The educational landscape of Costa Rica is full of contrasts. The literacy rate in Costa Rica is among the highest in Latin America at 97.9%. Pre-K through Elementary is compulsory and free. In 1949 Costa Rica adopted a new constitution after a brief Civil War, establishing voting rights for women, the abolishment of the military, and redirecting the entire military budget to education. The constitution requires that a full 8% of the Gross National Product be directed to public education funding. For comparison, the US spends approximately 4.96% of the GDP on education.
Despite quality elementary programs, citizens have been resistant to early education (early pre-school) opportunities. Even though programming is funded by the state, very few families take advantage of 2 and 3-year-old preschool programs. At the high school level, Costa Rica experiences a high drop-out rate. Almost 50% of students do not finish 4 years of high school. Costa Rica also lags in vocational training at the secondary level.
Approximately 1 out of 3 Costa Ricans between the ages of 18-24 did not attend any form of higher education. The tourism industry has provided consistent income to Costa Rica but also serves as a double-edged sword. There is a push to learn to read, write, and learn English but there is also a push once these skills are attained to enter into the service industry instead of pursuing higher education.