As Panama establishes itself as a premier location in Latin America, more and more families are deciding to move here. One of the items on their to-do list is finding a good school for their children. Here at Panama Equity, we strive to educate you in all aspects of moving to Panama, not just real estate. So we will begin a new “spotlight series”, highlighting some of the best schools in the country. Today, let’s take a deep dive into one of the best private schools in Latin America—The International School of Panama.
History of The International School of Panama
The story of ISP (International School of Panama) and how it came to be is just as incredible as the school itself. In 1982, a group of Panamanian and expat families met to establish an elementary school for about three dozen students. By 1985, the parents, calling themselves “The International School of Panama Association”, applied for and were granted authority to establish an educational institution under Panamanian law.
The ambitious group of founding parents decided to begin with a school that would serve students from kindergarten through third grade. They hired a director and teachers, and together with them created a curriculum that would provide the best possible education program with an international perspective. Their dream and vision held strong even during times of political and financial hardships in the Republic of Panama. In 1990, with enormous pride, ISP graduated eight students—their first senior class.
Over the course of several decades, the school continued to flourish and expand. The campus started as three small residential buildings in La Cresta. Eventually, ISP expanded to the current campus facilities, set on a beautiful 9.6 acres in the rolling hills of Cerro Viento.
In 2006 the campus was further expanded to make room for the growing student population. ISP added a Cafetorium, middle school science labs, and later a dedicated Early Childhood Centre, as well as an elementary cafeteria. In the 2010-2011 school year, covered tennis courts and a semi-Olympic swimming pool were inaugurated.
Serving over 1,000 students in 2014, the school’s facilities continued to be improved and expanded, thereby enriching the variety and quality of the programs being offered. That year work began on the new Bus Depot and Performing Arts Center which was inaugurated in 2015. The final addition to the campus was the ambitious multi-sport track and field project. ISP now boasts one of the two FIFA One Star Certified Artificial Turf Fields in all of Panama.
The Science Technology Engineering and Math Program is now the only AdvacEd certified program in Central America. To further cultivate this commitment, several spaces in all divisions were transformed into STEM labs. These spaces combine technology and hands-on tools, providing students with additional spaces to explore their creativity and to apply learning to real-world tasks and problem-solving.
What is an ISP education like?
ISP operates under the license of the Ministry of Education of Panama and is accredited by Cognia. As an authorized IB World School, they offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme & Certificates, for students in grades 11 and 12. In addition, they offer a unique Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate and AdvancED certified STEM programs.
The school has a high academic standard. An arduous curriculum and highly qualified teachers have made ISP a leading school in Latin America. Their curriculum is designed to meet the educational program needs of both international students and residents of Panama. ISP works in conjunction with the authority of MEDUCA, the Panamanian Ministry of Education, Cognia, their accreditation agency, and the International Baccalaureate Organization, to ensure their students receive the finest education.
English is the language of instruction, and students who do not speak English as their first language receive additional support through their Department of Student Services.
Student to Teacher Ratio by grade level:
- PK Program: 16-17 students to 1 teacher plus one learning assistant
- Kindergarten: 20-21 students to 1 teacher plus one learning assistant
- Grade 1: 21-22 students to 1 teacher plus one learning assistant
- Grades 2–5: 22-23 students to 1 teacher plus a part-time learning assistant
- We base our student body population in grades 6 through 12 on the number of students we can accommodate according to building capacity and the number of teachers available.
Who is the International School of Panama for?
ISP is a Pre-K to 12th-grade private school that requires a student admission process. ISP enjoys meeting their new families prior to initiating the admissions process and this is to ensure that their mission and core values align with yours. The first step would be initiating a virtual information session or a guided tour. After you’ve decided it is the right fit, the application process can be done online.
The school requires school records from the past three years, passports, immunization records, Teacher/Principal email addresses (they will receive a recommendation form to fill in directly from the platform once the application is submitted), and then if the student is receiving learning support they need to review an updated neuropsychological report as well as their current Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
ISP does have tuition costs and fees. Tuition rates are subject to the grade level and range from $9,565 to $18,120 per year for the 2021-2022 school year. The fee schedule is specific to the individual student and family and can be calculated on ISP’s website. Though all students will be subject to an application fee, capital donation fee, and annual registration fee.
It should be noted that ISP is a non-profit student-centred organization, therefore tuition is redistributed back to the students’ learning experience and programs. The school even created a strategic 5-year plan in 2015, showcasing their continued effort to advance ISP.
In the 2018 & 2019 school years, there were 1219 students with 40 different nationalities. 17% were from the United States & Canada, 35% from Central America, 26% from South America, 6% from Europe, 6% from Asia, and 1% other.
Arts, Athletics, and Activities at ISP
At ISP, the Visual and Performing Arts are recognized and celebrated as a means of expressing the self in relation to society, allowing students to explore their passions. ISP has cutting edge Arts facilities, including a world-class Performing Arts Center, where students collaborate on all aspects of production and performance. The Visual Arts program invites students to explore media from the traditional to the digital. Music instruction encompasses theory and skills, with opportunities to study band, strings, guitar and voice. Your child will have the opportunity to learn Visual Arts, Music and Film & Theater.
ISP also recognizes the importance of Sport and its relation to education. Students can compete in Basketball, Flag Football, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track and Field, and Volleyball. ISP teams compete in national competitions, inter-school competitions, and local federations.
The school also boasts a number of After School Activities (ASA). They plan for ASA activities to be organized by age-appropriate groupings. Activities are supervised by members of the ISP staff or by out of school instructors that have been screened carefully by the school administration.
These activities include: Art Blast, Artistic Gymnastics, Cheerleading, College Cooking 101, Jr Master Chef, Karate, LEGO Build 4 Fun, Parkour, Roller Skating, Trampoline, and VEX Robotics. Though most activities are age-specific.
Where is it located and how will my kids get there?
ISP is located on the north side of Panama City in Cerro Viento, San Miguelito. Bus services are available but not with the school itself. ISP recommends two different bus services that provide transportation in many parts of the city. Their website features a map of the residential zones that are eligible. These services do come with a yearly fee ranging from $120-$160.
If your residential zone is not covered by the recommended transportation companies, you can arrange a different provider for your transportation service.
In the 2018 & 2019 high school classes, students went to over 75 different universities around the world. Including the likes of Duke University, Brown University, and Georgetown University. The International School of Panama prepares students in a university-like atmosphere and grants them the opportunity to reach their highest academic potential.
Today, building on a strong foundation and vision, ISP continues its forward-thinking tradition, always striving to improve teaching and learning in state-of-the-art facilities, while remaining true to the bold and fearless vision of their founders, to offer a forward-thinking world-class education in Panama.