals, textiles, adhesives, cosmetics, bricks, cement and wood products.
EducationEverything in San Jose shows clearly that Costa Ricans are a highly literate people : the country boasts of 93% literacy in those 10 years or over, the most literate population in Central America. Many of the countrys early fathers like the first president, Jose Maria Castro, were former teachers who were concerned about the education in Costa Rica. In 1869, the country became one of the first in the world to make the education both free and obligatory, funded by the states share of the great coffee wealth. In those days only one in ten Costa Ricans could read and write . By 1920 the 50% of the population was literate and by 1970s 89% were able to read and write.
The last 20 years have seen significant boosts to educational standards. Since the 70s the country has invested more than 28% of the national budget on primary and secondary education. President Figueres elected in 1994, advocates a computer in each of the nations 4000 schools, plus obligatory English classes, probably with the technological and tourist industries boom of recent years. Libraries are the only way for adults in rural areas to continue education beyond six grade. The country, with approximately 100 libraries, has a desperate need for books and for funds to support the hundreds of additional libraries that the country needs. Elementary and High schools are to be found in every community.
Students are not required to pay for assistance, a nominal charge of around $20 per year applies.Elementary school has 6 year levels, where as high school has 5 year levels.Each is divided in two cycles, and upon completion of each cycle, students are required to pass tests on all subjects studied during those years.
The most notorious of these tests are the Bachillerato Tests, which are required to get the high school diploma needed for admission to Universities. Although the country lacked a university until 1940, Costa Rica now has four state-funded universities and a score of small private ones, whose number has increased dramatically in the last decade, due to the difficulty of being admitted to state-funded, more prestigious universities. Opportunities abound for adults to earn the primary or secondary diplomas they failed to gain as children. The University of Costa Rica (UCR), the largest and oldest university, enrolls some 35,000 students, mostly on scholarships, but even paying full tuition is not hard as it rarely surpasses $200 a semester. The main campus is in the northeastern San Jose community of San Pedro but the UCR also has regional centers in Alajuela, Turrialba, Puntarenas and Cartago. In addition there are many private institutions like, the Autonomous University of Central America, the University for Peace, sponsored by the United Nations offering a masters degree in communications for Peace.