Panama City, Panama Report of what it's like to live there - 08/01/23

Personal Experiences from Panama City, Panama

Panama City, Panama 08/01/23

School Name:

Balboa Academy

Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?


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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

Elementary and Middle School

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3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?


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4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

Yes - MET, ISP, Casco School, etc.

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

Okay. They do an orientation day when you can see the spaces and meet the teachers. They do seem to put on a good show once or twice a year.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

Horrible, in my opinion. For those of us who were stuck at this school it just became laughable how no one ever knew what was going on. Everything was announced last minute and missing key details. In my opinion, the school does not know how to communicate. I never had any idea what my kids were working on in school.

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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?

After-school activities can be over $1,000 per semester but it's not clear what you are paying for. They will send you a two-sentence blurb of the program and then you will receive not one update on what your child is doing or how your child is doing. I do not think these are enriching activities from what I can tell. They also cancel them at the last minute, and cancel them any day before a holiday, leaving parents scrambling to make childcare arrangements.

The school offers an extremely expensive several-thousand-dollar "field trip" for older kids to go to the U.S. This touches on the inequality issue of the school between families for whom this is affordable and for those for whom it is not even an option. Any local "trips" were an after-thought in my opinion, thrown together a day before and nothing special at all - walking around the old part of the city or to the ruins.

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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?

There might be someone there with the title of 'counselor' but I have no idea what they do.

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2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

The elementary school library may be the one positive thing about this school.

Sadly, for my son in middle school, I had to beg for him to be able to borrow a book... each time... It took days/weeks for him to actually bring a book home.

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3. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?

The older kids will be on their laptops for hours a day. My child's internet search history showed him watching YouTube videos all day. Again - if there's a lazy way to "teach"....

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

Large indoor gym spaces, multiple sports fields.

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5. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?

You won't know what the curriculum is. You won't receive any information about what your child is learning. There are no textbooks, syllabi, or other learning plans.

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6. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Yes, it seems like all teachers speak English very well.

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7. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

NONE - This school cannot support students with learning differences. I would not even consider this school if your child needs any extra support.

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8. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

There's an ELL teacher.

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Overall Impressions:

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?

F. There are kind-hearted people working at this school but I'll always regret having chosen it, and once I saw the issues, not changing schools. Maybe this is a good school in other people's experiences, but not ours.

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2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!

It seems like there is no one stand-out school in Panama, and each school has its issues. Just do your research and talk to other parents.

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