Nicaragua has public schools, private schools (often bilingual) and private international schools. One of the weak points if you move or retire to Nicaragua with school-aged kids is the lack of secular, highly rated bilingual schools. All existing international schools are located in the capital Managua except one fairly new bi-lingual school in Granada.
Educational spending in Nicaragua is very low compared to United States or European countries. As a consequence, many state schools in Nicaragua are run down, have hardly any resources and a low teacher to student ratio (one teacher for every 30.2 students on primary level according to The 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index™; the global average is 24.5).
In addition, public school degrees will only gain entrance to universities within Nicaragua.
Consequently most expats tend to send their kids to one of the international schools in Managua, or they opt for homeschooling or distance learning programs.
As you compare the five "big players" of the international education in Nicaragua, keep in mind the following questions:
About 10% of the 800 to 900 students in the German-Nicaraguan school and roughly one third of the teachers are native German. The remaining 90% consist of mainly local children and other nationalities.
Subjects are taught in Spanish and German. English as a 2nd foreign language starts in 5th class.
The school follows the Nicaraguan calendar, meaning that the school year starts in January and ends in the first half of December.
After 11 years in school, students receive the national "Bachillerato," which allows them to study at one of the Nicaraguan universities. If students take an extra year of study, they would achieve the "Bachillerato International" (IB), which grants them access to universities worldwide.
The modern facilities at Carretera Sur include a mediothek, labs, sport facilities and a 50m pool. This community is located on one of the two main highways leading into the hilly surroundings south of Managua.
School fees start at $2,590 per year ($259 per month for 10 months) for Kindergarten and increase to $3,290 ($329 per month for 10 months) for secondary level. Other costs include a onetime enrollment fee of $1,300 and a yearly registration fee of $150.
Low fees, a highly regarded educational standard and a good location make the Colegio Alemán-Nicaragüense the second most favorite choice among expats.
With more than 1000 students, the American Nicaraguan School is not only the biggest, but also the most well-funded and most expensive international school in Nicaragua. 31% are United States citizens, 50% are Nicaraguan and 19% come from other nationalities.
The school follows a US-accredited college preparatory program. It prides itself in developing critical thinkers and ethical individuals. All classes are taught in English. Spanish is used in a language course.
Monthly fees start at US$210 for Kindergarten and gradually increase to US$640 for grades 9 to 12. Other costs include a yearly registration fee (matricula) of US$250, a couple of other yearly costs, such as a technology fee, a hefty one-time entrance fee of US$3,500 and a one-time construction fee of US$1,500.
On its 26-acre campus at Lomas de Montserrat, located at Managua's southern ring road "Pista Suburbana," the students enjoy Internet-equipped classrooms, a library / media / technology center and extensive athletic facilities.
The school follows the American (or International) school calendar. Summer holidays take place in June and July and each new school year begins in August.
The American Nicaraguan School has a high reputation within the Nicaragua education system. Out of the parents surveyed by me, most were satisfied with the education their kids receive. Some parents, however, mentioned a lack of discipline and respect towards the teachers, especially from local students who obviously come from wealthy Nicaraguan families.
The bilingual, Catholic school is located in Las Colinas Sur, one of the most prestigious and expensive areas of Managua. It offers both the Nicaraguan Bachillerato and an American high school diploma. The school follows the international academic school year from August to June.
Over half of the students are Nicaraguan, one quarter are American, and the remainder consists of kids from 22 different countries. Some subjects are taught in English, others in Spanish.
The Lincoln International Academy offers financial plans for the $4,000 entrance fee. Monthly tuition ranges from $195 at pre-school level to $610 at secondary level. Additional yearly costs add up to about $500 to $600, split between registration, technology, events and infrastructure fees.
A relatively young school situated just outside Managua's city limits, the Nicaragua Christian Academy provides "academic excellence with a Christian foundation" to its 320 students.
The school is currently the only one in Nicaragua with a dual accreditation in United States. In addition, it offers the Nicaraguan Bachillerato.
Monthly tuition starts at US$219 for preschool and goes up to US$389 for grades 7 to 12. The yearly matricula is US$260, and there is a one-time entrance fee of US$3,000.
This international, Catholic and bilingual school is located at Carretera Masaya, which is on one of the two main highways in Managua and home to modern shopping malls and good residential neighborhoods.
Dedicated to a holistic education, Notre Dame School offers the International Baccalaureate, similar to the German-Nicaraguan school, but it follows the American school calendar from August to June.
Monthly tuition start at US$245 for Pre-Kinder and goes up to US$430 in High School. Annual fees add up to between US$370 and $450, and include matricula, technology and other fees.
Fees and costs outlined in each section are for the school year 2015/2016.