AS/COA Online Exclusive Interview: Costa Rica’s Education Minister Leonardo Garnier on Innovations in Teaching

“[T]he central strategy we have followed is not just to have more students, but to offer a more relevant, significant education.”

Costa Rica’s high literacy rate has long made its educational system the envy of the Americas. Still, high school enrollment and access to higher education remain tough challenges in the Central American country. Costa Rican Education Minister Leonardo Garnier spoke with AS/COA Online’s Editor-in-Chief Carin Zissis, not only about how his country is fighting dropout rates, but also how new teaching approaches and technology can play a role in boosting education. Garnier says that changes underway offer “more relevant, more significant, and more entertaining education so that kids will stay in high school—but they will stay for a good reason, not just for staying there.”

AS/COA Online: With a 96 percent literacy rate, one of Latin America’s highest, many see Costa Rica’s education system as a model for other countries in the region. What models in other parts of the world do you look to for inspiration and ideas?

Garnier: Well, I don’t see Costa Rica as a model. I think we have done some things that have been useful for us, but still, we have a lot of problems. When we look at other countries, for example, the things that small countries like Finland have done with education, certainly there is big room for improvement in our system.

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AS/COA Online - A River Runs through It: The Costa Rica-Nicaragua Dispute

Co-authored with David Schreiner.

Encroaching military camps, a convoluted 150-year long border dispute, and regional quarrels: the ongoing Costa Rican-Nicaraguan row over the northern country’s dredging of the San Juan River has it all. The Organization of American States (OAS) continues to mull the disagreement at the request of the Tico government, while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega wants to bring the issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. Costa Rica had asked Nicaragua to move a dredge that was dumping silt on Isla Calero, located in the Río San Juan delta and of uncertain ownership, as early as October 24. But tensions flared when a Costa Rican flyover of the dredge revealed troops flying a Nicaraguan flag on the Isla Calero. Costa Rican Security Ministry José María Tijerino called the move invasion of his country’s territory.

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AS/COA Online | Costa Rica, U.S. Ink Conservation Deal

Costa Rica, long seen as a model for environmentalism, inked a debt-for-nature deal that could put it on the global map for meeting conservation targets. The agreement paves the way for Costa Rica to expand protected marine and rainforest areas and become the first developing country to meet its environmental protection commitments spelled out under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. At the heart of the program is an accord signed Friday by Washington and San José whereby Costa Rica will draw down its debt to the United States and invest $27 million in conservation efforts over the next 15 years. The Nature Conservancy, which donated nearly $4 million, and the Central Bank of Costa Rica also signed the deal.

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