Panama City, Panama Report of what it's like to live there - 04/29/21
Personal Experiences from Panama City, Panama
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
We have four high school children at ISP.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
2018-2021 all high school.
3. What years did you live here?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes, there is the Met and Balboa Academy.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
We found that ISP is had organizational problems. For example, they lost our 25k deposit, and we had to keep careful track of all payments because they couldn't keep anything straight.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Terrible. Particularly if you are transferring during the IB program, they promised everything would transfer seamlessly and it was a nightmare once we arrived.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Terrible. It seems to us that ISP does not believe in transparency. We found that the Board meetings were closed, the school says they speak to PTA, PTA doesn't communicate with the parents.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
Field trips are extra.
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
We found it terrible. The is no psychological support for the children.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Yes, it is small, drab and very sad.
3. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
There is a soccer field which is not regulation for anything else, which privileges the soccer team at the expense of all other sports. Track is held at a dilapidated stadium off-campus.
4. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
30 to 1
5. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
6. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
7. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
There is a beautiful theater paid for by Proctor and Gamble who got a permanent board seat in return (and it's unclear if there were other benefits for the company).
8. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
9. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
10. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
There is an elevator.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
Beware here as we found Panama to be a very regressive country. ISP says it is inclusive but we found that it is NOT. In our experience, the rich Panamanian parents would not entertain any mention of LGBT+ among parents or students. Anyone who tries to raise the lack of inclusivity is shouted down. In our experience, the school administrators will not stand up for equality no matter how many times they say #principled on their website.
2. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
No. Non-Spanish speaking students will have a hard time here.
3. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
Yes - even among parents.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
D. I would never choose this school if given a choice. The problem is that Panama has few choices. I would suggest that any parent look hard at the other choices. ISP may look pretty on the outside but not the same on the inside.
2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Talk to other parents. Choose carefully, this school is international in name only. In terms of diversity of cultures, views and ideas--we found it to be anything but.