Online degree, online courses and distance learning schools in Panama


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About Online degree, online courses and distance learning schools in Panama

Panama, known in official circles as the Republic of Panama, is a country located on the southern tip of Central America, with a total geographic area of 29,157 square miles.  Situated on the isthmus that connects North America and South America, the country shares borders with Colombia to the southeast and Costa Rica to the west.  Its dual coastlines are formed by the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south.  Formerly part of Colombia, Panama, with the help and financial support of the United States, seceded from that country in 1903, which ultimately paved the way for the building of the Panama Canal, a major transportation link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Today Panama has an estimated population of 3.4 million, a good portion of which live in and around Panama City, the capital and largest city in the country.  Spanish is the lone official language in Panama and is used in government, media, commerce and the courts.  It is also the language used for instruction and printed materials in the Panamanian education system, including distance education.

Distance Education in Panama

Education in Panama dates back to the 16th century, at which time all education was provided through the Catholic Church with the assistance of Jesuit priests.  However, public education, as a national and governmental institution, did not begin until 1903.  The principles underlying this early education were that children should be exposed to different types of education in accordance with their social class, and therefore the position they were expected to occupy in society.  This is an antiquated notion, but in terms of offering “different types of education” these principles remain.  Today all students are deemed equal in Panama’s public and private education system, and although schooling is compulsory only from age 6 to 15, school enrollments at all levels, especially in higher education programs, has increased significantly, largely because of the variety of programs they offer.

Panama’s higher education system consists of 88 institutions, which includes major universities and smaller colleges.  During the 1990s the combined enrollments at these institutions were approximately 60,000, but according to recent statistical data that number has now climbed to approximately 100,000, or a 40% increase in the past 20 years.  One of the most significant reasons for the increase in enrollments at higher education institutions has been the introduction and implementation of distance learning programs, which are now available at most schools.

Distance learning in today’s society is conducted primarily through electronic means, using computers and the Internet.  Students who participate in these programs typically send and receive assignments via email, instant messaging and other means, and can communicate their questions in real time through video conferencing and other messaging programs.  Some universities even offer virtual classrooms, through which students can participate in web-based lectures and other activities.  Some of these programs require minimal attendance, but there are now many courses that are conducted entirely online, including exams.

The benefits of distance education programs in Panama are many.  Many Panamanian students come from poorer families and tend to live in rural areas where higher education is limited, but through distance education they can now attend the school or university of their choice, without having to worry about costly transportation.  Even local students can benefit from distance education, especially those with other commitments, such as family and/or employment—commitments that are demanding of their time.  Through distance education they are not bound by time-consuming classroom sessions, but can work at their own pace from home and only when it’s convenient for them.  Online classes also tend to be more affordable than those held in a traditional classroom setting—a major benefit for Panamanian students—and it allows institutions to increase their enrollments without having to build extra classroom space.  And because distance education is now a mainstay at institutions around the world, some Panamanian students are now taking courses through universities abroad, including those in the United States and Europe, exposing them to a world they had only dreamed about.

There can be no debate that distance education in Panama is here to stay and the numbers support this theory.  In 1990, only about 11 percent of the country’s youth were enrolled in higher education institutions, but with increased access as a result of online schools and courses, last year 24 percent of the country’s secondary school graduates opted to further their education at the college and university level.

List of Online degree, online courses and distance learning schools in Panama

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Contact: West Coast University (WCU)

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B/11, Advanced Tower, Ricardo Arias Street, Panama, Panama