Primary and Secondary School Options...

Monday, October 04 2004 @ 02:33 AM UTC

Contributed by: Don Winner

Many English speaking expatriates move to Panama with school aged childred, and there are some excellent schools available to choose from. The education system in Panama is different from the public school system in the United States in that most children attend some kind of private school. Elementary and secondary education is big business here. Most parents strive to send their kids to the best school they can afford. Public schools are considered to be almost like a social safety net, and primarily only children from the poorest families attend public schools.

There are many excellent options for children of English speaking expatriates. For the most part, you get what you pay for. The most expensive schools can afford to attract and retain the best teachers and staff, and there is somewhat of a “pecking order” with a few schools that stand head and shoulders above the rest as offering the best combinations of value and quality education.

Near the top of the pile is the Balboa Academy. This school is located on the old military base of Ft Clayton, and most of their teachers and staff used to work as teachers on the bases before the military left. The “BA” is clearly one of the best English language schools in the country, and they run on a US schedule with the school year starting in September and finishing in June. They take time off for Panamanian holidays and things such as carnival, but for the most part they mirror a US schedule which makes for easier changing from the US to Panama. They are expensive, however. Here's a link to them: http://www.balboaacademyweb.org/general-information.html

Another school that is on the US schedule is the St. Mary's Academy on the old Albrook military installation. Its another English language school that's on a US schedule. I tried to find a web site for them, but unsuccessfully. I've heard some good things about this school, but do not know anyone personally who has their children attending there.

Another excellent (and, expensive) school is the International School of Panama (ISP). The ISP is another elite and excellent school that has been the favorite of diplomats for years. Again, taught in English, US schedule. The ISP is located out toward the golf club, and its a bit further away from the center of the city. Heres a link to them: http://www.isp.edu.pa/

My personal vote in the “most bang for the buck” category is The Oxford School: This school is on the Panamanian schedule, and most classes are taught in English. Social studies and Spanish (as a second language) are taught in Spanish. The Oxford school is based on the British style and system, and is an excellent school. Here's a link: http://www.oxford.ac/

The Isaac Rabin school is also located on the old Ft Clayton military base. I've spoken to a few parents who have children in this school, and they are more than happy, they are convinced that this is the best school in the country. The Isaac Rabin school takes a slightly different “whole person” approach to education, and they focus on real-world problem solving and situations. Heres a link to them: http://www.cirabin.edu.pa/front/front.htm

And finally, heres a link to some general information about the education system in Panama: http://www.unesco.org/iau/cd-data/pa.rtf

(Added by Andrew in response to a question about Kindergarted options...)

In a message dated 11/24/2004 10:11:01 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, andrew@experiencepanama.com writes:

Melanie,

Both are good schools, but there are quite a few other options, Oxford, Episcopal, St. Mary's and other smaller schools as well. You will need to decide on ease of getting there - which in the mornings can be a challenge if you are fighting traffic all the way, which school year you want to be on - American (September to June) or Panamanian (March to December), curriculum - American based, International or British and then there's the costs - some schools are very very expensive as they are designed more for the company expat who gets all that stuff paid for.

We've been here for 7 years now and have a 4-year old so just starting to see what we can do for Kinder in a year's time. As we are planning on being here for a bit and have no need to coordinate holidays with other family so are looking at Episcopal as we have friends who have their kids there and are very happy with the quality of education.

But it comes down to what you are comfortable with - you will really need to visit each school and take the time to get a feel for how each operates.

We have a good friends working at Balboa, and others who are on the Board and also a teacher at ISP so we could introduce you if you want.

Hope this helps a bit...

Andrew

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