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Moving to Panama: How to Choose the Right School

Moving to Panama: How to Choose the Right School

By in Blog with 21 Comments

One of the most important considerations for expatriates with children who move to Panama is choosing the right school. After all, what’s more important than your child’s education? Thankfully, Panama provides a diversity of high quality educational options for families that you’ll be happy to send your kids to. The top private schools in Panama are widely considered to be some of the best in Central America, and the options for these schools are as diverse as the children attending them.

Before you begin your search, it’s important to have all the information available to fully understand the educational landscape in Panama. Short of visiting schools yourself, we’ve compiled all the information you could need to make this important decision for your family.  

Public Vs. Private

While in many countries students can receive a rigorous and high quality education at public schools, this isn’t always the case in Panama. Unfortunately, the Panamanian public school system is underfunded, and as a result classrooms are often lacking. Public schools do not always have consistent access to basic resources, experienced teachers, or rigorous curriculum. This isn’t to say that there aren’t talented and passionate teachers in public schools. There are plenty. Nonetheless, the quality of schools is highly variable and it’s hard to know how good or bad one might be until your child is already enrolled.

Private schools do have an admission cost (more on that to come), but the price is well worth it. At most private schools in Panama you will find well equipped classrooms, effective teachers, and a safe and happy learning environment. Which private school you choose will depend on a number of factors.

Common Yearly Calendar

Another consideration to take into account when choosing a school is the yearly calendar. Most countries follow an academic calendar that applies to all schools. In Panama, though, this isn’t always the case. Essentially, there are two different academic calendars operating simultaneously. Each school follows one of these two schedules.

One option is based on the North American schedule from September to June. The other is based on what was traditionally more common in Central America and runs from March to December. All schools have breaks during Christmas, Easter, and Carnival.

Depending on where you come from, when you move to Panama, and how long you’ll be living here, you might have a strong preference for one of these two calendars. Many expats from the United States prefer a typical American school year so that kids can spend their summers in the United States. Others prefer the opposite schedule as it’s often cheaper and less hectic to travel during the off months of January and February.

Location and Facilities

The majority of Panama’s private and international schools are located in the capital city limits. That said, there are some new international schools that have recently opened in other parts of the country. Not surprisingly, the locations of these schools tend to directly impact the prices of real estate in the area. The schools also have a way of dictating the residents. Neighborhoods with multiple private schools tend to be more family-oriented than others.

As far as facilities go, this is another area where variability between schools is large. The top-notch school facilities in Panama typically include athletic facilities, pools, and very modern, high tech classrooms. Most Panama schools also provide either in-house or independently contracted transportation services as well as catering (often at an additional cost).

Admission Costs

Like in most countries, private schools come with a price tag. What that price tag looks like, though, can vary quite a bit. Some private schools in Panama require one annual tuition fee. This fee tends to range anywhere from $1,000 to as much as $16,000 per student.

More common, though, are schools that charge a one time enrolment fee and then a smaller monthly fee after that. Enrolment fees can range anywhere from $400 to $2,000 depending on the school. Monthly fees tend to range between $100 and $1,500 per month for a 10 month school year. In some cases, discounts are given for families enrolling multiple children at the same school. Likely the most expensive school in Panama, The International School of Panama, charges what they call a one-time Capital Donation of $16,000 for all new students plus about $1,500 per month in tuition.

As you can see, these prices range dramatically. So are the priciest schools really that much better? It all depends on what you’re looking for. If you insist that your children have bilingual (or even trilingual) education, chances are you’ll end up shelling out a bit more for a school that fits the bill. When choosing a school, admission costs are an important aspect to consider. You want to make sure that your family factors school costs into your budget when choosing the school that is right for you.

International Schools

Apart from the considerations called out above, there are plenty of special considerations that might lead your family to choose one school over another. One of these is language. Depending on where you are from, there might be a language that you want your children to maintain or learn. International schools are your best bet if bilingualism is a chief concern. Panama boasts a French school, a Japanese school, several Chinese schools, and a British School.

Panama’s international schools also tend to be the most diverse when it comes to student body. You’re likely to find students from countries across North and South America as well as from Europe and Asia all within one classroom. Below are some of the most popular international schools in Panama.

International School of Panama (ISP)

International School Panama school grounds

The International School of Panama (ISP) was founded in 1982 and has one of the most diverse student bodies of any Panamanian school. The school follows the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and offers services for students with learning disabilities and special needs. Many claim that ISP is the best of the best for private schools in Panama.

King’s College – British School of Panama

King's College Panama Top international school grounds

King’s College is Panama’s British School. Operating since 2012, the school is known for high academic standards and using the English national curriculum. Teachers use child-centered and inquiry-based teaching practices encouraging intellectual curiosity.

Boston International School 

Boston School International Panama grounds

Boston School International has a large focus on the use of technology in the classroom and using technology to help students teach themselves. The school follows the International Baccalaureate program and offers instruction primarily in English.

The Metropolitan School of Panama (MET)

Metropolitan School of Panama Building

The MET is a modern school offering pre K – 12th grade education.Since it’s founding, the MET has experienced an exceptional growth and hosts impressive facilities such as three science laboratories, an arts wing and audiovisual recording studios. With more than 669 students of 38 different nationalities as well as over 118 faculty members of 22 different nationalities, the school is enriched by the wealth of its diverse and multicultural community.

Lycée français Paul Gauguin de Panama

Lycée Français Paul Gauguin grounds

If you’re looking for French language education, Lycée français Paul Gauguin de Panama is your best bet. The school serves Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade and includes offerings in sports, culture, and the arts.

Balboa Academy

Balboa Academy follows a U.S. standards-based curriculum. English is the language of instruction, and rigorous courses are aimed at fostering intellectual growth. Balboa Academy prides themselves for nurturing the development of the whole child through extracurricular activities and promoting a love of learning.

Religious Schools

The Episcopal School in El Carmen (CEP)

Colegio Episcopal de panama

The Episcopal School in El Carmen (CEP) uses Spanish as the primary language of instruction. By high school students can learn French or Japanese as a second language. Their teaching philosophy is based on the teachings of the Bible and the beliefs of the Episcopal Church.

Magen David Academy

Magen David Academy Classroom

Magen David Academy seeks to provide students with a challenging and inspiring education that integrates both high quality Jewish and secular education to achieve academic excellence.

Crossroads Christian Academy

Crossroads Christian Academy school building

This small school is operated by run by Panama’s biggest English speaking Evangelical Church. The full academic curriculum also includes Bible classes.  Grades are PK 4 – 12 and students are prepared for U.S. universities.

Conclusion

Rest assured, if you are considering moving to Panama, there is a school for every location and every budget. We highly recommend exploring all your options and speaking with other foreigners, many of whom are our clients, who have already made the plunge. Their experiences can be a wealth of information to the newcomer.

If you want to know more or are considering relocating your family to Panama, we can help! Get in touch for all of your Panama Real Estate needs.

  

About The Author

Kent Davis, founder and Managing Director at Panama Equity real estate, has been widely quoted in publications such as Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Miami Herald and the Financial Times for his unabashed views on the Panama real estate market. Panama Equity is regarded as one of the most active real estate agencies in Panama and Kent’s articles, reports, and market research projects have been syndicated by press agencies including Bloomberg and the Associated Press.   Connect with the Author via: Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+

21 Comments

  1. Luciana says:

    I am considering moving to Panama in january 2018 and we are looking for a school for my daughter aged 12. We would like a school with the Constructivism pedagogy or similar, and we are having lots of difficulty to find some there.
    Do you know some Schools there who works in that way? I found Colegio El Javier, but it is a catholic school, and I would prefer a School with no religion….
    thank you!

    • Kent Davis says:

      Hello Lucian, thanks for your message! There are a number of non-religious private schools in Panama, depending on your budget. Kings College, ISP, The Boston School and MET are all good options. For lower priced, you may consider Oxford School.

  2. Linda and Edwin says:

    Hello,
    We’re moving to Panama end of June. We have a here kids entering school. 2nd grade and PK4. Which is a better school Met or ISP?

    Thank you 

    • Kent Davis says:

      Hi Guys, sorry for the delayed response! MET and ISP are both great schools. It depends on where you live more than anything, as traffic can be bad getting to and from both.

  3. Julia Shin says:

    Hi Kent,

    Considering how difficult it is to find open seats for most of the good international schools, I was wondering if there are any education/admission consulting services that I could reach out to in Panama that you are aware of. Gracias!

    • Kent Davis says:

      Julia, you’ve got a great idea for a business there!! It is a bit tough finding open seats for the good international schools, but certainly not impossible. It all really depends on where you end up living and what your budget is for the schools. Unfortunately, I dont know of any school admission/consulting services. Please start one and we’ll send you all of our business 🙂

  4. Constance says:

    We are considering a move to Panama with our daughter who would attend high school. We want a rigorous college-prep, Honors/AP courses, US diploma and possibly IB, school for her, but our budget is modest. Is there a website that presents all the high schools and includes their course descriptions and tuitions?

    • Kent Davis says:

      Hi Constance, thanks for reaching out regarding school prices and the various curriculums offered. To my knowledge, there is no single website detailing all of the school course descriptions and tuitions, only individual school-specific websites.

      The list we have is still accurate, especially for high schools in Panama City, Panama.

      Episcopal is a good one with modest pricing, it’s just a bit difficult to get in to.

      Again, you’re going to have to go school by school, searching each of their individual websites to get the info you’re looking for.

      And once you decide on a school, Im sure that our readers would appreciate hearing what you selected and why. Suerte!!

  5. Gabriela Castro says:

    Kent,
    I liked 2 schools: MET and Kings….which one is the best for my 3 kids? I would like to live in Clayton….
    thanks for you time!

    GBC

  6. Chris Music says:

    I am moving to Panama City in August and need to find a good school for my three children (4th, 1st, and Kinder).  Would you have some time on the phone to discuss the differences between the ISP, Balboa and Metropolitan?  Should I be looking at other options besides these two?

    • Kent Davis says:

      Hi Chris, thanks for your message regarding schools in Panama. The ones you’ve selected are some of the best for sure. You may also want to consider Kings College aka The British School of Panama and Boston School.

      One of our salesman is an expert on school selections here and that’s Andrea Cooper. Might I suggest you write to her directly at Andrea (at sign) Panamaequity.com. Cheers!

  7. Michele says:

    My question is quite similar to Gabloid. We are looking into moving to Panama and we have one who will be entering grade 10 this upcoming school year and need to make sure he still gets an education! I like the Pedasi area, but have not found any schools there in my searches. If there are no schools in Pedasi area, I will remove it from my search area and find an area that would be better suited for his education. If you could provide me with information, that would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

  8. Gabi Roberts says:

    Hi,
    We maybe moving to Pedasi. I have found out that the New International School there is offering K12 and it looks good but I would also like to see where the next closest International School is or is boarding also an option. My son will be 14 in June…Do you know of any and can you give me any other information on the closest schools to this area. (We are from the UK). It would be hugely appreciated
    Many thanks
    Gabloid

  9. Volaire says:

    Do you know where is the new chinese academy?
    thanks
    Nicolas
    PS : I am not sure of the right name of this new place

  10. Dreick says:

    Hi, Crossroads Christian Academy? you can give me more information? please

    thanks

  11. suzanne says:

    are there private schools in the el cangrejo area ? I have a daughter who will be a high school freshman .
    thank you .
    s

    • Kent Davis says:

      Hi Suzanne,

      There are actually a few schools in and around El Cangrejo. La Salle is a good option and Oxford School is right across the street from El Cangrejo.

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