Education in Panama: Public vs. Private Schools - Expat Community

Education in Panama: Public vs. Private Schools

Oct 31, 2023 | Knowledge Base, Panama | 0 comments

Navigating the educational landscape of a foreign country can be complicated for expats. On one hand, you want your kids to immerse in their new home and get in touch with culture, and, on the other hand, you want them to receive the best education possible so they can have a bright future.


When it comes to Panama, the decision to enroll children in public or private schools is a critical one. Drawing on the notable differences between the two, this article delves into the Panamanian educational system, with a special emphasis on why many foreigners opt for private schooling.


Panama’s School Year

The school calendar in Panama can be a point of confusion for newcomers. Traditionally, Panamanian schools operate from March to December, treating January and February as their summer break, coinciding with the vibrant and culturally rich Carnavales.


However, it’s worth noting that certain private institutions align more closely with the North American academic calendar, running from September to June.


Regardless of the schedule, both public and private institutions observe significant holidays such as Carnavales, Easter, and Christmas.


Public Schools: An Overview

The public education system in Panama has frequently been described as lagging in terms of quality, especially when juxtaposed with international standards. This perceived inadequacy can deter many from choosing public schools for their children.


Beyond the quality concerns, the public school system in Panama contends with a pronounced lack of resources. The scarcity often leads to issues such as a dearth of devoted teachers and an inconsistent curriculum. These combined factors can sometimes compromise the educational experience of students.


A significant concern for many public schools in Panama is overcrowding. Packed classrooms can often limit personalized attention and detract from the learning experience. This issue has raised alarms about the long-term sustainability and efficacy of such learning environments.


With Spanish as the predominant language of instruction, non-native speakers might find it challenging to adapt to the public schooling system. This language barrier can sometimes impede effective learning for foreign students.


Recognizing these challenges, the Panamanian government has been actively working on improving the quality of public education. However, these changes are incremental, and widespread improvements might take time.


Private Schools

 For many expatriates, the private schools in Panama emerge as a clear choice.


Standing as a testament to quality, many of Panama’s private schools are recognized as some of the best across Central America. These institutions offer rigorous academic programs that ensure students are well-prepared for global challenges.


In addition, Private schools in Panama are often revered for their wealth of resources. With access to state-of-the-art facilities, highly qualified educators, and curricula that often mirror international standards, these institutions are synonymous with excellence in education.


An added advantage that resonates with many foreign families is the primary language of instruction. Unlike the public system, many private schools in Panama have shifted towards English, making the academic transition for expatriate students considerably smoother.


The promise of quality education in private institutions comes with its financial implications. With admission fees spanning a broad spectrum, from $1,000 to a substantial $12,000 annually per student, it’s essential for parents to assess their financial readiness.


Top Schools

 Panama boasts several well-regarded private schools, many of which cater to both local and expatriate students.


Here some of them:

  1. The International School of Panama (ISP)
  2. Balboa Academy
  3. King’s College, The British School of Panama
  4. Panama Pacifico Academy (PPA)
  5. Metropolitan School of Panama


Which one should you choose?

 The choice between public and private education in Panama largely hinges on personal preferences, financial considerations, and the importance of language of instruction. However, for many foreigners, the tilt towards private schools is evident, given their consistent quality of education, resources, and the advantage of English as the primary language of instruction.


It’s always advisable for parents to visit schools in person, meet with the administration, and review current feedback from other parents to determine the best fit for their children.

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