The Panama education system has been described as “one of the worst in the world” and remains unchanged after 30 years because the government fears upsetting unionised teachers. The six years of primary school are compulsory as are the three middle school years that follow. Education curricula follow the traditional pattern that focuses on the humanities.
Middle school follows on a similar basis with little having changed either over time. The quality of teaching is low especially in rural areas where many middle school-age are required to work as laborers in fields instead.
A new minister of education has set moves in place to radically improve the quality of especially secondary education and encourage students to regard teaching as a noble occupation. New technologies including computers are being introduced and results so far have been encouraging. Some day hopefully a system will exists that gives all Panamanian children a head-start in life, not just those at private schools.
The national institute of vocational training and human development was established to give effect to the government’s plans to roll out industrial development. It achieves this by setting policy guidelines, registering private training colleges and attempting to maintain standards.
The University of Panama established in 1935 is the nation’s leading tertiary institution, although there are a number of branches of foreign universities too. It has grown steadily over the years as international recognition has expanded.
Faculties of science and technology, medicine, economics and law are especially well regarded. Other academic disciplines include public and business administration, humanities, agricultural sciences and fine arts.