I attended a class of 1st graders and wanted to know what they wanted to be when they grew up. I expected to hear dreams like when our class was asked the same question, we would say doctor, lawyer, fireman, and so on. I was surprised and disappointed to hear jobs like taxi driver, corner store owner, and call center employee. To me this showed the results of a poor school system in showing the kids with hard work they can be anything want.
When you look at the Costa Rican government (the president showing a gang sign on the left, kidding but not really), they always seem to be focusing on the eco tourism, how to bring more tourist to the country, keeping the green Costa Rican image, as well as mixing in a bunch of things that in the long run really never get accomplished because of the kickbacks and corruption at all levels of government. Costa Rica portrays a happy go lucky, “pura vida” outside, but there are core problems that are based around one thing, the education system. But what can you really expect from the kids when 1/3 of the teachers called in sick for at least 3 weeks last year and when they are sick the kids go home.
When I was growing up I was taught at a very young age to be respectful of others, to tell the truth (not saying that I kept to this, but knew it was wrong to lie), to follow my dreams, to work hard and if I did not I had no one to blame on failures but myself, to be ethical in all facets of life, not to steal or hurt others, to know the difference between wrong and right (Again did not always do the right thing, but knew if I did something wrong it as wrong), and that working together with trust and honesty as a team usually led to great results. Most of these things I learned by the time I was 10 years old while growing up.
I went to school everyday from 7:45 AM until 3:30 pm. After school I was involved in after school sports, theater, and clubs. All of these things were provided for free by the school. There were teachers that volunteered to help with these activities as they knew how important they were for the growth and learning of the students. I learned more of life’s lesson outside the classroom that the knowledge I picked up from the textbooks. All of this is close to non-existent in Costa Rica in their school system.
Students in the public school system in most cases in Costa Rica because of the overcrowded schools, both in San Jose and Rural areas, go to school in either the morning or afternoon. This consist of a morning session form about 8 am to around 10:30 am. For me that was about two and a half classes while I was growing up. If you walk by a school you will see what the kids are doing every class, most are making out in the bushes around the school. Most Costa Rican boys from age 14 to 18 are like the male dog with the pink thing hanging out. Actually most are pretty much like that until after they turn 40 if we need to be honest. The funny thing is Costa Ricans wonder why teen pregnancy is so common.
After school growing up I participated in team sports and theater. I learned in these activities to make friends, to practice to get better at something, competition and its importance, to have grace in losing and winning, to gain self confidence, to take responsibility for my actions, to work together as a team to reach a common goal, and to trust others and always be true to the team. To me these activities are crucial in the development of a child and are necessary lessons to learn on the road to becoming an adult.
If you look at how most Costa Rican adults act it can be tied directly back to never learning these lessons growing up, and you will hear it when you see how they react and what they say to advice. Most of the time when you say something to a Costa Rican about something that they are doing wrong or need to improve on they will shrug their shoulders and say “I know.” What this means is yes you are right but I am not going to change, I will hope to just not get caught next time. Most Costan Ricans do not know how to lose or say they are wrong. I learned during sports to admit when I screwed up and if we lost the game take the lessons learned and move on. If you catch most Costa Ricans in a lie they will try to pin it on someone else instead of admitting that they were at fault.
The final thing that is not taught in Costa Rican schools is trust, ethics, and consideration for others. In most cases Costa Ricans think that it is not a lie and it is not stealing unless you get caught. The goal is to get away with as much as possible and it is only wrong if you are caught doing it. When it comes to ethics this is also the case, most Costa Ricans are in this life for themselves and no one else, if they need to screw someone over to get what they need then they will do it and in most cases the legal system is so backwards it costs more time and effort than it is worth to fight it. Finally is consideration, because of the fear of conflict a Costa Rican would rather waste another’s time than to admit they are not doing something because either they do not want to or it does not benefit them. For example, miss a meeting without calling or notifying the other party they were not coming, while the other person took time out of their day to meet with them. When confronted about it, they will make up an excuse and then ask when is a good time the next day without an apology.
Many people are leaving Costa Rica and taking their families to other Central American countries, retiring in Panama, moving to Nicaragua, and all together giving up on the “Pura Vida ” lifestyle . The result of the poor education of the youth is an environment where it is next to impossible to do business with all the back stabbing and in order to just do your daily activities you get frustrated with the incompetency of the employees and it is almost unbearable. The response of the Costa Ricans, you do not like it then leave. I love the natural beauty of Costa Rica but when you see the result of a school system where the teachers are under trained and underpaid it promotes a large drop out rate and uninterested students. I did not understand the true importance of education both in the classroom and in after school activities until I saw the results of it not being implemented with any kind of standards.