Nicaragua education falls into three types of schools: public schools, private schools (often bilingual) and private international schools. One of the weak points if you retire to Nicaragua with kids is the lack of secular, highly rated bilingual schools. All existing international schools are located in the capital Managua.
Educational spending in Nicaragua is very low compared to the U.S. 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 33 students on primary level, according to "The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index™"). In addition, the degrees achieved in public schools would only allow for entrance in local universities, but not in any other country.
will send their kids to one of the international schools in Managua, or
opt for home-schooling or distance learning programs.
When comparing the five "big players" of the international education in Nicaragua, keep the following questions in mind:
About 10% of the 750 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 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 students get the national "Bachillerato" (allowing them to study at one of the Nicaraguan universities), and one year later they finish with the "Bachillerato International" (IB), granting them access to universities worldwide.
The modern facilities at Carretera Sur 10 1/2 km include a mediothek, labs, sport facilities and a 50m pool. The Carretera Sur is one of the two main highways leading into the hilly surroundings south of Managua.
Fees start at $1,740 per year ($155 per month) for Kindergarten and increase to $2,280 ($200 per month) for secondary level. There's also a one time enrollment fee of $500 and a yearly registration fee of $125.
Low fees, a highly regarded educational standard and good location make the Colegio Aleman Nicaraguense the second most favorite choice amongst expats, trumped only by the American School.
With just short of 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% of its student body are U.S. citizens, 50% are Nicaraguan and 19% other nationalities.
The school follows the US-accredited college preparatory program. It prides itself in developing critical thinkers and ethical individuals. All classes are taught in English, with Spanish being one of the study subjects.
Monthly fees start at $160 for Kindergarten and gradually increase to $540 for grades 9 to 12. There's a yearly registration fee (matricula) of $150 and a yearly technology fee of $180. The one time entrance fee is a hefty $3,500, accompanied by a construction fee of $1,500.
On its 26 acre campus at Lomas de Montserrat, located at Managua's southern ring road "Pista Suburbana", the students enjoy Internet ready classrooms, a library/media and technology center and extensive athletic facilities.
The school follows the American (or International) school calendar with summer holidays during June and July and the new school year starting in August.
The American Nicaraguan School has a high reputation within the Nicaragua education system. Most parents I have spoken to 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 the US High School diploma, and follows the international academic school year from August to June.
Over half of the students are Nicaraguan, a quarter are American, and the rest 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 $3,000 entrance fee. Monthly tuition ranges from $158 at pre-school level to $438 at secondary level. Yearly costs add up to about $300, split between registration, technology and an events fee.
A relatively young school situated just outside Managua's city limits, the Nicaragua Christian Academy provides "academic excellence with a Christian foundation" to its 260 students.
The school is currently the only one in Nicaragua with a dual accreditation in the United States. In addition, it offers the Nicaraguan Bachillerato.
Monthly tuition starts at $180 for preschool and goes up to $305 for grades 7 to 12. The yearly matricula is $260, and the one time entrance fee $1,800.
The last international player in the Nicaragua education system I want to point out is another Catholic bilingual school, located at Carretera Masaya. Carretera Masaya is one of the two main highways in Managua, home to modern shopping malls and good residential neighborhoods.
Dedicated to a holistic education, the Notre Dame School offers - like the German-Nicaraguan school - the International Baccalaureate.
Luckily for us non Spanish speakers, they recently launched a shiny new website in English language. Somehow the link to the school fees got lost during the migration process. The fees for the school year 2009/2010 were**:
** All school fees (apart from The Notre Dame School) are for the school year 2010/2011