Panama - Country Commercial Guide
Education and Training

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-03-29

Capital:  Panama City

Population:  3.9 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $109.5 billion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency:  U.S. Dollar (USD)/Balboas (PAB)

Language:  Spanish (official)


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

Panama has 3,785 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook

42.15% of the population in Panama is under 25 years old.



As Panama continues on the road to economic recovery, improving education has become key to ensuring sustainable economic growth, particularly after the post-Covid situation.  The country’s ability to acquire the level of skills needed to compete in a changing global economy with increasingly complex demands depends on education.  In the context of competing for jobs, and raising workers’ employability, strengthening synergies between educational offerings and the labor market will prove crucial to growing productivity and ensuring sustainable growth.

Panama’s education sector is comprised of 895,000 (est. 2021) students.  Of those, 750,000 attend public schools and an estimated 145,000 students attend private schools (2021).  The total number of 12th graders for the 2019-2020 school year was 43,466.  The 10,000 high school seniors in private schools are the ones who could study abroad.  There are currently 35,000 students in higher education in 11 private universities in the country, and every year approximately 18,000 new students enter the University of Panama (government subsidized university).

The school year in Panama runs from March to late November or early December.  There are only six private schools that follow the same school calendar as the United States.



Higher Education:  U.S. colleges and universities continue to be the preferred overseas destination for Panamanian students, though competition from Europe has increased in recent years.  The number of Panamanian students in the United States totaled 1,659 for the 2020-2021 academic year, which is a 2.9% decrease from the prior academic year.  The top five U.S. states for Panamanian students are Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, the District of Columbia, and California.

Universities such as Florida State University in Panama, University of Louisville in Panama, South Florida University, Towson University, and Illinois State University have agreements for students to begin their college education courses in Panama and finish their studies in the United States.  With the two-plus-two program, students spend two years in Panama studying and finish their studies with two years in the United States.



English language courses and higher education represent the best prospects within the study abroad market, and it’s worth noting that 85% of all managerial positions are filled by candidates who have studied abroad.  The most in-demand fields of study for Panamanian students in the U.S. are business administration, management, finance, banking, marketing, and engineering.

To improve English language education in public schools, the government of Panama created a teacher training program called Panama Bilingue.  This program is designed for teachers and teacher trainees in Panama to develop and enhance their teaching skills and English proficiency.  Since 2014, more than 10,000 teachers have been sent abroad, predominantly to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in the Panama Bilingual Program, translating to an impact on 200,000 students in the country.  The new trend for 2021-2022 is in-house English-language courses.

The following government of Panama institutions offer scholarships and financing for studying abroad:

IFARHU (Instituto para la Formacion y Aprovechamiento de Recursos Humanos):  is a government agency that offers loans to finance higher education.  Its programs include financial aid (to be paid back by the student) that allows students to start or continue higher education, either in-country or abroad.  IFARHU has developed several partnership programs and scholarships with universities and colleges in the United States.

Scholarships from IFARHU are frequently given in the areas of: chemistry/science, electric engineering, biological sciences, economy, veterinary medicine, biomedical, arts, and science and computer engineering, which includes systems, software, networks, and more.

The contact for IFARHU is: (

SENACYT (Secretaria Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia - Science & Technology Secretariat):  is another government agency that provides scholarships for Panamanians to study abroad in science- and technology-related fields.  The scholarships are available to students who have been accepted to graduate programs (master’s, PhD, and research) abroad.  The scholarships are directed in the areas of demand for national development such as science, technology, research, economics, law, finance, and logistics, among others.

 The contact for SENACYT is Jane Saldaña: (

FULBRIGHT Program:  U.S. Embassy Panama, is the flagship international educational exchange program that is sponsored by the U.S. government.  It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people in other countries.  The Fulbright Program offers grants to qualified Panamanian graduate students to study in the United States.  Panamanian scholars are eligible for Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence grants and Fulbright NEXUS, a year-long grant with a 2-3-month exchange component focused on applied research.

For information on Fulbright, contact Sarah Ferguson:

The EducationUSA contact in Panama is Gladys Bernett



Panama’s total population is 3.9 million people, with a total of 4.86 million cellular phone lines, representing over 114% of the population.  This means that 652,000 Panamanians own more than one cell phone.  The total number of Internet users is 2.63 million (62% of the population) of which 2.40 million are active users of social networking sites.

The preferred Internet platform of students in Panama is Google, which gets 14.6 visits every 12 minutes.  The most popular social media site used by students is Instagram with 1.60 million users. YouTube is by far the most popular video streaming platform in Panama.  LinkedIn is the platform most used to search for job opportunities, with 675,900 users registered in Panama, accounting for 15.6% of the population.

Having a clear strategy that guides you to a successful student recruitment campaign in Panama will depend on several factors:

  • School Counselors:  They are your best ally, but are often overwhelmed with information from schools and agents, and more than likely will not answer your email if they don’t know you.  A good strategy is to meet them virtually or personally first.  School tokens and marketing materials are a good idea to help them remember you.
  • Agents: Local agents could be the best source of promotion for your institution, and you may want to partner with them, particularly because students and their parents usually seek advice from agents to complete the application process.  You should be sure to vet agents before working with them as this is a known area of scams worldwide.
  • Participate in local fairs, trade missions, and outreach events in high schools, public venues, and universities. It is highly recommended that outreach events target students and parents as their audience and all promotional material should be distributed in English and Spanish.
  • Paid advertisement in local media, radio, Instagram, and Facebook could be your best strategy for marketing in Panama.  You should also consider using WhatsApp content. WhatsApp is widely used by students and parents (and all of Panama).  Radio is the most popular media outreach and can be done with low investment.


• IFARHU Trade Fair

• EducationUSA Fair and programs





Jeane A. Zuniga, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Panama City, Panama

Phone:  +507-6617-9982