San José, Costa Rica, Aug. 21, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, introduced the Alliance for Bilingualism (ABi) as part of a national strategy that seeks to significantly increase the coverage of English teaching in Costa Rica.

The initiative was presented, in conjunction with the Ministers of Education, Edgar Mora; Labor and Social Security, Steven Núñez; Liaison with the Business Sector, André Garnier; and Science, Technology and Telecommunications, Luis Adrián Salazar; and the Executive President of the National Apprenticeship Institute (INA), Andrés Valenciano. In addition, legislators, businessmen, university professors, students along with representatives from various chambers, embassies and non-governmental organizations were present.

An agreement was signed consolidating the start of inter-institutional work to promote the massive English training. The alliance will serve as the framework for actions that will link the plans of public institutions with the support of the private sector to promote and ensure the success of the strategy.

"The challenge is to forge a true intersectoral alliance to extend the English proficiency and other languages as a state policy that ensures opportunities for universal access to people of all ages and from all territories," said President Carlos Alvarado.

“Having a proficiency of a second language like English, strengthens Costa Rica’s development and projection in three areas that stimulate the economy: tourism, exports and foreign direct investment. In all of them, English is a key part of the globalization; therefore, achieving bilingualism benefits the country's participation within its positioning worldwide," said Jorge Sequeira, Managing Director at Costa Rica’s Investment Promotion Agency, CINDE.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Liaison with the Business Sector and Coordinator of the Council of Presidential Articulation for Innovation and Competitiveness, André Garnier, explained that the first joint initiatives will begin within a month, while the design of the full strategy, to be published in November, is completed.

"We have been working since May on the design of specific initiatives that mark the consolidated beginning of the work of the Alliance to achieve a historic change in the formation of our population, recognizing the English proficiency as a tool that opens opportunities, fosters employability and drives competitiveness,” said Minister Garnier.

Immediate initiatives

Institutions and Ministries highlighted the implementation of 6 immediate initiatives that will start in 2018, to generate the first results over the next 12 months:

1. Approval of an ₡ 5 billion for the Empléate program, from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, to be used for technical training of the population.

2. To make progress in the first stage of universalization of English teaching in pre-school, covering approximately 125,000 students.

3. In 2018, an educational strategy will begin with a diagnosis of 10,000 students from professional technical colleges, international baccalaureates, the humanities, sciences and academics from all over the country.

4. Implementation of English language certification tests, for the baccalaureate tests given in the 2019-2022 period to reach a total of approximately 180,000 by 2022.

5. Certification of entry and exit levels using international standard tests (BELT and TOEIC), including all students of the National Apprenticeship Institute (INA) English Programs. These results will provide a clear idea of the language skills of their graduates. This process will begin in December 2018.

6. Application, as of October 2018, of diagnostic tests and certifications meeting international standards on the 223 INA English teachers, accompanied by a training plan to raise the quality and appropriateness of English language courses.

First Public-Private Initiative

The Managing Director of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), Jorge Sequeira, introduced the first public-private initiative to join this Alliance. This training project was launched with support from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security under the Empléate Program and the National Employment Program (PRONAE).

It is a one-year English language teaching program for more than 1,000 young people and young adults, 800 of them living in 15 communities outside the Greater Metropolitan Area.

For Costa Rica the Alliance for Bilingualism will involve the use of further development opportunities through foreign direct investment companies. Today these companies employ almost 100,000 Costa Ricans, because of the proven educational quality and language skills of the human talent in this country.

More than 300 multinational companies in the services, digital technologies, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, light industry and food industry sectors operate in Costa Rica. They are here because of the recognized international experience of the country as a strategic headquarters for multinational companies looking for a strategic partner to develop high added value operations.

Fabiola Domínguez CINDE fdominguez@cinde.org