The College of Saint Rose and UDELAS in Panama

A partnership about education, culture and the exchange of ideas

The Education System

MARIANNE- The Education System.

In my opinion, education is one of the best systems created to help us plan for the future. From a very young age, children attend schools to learn new material and acquire skills to help them plan for a successful future. St. Rose has developed a program to begin a partnership with UDELAS (Universidad Especializada de las Americas.) UDELAS has helped us find placements in schools so I could work hand in hand with a teacher here in Panamá! The Education system in Panamá is similar to that of the U.S. We each have private and public schools. Most students who are sent to private schools are children who have both parents working.

Jaime, a professor from UDELAS told me about the Education System in Panamá. Tuition in private schools in Panamá ranges from $500-$1000 per year, depending on the barrio (neighborhood.) Public schools are free; however, Jaime said there is a small fee of $25-$40 per year for books and uniforms. Both public and private schools in Panama mandate their students to wear uniforms. This was an interesting fact because students in public schools of the U.S. do not wear uniforms. Jaime said it is much easier for families in Panamá to buy two uniforms per child a year because the costs of clothing for a whole year of school would be outrageous. In my opinion, uniforms for public schools would be an excellent idea because it would create order. Schools would spend less time worrying about students’ inappropriate attire, and focus more on their studies.


Throughout the last two weeks, I have been lucky enough to work with an eighth grade teacher at IPA (Instituto Panamericano.) IPA is a private school located in the neighborhood of Las Sabanas. IPA specializes in bi-lingual studies of Spanish and English. The students at IPA learn English from pre-k through twelfth grade. When I first met my students, they were extremely respectful and welcoming. I was amazed at how well the students spoke English. In my opinion, a second language should be learned at a young age because it benefits their ability to acquire the language and practice it throughout the years. The Profa Belén (short for Profesora- professor) is the professor I was working with. She has been working at IPA for 34 years and still going strong! She is greeted by each of her classes every day. It was interesting to see and by the second day the students were greeting me as well! One important fact about the greetings is that the students address their professors by their first names. They greeted me as “Profesora Marianna” and it melted my heart! I attended a Catholic Grammar School in the Bronx, NY from grades K-8. My school was very similar to IPA. Every morning we would greet our teachers by standing and saying “Gooooood morrrrrrnnnning Mrs…..” Like IPA, the grades were split up into different groups of students. Each group had their own classroom and the teacher’s would come into the room, as opposed to public schools that the students walk the halls and go to different classrooms for each subject. Profa Belén is very strict. She does not allow the students to go to the bathroom during class time. Also, she would ask the girls to take off jewelry if she thought it was inappropriate for a young lady to wear. When I asked her why she was strict, she said that the students know they are not allowed to wear big jewelry and she refuses to make exceptions about anything because that creates disorder. I don’t know why, but I LOVED THIS. The students had so much respect for the Profa! I believe students can take advantage of teachers and standing firm and abiding by the rules can set the mood for the year. I definitely want to be a fun and enthusiastic teacher; however, a little strict classroom management never hurt anybody!


School days in Panamá start at 7am and end around 1:30pm (varies between schools.) Each class consists of 30-40 students (HUGE!) IPA has eight periods a day; however, the students have two 15 minute breaks throughout the day. The students do not have a lunch period like schools in the U.S.; however, they have a recreo (recess) for 15 minutes where they can walk freely around the school and eat a small snack in the cafeteria. At IPA, the students take full advantage of the recreo. I was lucky enough to see them in action. The ninth graders prepare a performance twice a week. They perform the traditional Panamanian dance called, El Típico. El Típico is a dance performed by men and women. Men usually wear a sombrero (hat,) while the young ladies were wearing a long decorated skirt called a pollera colorada. I asked the students about the skirts because they were beautiful! One student, Casey, told me they are handmade by local indigenous women and must be different colors; therefore, no one has the same color on during the dance. The second break is called a merienda (a midday snack) where the students have time to go to the bathroom, eat if they haven’t already, and pick up any missed work from the days they were absent. With permission from the Dean of IPA, I have many pictures and a video to share with you!

This past Tuesday, we visited La Fundación de San Felipe in the neighborhood of Casco Viejo. The Foundation of San Felipe is a school that assists students within the San Felipe area with homework, provides them with lunch every day. I would compare this to an after school program. The students who attend this school are from families that cannot afford to pay for private schools. The work and effort put into this program by all the professors is tremendous. It is clear how much they care about the health and education of their students. We visited San Felipe with a group of students from UDELAS. I was fortunate to share many intercambios (interactions/ conversation) with kind and intelligent students. I met a man named Jose. Jose is from Casco Viejo and he works for “Casa Esperanza” (House of Hope.) Casa Esperanza is a service given for free to families who cannot afford to send their children to school. The children usually work in the streets with their parents at local street vendors. My heart was broken to hear such sad stories; however, I told Jose that he was a saint and I admire his dedication to the children. Here is a link about Casa Esperanza:

Ielka & Jose

Overall, I believe the similarities and differences amongst schools all over the world is what makes them unique. I don’t consider myself lucky for working with such intelligent and hard working individuals, I believe I am blessed to have met them. I have enjoyed my time working with Profa Belén and meeting the kind, respectful students at IPA. I hope to use many of Profa Belén’s great classroom management techniques as I begin my career! It is very clear that IPA and neighboring schools care about their students and only want the best for their futures. Due to IPA’s exam and recess week, I will be moving on to a new school this week, St. Marys. I will definitely miss my students and the professors at IPA; however, I know I will remain in contact with them in the future. I am excited about the upcoming week because I am lucky enough to observe and work in two schools within my time here in Panamá! !Hablamos muy temprano!



  foxa488 wrote @

Very interesting post! I never attended a private high school so it is neat to hear the about the experiences of the private schools in the US and in Panama. It is crazy to think that the students do not get a lunch period here in Panama since my school was 7:55 to 2:20 (fairly similar to their 7am – 1:30) with a breakfast break of 15 minutes, and a lunch break of 30 minutes.

  cziamandanis wrote @

Marianne, Thank you for the video!

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