Whether at home or abroad, the process of selecting a school for your children can be a daunting one. Academic reputation, teacher qualifications, accreditation, rate of both student and teacher turnover, extra curriculars, language of instruction, size, diversity, facilities, philosophy, distance from home, and the general feel of an academic institution all matter. And if you happen to be doing this search from abroad, well, that adds another dimension. We chose a school for our kids, then pre-kinder 3 and first grade, without ever seeing the schools to which we/they were applying: it was scary and it turned out great.
The reasons an expat family in Panama chooses a particular school are nearly as varied as the reasons they are in Panama in the first place. A friend from Switzerland, for example, plans for her children to attend university in Switzerland and thus enrolled her children in a French school, even though it’s far from where they live. For me, US accreditation was important as was a school calendar that closely mirrored the US’s. I wanted my kids to be able to seamlessly transfer back to a school in the States and hoped vacations could line up with their cousins. Looking back these were perhaps not the most essential elements on which to focus, but as I said, I am thrilled with where we are.
Whether you are looking for IB, Catholic, Jewish, French, Chinese, German, multi-lingual, large, small, Panamanian or international, there is a wide range of high-quality education available here in Panama. My advice for finding your right school is to first identify and prioritize your school related needs and wants. What selection criteria is important to you? Once that is in the works, review your budget. School cost varies greatly and should be taken into consideration as you proceed. Keep in mind the distance from where you plan to live. Most schools offer a transportation option, but you should have an idea of commute time as you decide on the best school option for your family. And please talk to the admissions offices. They meet so many families, both local and expat, and can help you to determine if their school is right for your students. Once you have narrowed down the schools you feel meet your criteria, visit them if at all possible. If you can’t visit campus, ask to be put in touch with a current family who may be able to answer your questions; maybe one day you’ll be able to return the favor.
To set you off on your school search, here are a select few of the great international schools in Panama.
Tel. +507 302-1076
Balboa Academy is an AdvancED accredited school providing a U.S. standards-based curriculum in which English is the language of instruction. Their comprehensive and engaging educational program for students from Pre-K 3 through grade 12 is dedicated to fostering innovative, intellectual growth. Balboa Academy’s nurturing community inspires students to become responsible global citizens with integrity and compassion.
The International School of Panama operates under the license of the Ministry of Education of Panama and is accredited by AdvancED. They are an authorized IB World School. ISP is a non-profit, student-centered, independent school inspiring lifelong learners for a future without borders. They offer world-class opportunities for students from Pre-K (3yr olds) to 12th Grade.
The Metropolitan School of Panama is an IB World School offering a world-class academic program for students in Early Childhood 3 through 12th grade. With students hailing from over 45 different nationalities, the MET school is enriched by the wealth of its diverse community.
The Casco School
Tel. +507 6323 6104
The Casco School is unique in character and designed to meet the needs of its community. They offer a truly engaging global education for students aged 1 to 9 years nestled in the heart of Panamas iconic old city, Casco Viejo. The school is creative, dynamic, based on a strong community of families seeking a neighborhood school with a difference. Families have enrolled from over 19 countries, all wishing to align with The Casco School’s international ethos.
Crossroads Christian Academy
Tel. +507 317-9774
The mission of Crossroads Christian Academy (CCA) is to assist the family and the Church by developing students academically, spiritually, and socially under the leadership of Jesus Christ, and to support and encourage the spiritual and professional growth of the faculty and staff. CCA is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and teaches students from K4 to 12th grades.
Colegio Alemán Nikolaus Kopernikus
Tel. +507 321-1812
Languages: German, English, Spanish
The German School Nikolaus Kopernikus is a multicultural and international school which supports and promotes development through a well-founded educational concept. From 2 years of age, children are immersed in German, English and Spanish by native professionals and from various disciplines. With the vision of a 21st century school, teachers work on the basis of preparing children for life, giving them the necessary skills in their different stages of learning.
Boston School International
Tel. +507 833-8888
Languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin
Boston School International offers high-quality education with the mission of achieving excellence in our students. Within an environment where our students feel happy and motivated to learn, they educate tomorrow’s leaders by developing their critical thinking skills, reinforcing their moral values, and enhancing their individual skills. Boston School International is an IB World School.
The French School (Lycée Français International de Panama)
Tel. +507 316-2270
Language: French, Spanish, English
Lycée Français International de Panama is approved by the Ministry of National Education of France. They encourage their students, from an early age, to become responsible adults through socialization, the transmission of values and civic education. Instruction is offered to students from age 4 through terminale.
Oxford International School
Tel. +507 265-6422
Languages: English, Spanish
It is the vision of Oxford International School to create a world of opportunities for every learner. OIS is accredited by both the Panamanian Ministry of Education and AdvancED and provides bilingual instruction to students from PreK through high school. Located in one of the country’s fastest growing areas, OIS enjoys a diversified economic base and a culturally diverse population.
Kings College Panama
Tel. +507 282-3300
Languages: English, Spanish
Kings College Panama follows the British education system with the goal of providing a bilingual education to students from age 2-18. Their educational model is characterized by a rigorous and broad curriculum, an interdisciplinary approach and a strong emphasis on practical learning, exploration and active student participation.