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The educational system in Panama
Panama is striving to improve the educational system and training of its population. It is estimated that over 90% of the population is literate. Education in the country is compulsory for children ages 5 to 15. The Minister of Education is the regulator of this sector and the system is very similar to the one in the United States.
Public education began in Panama soon after separating from Colombia in 1903. In 1906 the Panama College was founded by Methodists. Nowadays it is called the Panamerican Institute and is one of the best private colleges in Panama.
The first efforts were guided by a paternalistic view of the goals of the educational system, as evidenced in comments made in a 1913 meeting of the First Panamanian Educational Assembly: “The cultural heritage given to the child should be determined by the social position he will or should occupy. For this reason, sex education should be different in accordance with the social class to which the student should be related.” This elitist focus changed rapidly under United States influence.
Even though public schools are free for the compulsory years of school, modern institutions are limited to major cities. The standard of education also depends on the location as the quality is still affected by being in the countryside vs. a city.
Nevertheless, compared to the other countries in the region, the standard of education is relatively high, because there is a significant investment by the Government in education and research.
The Panamanian system is organized in three levels: Basic General Education, Second Level or Secondary Education and Higher Education. There are around 7,013 public schools and 740 private and some of them offer bilingual education.
Students are assessed using a scale of 1-5. The pass grade is 3. If the student fails four subjects or fails the same one twice they will have to repeat the grade.
The Fist Level of Basic General Education lasts eleven years and is free and compulsory. The academic structure is divided in three phases: pre-school, two years; primary, six years and pre-media (first cycle), three years.
Preschool in Panama is compulsory when the child turns five. Classes are imparted in kindergartens, nurseries and child guidance centers.
Primary education is for children between six and 11 years old.
Pre-media: is the final stage of the Basic General Education and is directed at children between 12 to 15 years old.
High School lasts three years and to opt for it the student needs a Pre-Media Certificate. He / She can choose different specializations such as science, business, tourism or a vocational one like agriculture, nautical or mechanics.
There are both American and British international schools in Panama City and the provinces. The Balboa Academy, Oxford International Schools and Crossroads Christian Academy follow the U.S. syllabus.
Others like the Oxford School and King’s College offer a British curriculum and an international program. Knightsbridge School International has the International Baccalaureate program. Private schools tuition can cost between $800 to $8000 a year depending on the institution.
Documents required entering Panamanian schools
1.- Birth Certificate or Juvenile Identity Card
2.- Two photos passport or ID size.
3.- Medical history record signed by the student’s pediatrician, vaccination records and also required.
4.- Schools record.
Students from countries outside Panama must have their school records authenticated by the closest Panamanian consulate. Authenticated records must then go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education. When all of the requested documents are received, the school will schedule a meeting with the student and his guardian, which will include an interview and admission tests.
Many private schools have websites, so before you make a decision about which school is best for the child visit them to make an informed decision.