Education Policy Memo to Costa-Rica Ministry of Education

Education Policy Memo to Costa-Rica Ministry of Education

Education is viewed as the main contributor to the human capital development and a path to achieving economic prosperity for a country. Despite Costa Rica being progressive compared to other nations, it has considerable debt in the provision of adequate education. The estimate is that only 3 out of ten who have attained degrees as compared to an average of 28% in other countries worldwide as evaluated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Higher education attainment in Costa Rica is being troubled by many problems, which call for particular reforms in the country’s education system. The paper will examine education policy in Costa Rica by addressing challenges and current course of action. Similarly, we shall evaluate the opportunities that exist in education and offer a solution to education problems in Costa Rica.
Policy Challenges: Causes and Effects
The Education Ministry has been mandated by developing policies that will drive education into higher levels and executing them. Moreover, this institution is mandated by the law of the country to ensure that all the citizens are in a position to access compulsory and free education from the kindergarten level to upper secondary. Furthermore, the role of the Ministry of Public Education in Costa Rica is to create an educated workforce that would raise the competitiveness of the country. Even though there has been a significant public investment in the education sector in additional to having sustainable economic development, Costa Rica is advancing slowly towards achieving high levels of education among its citizens. When comparing Costa Rica with other nations that have similar Human Development Indexes within Latin America, it lags behind not only on high education achievements but also in enrollment and completion levels.
Major challenges that face the education system of Costa Rica include high repetition rate especially in the first year at primary school level, high rate of dropout in the secondary levels and lack of proper training among teachers. In addition, there is insufficient funding for teachers and poor infrastructural development, which mostly affects the completion, levels in post-secondary education. Having realized this gap in the education sector, the government of Costa Rica is spearheading major initiatives and reforms that would close this gap in the education sector through the ministry of education. The Strategic Plan 1998-2002, for instance, was meant to advance the quality of education, eliminate high dropouts at secondary levels and effectively increase higher education attainment. More so, the state amended Article 78 of the Constitution increasing funding to the education sector by assigning about 6% of the gross domestic product to the education sector including higher education.
The major current policy challenge for education in Costa Rica can be categorized into three. Given the size of higher learning in Costa Rica, the challenge is on how it can be financed in the context of public funds that are dwindling and regarding pressures from higher expenditures and costs. Another challenge on the policy is on how to ensure quality and how this quality can be geared towards producing an efficient workforce to Costa Rica. The next challenge is how to ensure equity and equality in the provision of education. These challenges imply that there exist varied perceptions and values. Similarly, the means by which individuals handle and institutions handle these problems would have an adverse effect on the social groups and this would result in economic and political consequences. Therefore, when dealing with such challenges there is the need for a competent administration. This gives the reason why a host of interest groups, regulatory agencies such as teachers unions, education fora, agencies that offer grants and other ministerial departments are cooperating in ensuring that full reforms in the higher education system are realized.
Many of the disputes on education policy in Costa Rica are not based on policy alternatives, but they are mostly concerned with the question of who is supposed to do what since there many actors within the education sector. These policy challenges have had adverse impact such as pre-empting decisions and preventing the management and administration from exercising their competence. In the end, there has been increased political bickering and negotiations that hurt higher education. Other than problems with setting policy at higher levels, learning institutions are in many cases being unable to make furtherance of their goals. Ideally, there is the need for the modernization of administrations to move from depending on professional schools to relying on academic communities. These communities form the basis of the modern universities we have in the country.
Governance in academic institutions is paralyzed. The management lacks the ability to implement core policies that will streamline the education sector in the country. However, the interests’ plurality and groups that exist gives space to institutional leadership. In many institutions of higher education in Costa Rica, researchers and teachers are unsatisfied, and many students continue to press for better education. This predicament has been compounded by the collective rule’s traditions. The tri-partite government principle where students, alumni, and professors in many higher education institutions have been replaced the earlier professional congregations. Recently, however, there has been a replacement with assemblies of professors, employees, and students. The challenge with this is that university management ends up playing politics so that they can be appointed and play politics to have their course of action being improved making policy reform much complicated. These challenges, in the long run, have deeply affected high education attainment among the Costa Ricans.
Regarding the study path in Costa Rica, most students pursue education and social sciences course. Besides, universities produce more graduates in social sciences and education, and they end up flooding the local job market. According to education observers, Costa Rica’s education system face a challenge of matching graduates to job openings. On the same note, since there is an overlap between job training and universities’ mission, some of the graduates find it hard to adapt to the changing economy. The situation requires critical thinking skills, which most of the student lack. Moreover, the level of English proficiency is a major challenge to students. Although English is a mandatory subject in both the primary and secondary level, the government should pursue higher national proficiency as its main goal.
Current Course of Action
The ministry of education with the stakeholders within the education sector is spearheading some great reforms in the education system. One of the actions that the ministry is taking is improving on learning environment by improving the conditions of the infrastructure, learning materials and furniture. To propitiate an appropriate learning environment that favors pedagogic practices, the ministry of education is focusing on this area. Adolescents and children should be assisted in an environment that ensures their physical integrity that ensures the enjoyment of their learning process and improvement of their performances. In addition, the ministry of education is increasingly introducing programs that allow development of recreational, artist and physical capacities.
The ministry of public education is also universalizing Computer Educational Programs by targeting 80% coverage of the program in cycle I and cycle II and 100% in cycle III. This is meant to improve on the countries scientific and technological endeavors. There are also plans to increase training of teachers as contained in the National System of Training. More so, there are plans towards increasing the number of educators in certain areas of curriculum especially in Mathematics and in Computer Science as a way of increasing innovation. Private universities and public universities are seeking collaboration by giving focus to certain areas such as Indigenous Formation, English, Mathematics and Special Education Teaching.
The government is also implementing programs of justness to address the issue of poverty and ensure education attainment in Costa Rica. Such programs include scholarships, vouchers for transport and dining rooms programs. Programs that ensure inclusive of those students with disabilities have also been included in the process of reforming the education sector in Costa Rica. This is being realized through cooperation between the Foundation of World Opportunities and the Ministry of Public Education through creating vocational and therapeutic services that address the challenges that those students with the disability tend to experience. This way the education sector will be in a position to ensure that equity and equality in education access are established.

Constraints to Change
Despite these actions being taken by the government, ministry of education and other stakeholders, certain challenges still pose a threat to the full realization of this course of action. One of the major constraints to change is the availability of enough funds and resources to ensure that there is a full implementation of these programs. Ministry of Public Education receives significant funding from the public budget; however, it does not explicitly address the entire problem in the education sector. To improve school infrastructure and increase computer studies in Costa Rica requires abundant resources and substantial funding. However, this may not be available given the levels of poverty in Costa Rica are rising at an alarming rate and call for more attention. Moreover, rigidity in the management of education institution poses another challenge to implementing these programs. Management of schools is very bureaucratic and much politicized, and as such, it does not yield good results. There is, therefore, the need to streamline the administration of education sector.
Possible Opportunities
Regarding full reforms in the education sector, the country needs to put focus on certain areas, especially on policy implementation. The country should focus on ensuring administrative and financial flexibility in the public universities and eliminate conventional rigidity that poses the challenge to policy implementation. Higher education institutions should give great autonomy and flexibility to its research centers and other bodies in running of their revenues and budgets with much independence. Studies have shown that administration rigidity increases administration conservatism and bureaucracy, which only interprets to lack of imagination. Such measures would ensure that higher education institutions do not remain stuck in a murky side of development in addition to eliminating politicization of the institutions Efficient, resilient and high caliber management that is continually improving the status of education in Costa Rica is paramount in the education sector.
Besides streamlining management of education, there is the need to focus on public finance management of education in Costa Rica. Financing problems tend to be overwhelming as compared to others. Accountability level in the management of public finances in the education sector in Costa Rica is still low. At times funds have been mismanaged, and there is the need to have strict rules such as the introduction of the independent financial management system that would track the expenditure and the income of the universities and other learning institutions.
Currently, Costa Rica is facing serious problems that need immediate action. There are large discrepancies on education ideals and the urban privilege realities. There is the chronic shortage of books, well-trained tutors and support services. The education is rote, superficial, narrow and impractical. Inadequate coordination in the education sector and between the stakeholders within the ministry of public education, massive education politicization and increased costs of achieving education call for a rethink on the current status of education. Regarding addressing these problems, there is the need to increase funding for the education sector in Costa Rica. However, increased funding without effective measures to curb on its usage may end up not having any impact and therefore the need to have a streamlined process of ensuring accountability, imprudence, and logicality on its usage.
One major lesson learned from the status of education this far is that challenges exist around administration, funding and on the development of comprehensive policies. In Addition to this, the another lesson one learns is that politicization of education and influence from the United States of America has ended up having adverse effects on education. Often politicization tends to influence policy development, most policies that are developed through political influence are self-centered, and hence do not lead to the well-being of the education sector in America. There is, however, room for the stakeholders within the education sector to see that all these challenges are eliminated by addressing to what is essential to education.

The Ministry of Education in Costa Rica should increase funding to the education sector to have its programs being fully implemented. This is through seeking more funding from public coffers by outlining a comprehensive reform program. Increased funding will ensure that quality infrastructure, learning materials, curriculum development and other services are being addressed adequately. Another area that the Ministry of Education should focus on is on policy coherence. This will ensure that education policies being passed do not lack relevance and that they will constantly increase the value of education in Costa Rica. It would also eliminate those policies passed by certain players in the education sector whose aim may be for personal aggrandizement. Coherent policy can be achieved if well-trained public policy analysts within education sector are involved. Finally, the Ministry of Education should be in a position to eliminating administration rigidity and red-tapism so that flow of resources with the education sector is efficient and can be accounted for. This can be achieved by scrapping some hierarchies that make education administration structures so long. This way, education sector will improve rapidly.

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