Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Steven Black

Second Advisor

Cassandra White

Third Advisor

Jennifer Patico


This research is an ethnographic study of school-based sexual education programs in two rural schools of Costa Rica. The two schools are 5 miles apart; one is inside a Ngöbe indigenous territory and the other is outside. Through participant observation, interviews, surveys, and free-listing exercises I was able to identify broken messages and miscommunication in the implementation of the programs. How the program was initially conceived, what teachers implement, and what students understand as the ‘take-home’ message, are three different things. Additionally, I propose that sex and sexuality has multiple ties with all other aspects of life, such as economic power, language, gender dynamics, and religion – which cannot be taught through standardized methods. The role of science teachers as program implementers must be reevaluated, and the program needs to adjust certain discourses and allow for flexibility in order to obtain the intended results, as conceived by the Ministry of Education.