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This is an op-ed piece reprinted from LaPrensa yesterday on education in Panama.

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/media-watch-back-to-school-and-the-burden-of-ignorance

I think many people fail to realize that this is a relatively young country with a relatively young culture when they criticize local folks for not understanding a communication or a task they might consider to be simple.

Most of us with European or Oriental heritage for example, including many Panamanians, have the benefit of knowledge, customs, and manners which were spawned over many centuries of civilization. However, that just isn't the case with many folks in and around rural areas such as Boquete.

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The interesting thing here is that WE PANAMANIANS are autocritics of our own educational system and government policies on education.  

I studied in a Public School in the 60's and 70's where there was still a good system, good and dedicated teachers not involved in politics.  I can regret the knowledge and culture they gave me.  Those days of high quality education in public schools are gone....  I got my degree in a private university because the Universidad de Panama was highly involved into politics and lost a lot of classes because of strikes and demonstrations on the streets.

There is another thing to understand.  There exist two Panama's in terms of education:  private vs public.  All my kids studied at private catholic schools.  It was expensive, costly but it was worth every penny.  The education given at any private school is too way better than the one given at any public school.   So it is being said that almost all the kids that graduate from private schools and universities have better chances on studying overseas and getting better jobs.   Of course there are some special cases of boys and girls that comes out of the public educational systems that are good and succeed in their careers and get scholarships to study at universities in Europe, US and Asia.   Then who's to blame?  The government authorities that because they dont want to make waves and upset the teachers and professors unions they leave the things just the same.

Well.  All the kids of the politicians and upper classes studied in private schools in Panama and when they graduate from high schools they go to study in US College and Universities without any problem.  The passed all the test easily.  Martinelli, Martin Torrijos, Juan Carlos Varela, Juan Carlos Navarro, Alberto Aleman, Roberto Roy, Gerardo Solis.... and the list is large.  All of them got their degrees in US Universities.  All of them came from private schools in Panama.   

Bottom line.... public schools educational system in Panama is not good and private schools are the only one that really works.  That is the reason that there are so many private schools in Panama and middle class proffessionals do whatever they can to put their kids in private schools.

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Keith

 

In 1978 from the Public school system in Panama eliminate from their academic pensum Latin and French.  Yes French was taught in Panamanians schools.  Latin was eliminated because it was a dead tongue.   French was eliminated because.... they didnt care.  

World Literature was also eliminated from the education system.  I do remember that I had to read most of the classics novels from the Spanish Literature, English Literature and World Literature.  Yes.  I had to read those books and do a presentation in front of the class.  I enjoyed reading all those classic from Cervantes to Shakespeare, From Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas to Goethe.  I have to read completely Don Quixote and analyze every chapter.   Read Aesop and Samaniego famous phables.   I am so glad that I read a lot.  It gave me a lot of knowledge and increased my cultural background.  I have learned that there is a lot of room in your brain for knowledge.  

I see in local tv stations videos that reporters on the streets ask people some general questions about geography, literature and even panamanian history and lot of the people answers are wrong.  They dont know anything.  What a shame.  

Well I am not afraid of using my brain.

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9 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

Roger, it's not just in Panama that education systems have deteriorated. I just now saw this quote by a well known U.S. journalist.

"In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek
in high school to teaching Remedial English in college."
-- Joseph Sobran

That's why we have Donald Trump - "I LOVE the poorly educated."  And they love him.

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As a teacher, I just need to say that the school system here in Panama is atrocious. One teacher I talked to said that she just sits behind her desk all day because the kids don't pay attention to her anyway. With exceptions, the teachers do not have control of their classrooms and so there is very little learning going on. They also stress rote learning over any critical thinking,  "Out of 144 countries, Panama currently ranks 112 in terms of quality of education system, 115 with regard to the quality of primary education, and 125 in the teaching of science and mathematics."

Yes, the private system is much better than the public system, but both are sorely inadequate.

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.  http://primapanama.blogs.com/_panama_residential_devel/2009/10/panama-education-ranked-near-the-bottom-in-latin-america.html

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Phyllis:

You can't judge a forest because of one tree.  That would be the case of that teacher that you talked to.  It will be a shame for his/her as a professional to admit that it is the way he/she is working.  It means that he doesnt care about students.  He got the position because he/she needed the money and that's all.  If the kids dont pay attention to what he/she is doing or teaching is because he/she is a bad professional that didnt know how to talk and control a bunch of kids in his/her classroom.  That is a cheap excuse in my opinion.   Unfortunatelly that is the way of thinking of the new generation of teachers in Panama that dedicate more time to their groups, unions and associations that realy caring about the quality of education they are giving to their students.   They are oriented to the left but their behaviour damage the opportunity of low income people that couldnt afford a private education.   

Most or the teachers working in private schools also work on public schools.  Why there is a difference in the quality of education?   Well, I guess that first in the private school they are tied to labor laws and they are evaluated on performance.  If they are not good they will be fired.  Something that couldnt be done in public schools because they have an union that will promote any kind of bad actions and protect bad teachers in the system.   

 

I know that the public education system in Panama is bad and need a lot of things to be done but in general I don't considered it "atrocious" if we REALLY compared it to other educational systems in the area.   Regarding the ranking... hummm well I got my reserves about it.   I didnt have right now available the ranking table to make my comments about it but I also manage the Competitive Index that besides all the bad stuff and things we have criticized about Panamanians and Panama's education place the country above several countries in Latin America.   That could mean something.

I think the issue here is the "equality of the education in Panama".  Even in the public system the quality, depth and coverage of the education is not the same in some schools in Panama City and some schools in Churuquita Chiquita up in the mountains of Cocle.  For example there is a public school in Panama City that has high standards in their teachers, students and systems.   They used to be called the Public School that looked like a private school.  What was the difference there?  The mystic that the Principal and the team of teachers have.  Their recruitment requisites for students are very strict.  The schools has very strict  discipline and grades requisites.   

Regarding private schools or private education.  Things are different.  Private schools have their own plans that should be submitted to the Ministerio de Educacion.  Let me tell you.   You will be surprised.   The best probe we have is that all of the students that graduate from private schools and go to USA, Canada, Europe, etc pass the tests for admissions at those universities with good grades or points.  

I have to admit that we in Panama use this and all other arguments to force governments to put more attention on some specifics area of our country's economic and social development.   As a former businessman and member of some business organizations in Panama I know what I am talking first hand and not because of hearsay or someone told me in a coffee meeting.   I got four kids that graduated from private schools in Panama and being so critical and strict as I am I could tell you that I am very satisfied with the investment I did with them.    

If things were so desesperate as some people write and think.   This country would be in a very caotic situation worst than very poor and critical countries.    So things are not so simple and dramatic as some people think or believe they are.   I am not a "professional teacher" but I do coaching and seminars and I know very well the situation and what I am talking.   Facts first is the key for good analysis.

 

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Thanks, Roger, for such a well considered and well written reply. My opinion is that the educational system is atrocious, but the facts are quotes that I took from newspaper articles. Panama is ranked very poorly in terms of education, and if it wants to continue to experience economic growth, it needs to provide a quality education for its youth.

Having said that. i hope you are right and I am wrong.

But I don't think so.

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Phyllis

 

First, I must apologize for my bad english.  I am a better writer and have better redaction skills in spanish and I am so proud of it.   

I do agree with you that "Opinions are only that.... opinions, but not facts."   I will be interested in knowing if you have had the oportunity to visit some schools in Chiriqui, Azuero provinces and Panama City to have an unbiased and real opinion.   Is in the field where we could get the real feel and taste of what is hapenning.  My scientific training and education has taught me that I only should believe in facts that I could see and confirm.   Newspaper articles.  Yes, sometimes they are good and sometimes they have their particular agenda.  It depend mostly on the owners and who is in the government.  Some news are right and correct and other just some half truth just to follow and editorial line with politics goals.  With this I am not denying that there is a problem in the educational system in Panama.   I am not blind.  I admit it.  That we must do something soon and do the changes required for a modern education but hold on, that is not a blank check for new theories that need a better and deep scrutiny of the people who really knows about this subject.  Some changes proposed are not as good as we thought and I have read some of those past proposal.  

Teacher and educators should leave their political position and work to a common goal as a country not for any specific political party in the improvement of the education system in the country.  Being myself a harsh critic of any government policy that doesn't think and work beyond government's five years period in power, I know that the way we are educating our young people is not the one what we need as a country that is looking for becoming a better and "developed" country.  

 

The country will continue its growth despite of what we say or think but the real problem is the balance of the oportunities.   The "democratization of the education".  Only the kids that graduates from private schools will have the biggest chance of a better education and better quality of life.  The others, if they dont do something by themselves will be forced to have a poor education level and as a consecuence of that their chances of having a good job and better quality of life will be very limited.  It is not a matter if I am right and you are wrong.  This goes beyond who is right or wrong.   It has to do with REAL facts.   Facts that some people in this country face everyday and sees them everyday.  I am still active working and walking around business Panama and what we see and feel is real.  Despite of that, I am not pesimistic.   I still have high hopes in some young people in Panama and their good education they have.

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2 hours ago, Brundageba said:

The quality of  education children are receiving in the USA today is lower than that I received 60+ years ago.

The same happened to me in Panama.   I graduated from a Public School.   I am from the time that teachers loved to teach and cared for the students.  That discipline was above all things.   The time that teachers leave us a lot of homework to do at home and practice.   

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On 3/4/2016 at 8:13 AM, Brundageba said:

The quality of  education children are receiving in the USA today is lower than that I received 60+ years ago.

The underlying problem in many countries, to my mind, is that those with wealth and power do not benefit from a smart, knowledgeable populace.

The decline of education systems and standards for the masses in North America almost seems to be inversely proportional to the continuing concentration of wealth among fewer and fewer people.

It's nothing new, aristocrats and demagogues around the globe have been using this modus operandi forever to control others.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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1 hour ago, Keith Woolford said:

The underlying problem in many countries, to my mind, is that those with wealth and power do not benefit from a smart, knowledgeable populace.

The decline of education systems and standards for the masses in North America almost seems to be inversely proportional to the continuing concentration of wealth among fewer and fewer people.

It's nothing new, aristocrats and demagogues around the globe have been using this modus operandi forever to control others.

??Dumbing down the masses?   Geez...good thing we're old n smart.....and here !

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37 minutes ago, Bonnie said:

Por ejemplo, look at Donald Trump. He "loves the uneducated." They're the easiest to control.

I'm fairly well educated.  I'm hard to control.  And, I'm not fond of Donald Trump.  But, still I disagree with your postulate.  It's kind of condescending don't you think?

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I'm not sure what you mean, Woody. I was just quoting Trump, whose words seemed to be in line with Keith's point: that oligarchies historically have benefited from a poorly educated populace.

Edited by Bonnie
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12 hours ago, Bonnie said:

I'm not sure what you mean, Woody. I was just quoting Trump, whose words seemed to be in line with Keith's point: that oligarchies historically have benefited from a poorly educated populace.

Woody, it's not Bonnie who is condescending.  It is Trump.  Both of us just quoted him.  We didn't make that up. 

I also didn't make this up (scary!).  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-right-hand-salute_us_56db50d8e4b03a405678e27a

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7 hours ago, Admin_01 said:

Bonnie, thank you for commenting on the movement from education to political swipes. You are correct that this thread is about education, and future postings should remain on-topic.

Bud, I don't do politics online.  Conversations flow as this one did.  

When I'm in the mood for one-way conversation, I go to Ning.  Bill says, don't be like Ning.

Cheers!

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