VIE WPOIN TS
INSIDE LATIN AMERICA
HEAD OF THE
Wise investments in its educational system have helped Costa Rica rise to the
top of project management. BY ROBERTO TOLEDO, MBA, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Costa Rica stands out in Central America for many reasons. Perhaps the most widely known one is its reputation for eco-tourism. Consid- ered one of the “greenest” countries according
to the Environmental Performance Index 2010, Costa
Rica ranks behind only Iceland and Switzerland.
But a lesser-known fact about this small, beautiful
country is the emphasis its people and government place
on education, including the study of project management.
Universities in Costa Rica, both public and private,
are considered among the best in Latin America. In
1999, the Universidad Para la Cooperación Internacio-nal in San José established a master’s degree program
in project management that has now graduated more
than 2,000 students. In 2007, then-dean Federico Vargas, PMP, accomplished one of the major milestones in
the Costa Rican project management community: He
and a team of committed professors helped the program become the first, and so far only, degree-granting
program in Latin America recognized by PMI’s Global
Accreditation Center for Project Management Education
Costa Rica’s strong position on education is actually
established in its constitution. In 1949, the Costa Rican
government abolished its army and declared that the budget previously allotted to military forces would be used
mainly to fund the national education system. Very few
countries today can claim that they don’t have a permanent army.
Furthermore, as early as 1848, José María Castro, the
founder of the republic (who, by the way, was a former
schoolteacher), helped established Costa Rica as the first
country in the world with free and mandatory education.
The nation boasts about having more teachers than
policemen, and this affirmation is a source of great pride
for Ticos—as Costa Ricans are called—because they feel
that their high education level sets them apart from other
countries in the region.
>>This is obviously a community that
believes in education and professional
development as the most important means
of human development and the basis for a
country’s international success.
A Good Teacher
When you consider the country’s focus on education, it
does not come as a surprise that the project management
community in Costa Rica is robust and forward-thinking.
The well-established PMI Costa Rica Chapter received its
charter in 2001. It was founded by a group of professionals, led by Enrique Cappella, PMP, who had strong ties to
the academic world. Many of them, in fact, were professors
from local universities.
The growing number of Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential holders in Costa Rica greatly
exceeds those of its neighbors and countries of similar
population size. In addition, the republic hosts one of the
most successful annual congresses in Latin America and a
wide offering of professional development activities that
attract practitioners from all over the region.
This is obviously a community that believes in education and professional development as the most important
means of human development and the basis for a country’s
Larger or more developed countries should learn the
lesson that Costa Rica has taught us. The value of education, paired with a healthy respect for our environment,
should be a high priority—not only as project managers
but also as human beings. PM
Roberto Toledo, MBA, PMP, is manag-
ing director of Alpha Consultoría, and a
trainer and consultant who works across
Latin America. He can be reached at