Special education in Costa Rica
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Costa Rica has the strongest public education system in Central America. The 1869 constitution mandated a free, obligatory, and state-supported educational system making Costa Rica one of the first countries in the world to pass such legislation (Biesanz, Biesanz, & Biesanz, 1999; Creedman, 1991). Approximately 23% of the national budget is dedicated to education (UNESCO 2011) and schools can be found even in the most isolated regions of the country. As a result, Costa Rica’s literacy rate of 96% is one of the highest in Latin America and high school graduation rates are effectively equal for girls and boys (UNESCO, 2011). Costa Rica is equally progressive in educating children with disabilities. Special education services were first established in 1940 when the Fernando Centeno Güell School was created near the capital city of San José (Centeno, 1941). The founding of the school, which initially provided services for students with intellectual disabilities, was a significant educational milestone for the country (Dengo Obregón, 2000). Costa Rica passed one of the first pieces of special education legislation in the world in 1957, the Fundamental Law of Education. The Fundamental Law of Education established the constitutional right of students with disabilities to receive a special education, including special didactic techniques and materials; and the right of parents to receive information on assisting their child with special educational needs. Today in Costa Rica, special education services are function throughout the county under the direction of the Department of Special Education within a nationally centralized Ministry of Public Education.