Costa Rica makes two years of pre-primary education compulsory

Education International has welcomed the move by Costa Rica to make two years of pre-primary education mandatory before primary school in an effort to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on education.

This is in line with the call in Target 4.2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda for children to be “ready for primary education,” as well as with one of the thematic indicators for measuring progress towards target 4.2 in the SDG agenda: 4.2.4 Number of years of (i) free and (ii) compulsory pre-primary education guaranteed in legal frameworks.

In making this move to two years of compulsory pre-primary education, Costa Rica is stepping out ahead of many other countries in the world, as, before Costa Rica’s announcement, pre-primary education was compulsory for at least two years in only 11% of the world’s countries.

A national policy well in line with its trend setting region

Costa Rica’s policy change is also following other countries in its trend setting region: Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest percentage of countries making two years of pre-primary education compulsory of any region in the world.

Work is now being done in this country to ensure that there are schools for these children to attend. Parents have been informed of this new policy change and made responsible for ensuring they follow it. The only children excluded are those whose parents are able to prove there is no pre-primary school in their vicinity. To counter this, the Minister of Education has asked all regional directors to map out the children who are excluded from pre-primary school and will use this to also inform the allocation of teachers around the country.

Importance of early childhood education on long term education

The move is also a reflection of the importance of early childhood education for stimulating learning in the long term and will help to iron out inequalities between those receiving support in early childhood development and those not. The latest UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report actually emphasised the importance of the home environment for child development, through activities such as telling stories, singing, playing or drawing.

Education International and its affiliates will continue to monitor the advancement of SDGs in Costa Rica and the Latin America region.

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