The College of Saint Rose and UDELAS in Panama

A partnership about education, culture and the exchange of ideas

The Education System…¡Qué interestante!

CHRISTINA ZONTINI

Why is education so important? Well, in my opinion education is the system that shapes and creates futures for every society. Children are sent to school to learn to prepare them for the life and a future. I would say education is pretty important and vital for every society. For this past week, I have learned about the education system in Panama, while comparing it to the system we have in place in the United States.

Overall, the education system is similar to that of the Unities States. There are both public and private schools. According to a faculty member at UDELAS, private schools are preferred and generally provide a better education for the students. The people who are able to send their children to the private schools are professionals of some kind. They are able to afford the tuition of the schools. The public schools are free, similar to the United States, and range in the overall education. In order for a public school to be considered a good education, it is usually located in a richer, higher class neighborhood.

The public university with which we are working.

There are private and public elementary schools as well as high schools. The school that we are working with while we are here is a public institution. If it is a public school, it is completely regulated by the government. Unlike in the United States, the federal government controls and regulates education instead of each individual state or providence. This means that education across Panama is the same. The government regulates and creates the books for education, which means the curriculum throughout Panama is exactly the same.

I have been placed in a special education class in an elementary school called Escuela Belisario Porras. The school is a public school in a better neighborhood. The students all wear uniforms, which are white button up shirts and navy blue pants or skirts. The boys are required to wear belts everyday and shirts have to be tucked in. The students all look very professional, which is important according to my cooperating teacher. The government also provides students with two milks everyday to keep them healthy. I think it is interesting that the government is providing milks for these students. It is obvious that government is involved in all that the school does.

The school day starts at 7:00 am and ends around 12:00 pm. The students receive a 15-minute break at 9:00 am when they can eat their snack. Because they leave at 12:00 pm, they do not have lunch while at school. Around 11:00 am students of lower ability and grade are permitted to leave earlier. Although the school is public, the students do receive religious education. Also in the curriculum is english. These students receive a well-rounded education while at this school.

My teacher, Rebecca Ana, has been teaching special education for many years.  I give her a lot of credit because in Panama there are no one-to-one aides or teacher’s assistants. It is just her and about 14 to 15 students with special needs. When I told her about a normal special education class in the United States, she chuckled and said how nice it would be to have extra help in the class.

The class that she has now has about 14 students, but her roster changes on a day-to-day basis. It is hard for her because the amount of students are always changing and that means the range of ability in her class is always changing. She has students from fourth to seventh grade. The youngest student is eleven and the oldest student is fifteen. That is an extremely large age range for one classroom. Talk about differentiated instruction. According to Rebecca Ana, the students in the class do have something similar to IEPs, which help the teachers identify the student’s needs in order to teach him/her.

Overall, the education system is similar to that of the United States. Panama has just begun to make strides in their special education system, and hopefully will continue to improve the system. Special education is something that is needed everywhere, not just in the United States. It is extremely important that every students gets an education and I believe they have that thought here. I am glad to be working in such a great class and I look forward to the upcoming weeks in the classroom.

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3 Comments»

  cziamandanis wrote @

Christina, What are the projected outcomes for students in the special education program at your school? It sounds like you have a great cooperating teacher there, but that having you in the room may be especially beneficial.

  Aja LaDuke wrote @

Christina – I am so happy to have received a reminder email from Dr. Ziamandanis to check the Panama group blog. I agree that you will learn a great deal from the setting you are in and will be able to see your teacher’s resourcefulness in working with students of varying ages and developmental levels. I remember my first exposure to an educational system other than the U.S.’s was a pivotal moment for me both personally and professionally and I am excited to hear more about your experience.

  Ken Scott wrote @

Fascinating Christina. What a chance to learn from a teacher in another culture, and how effective she can be without resources. Sounds like Rebecca Ana will be glad to have you, and that this is a great learning/caring opportunity for you to add to the many experiences you have acquired at St Rose.

Keep up the great work. Ken


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