The FACTS about PCIS and Accreditation

The Panama Coast International School (PCIS) has been in operation in Gorgona for a year. The school is run by Kathy Kress a certified teacher with 25 years experience in teaching international schools. Kathy has taught students in the US, China, Spain and Japan. For families with school-age children moving to Panama’s Pacific Beach areas, PCIS is the only area school providing the ability for children to be schooled through US programs. Parents choose to put their primary students in PCIS because it offers teacher-guided lessons from a certified teacher from a curriculum that is designed to meet the standards of schools in the US.  Instruction is individualized and students benefit from a varied, yet rigorous program in small-group lessons.

Lately there has been some confusion about PCIS and its programs. To gain some clarity, I did research of my own and also talked to Kathy Kress to get the low down on PCIS. Here is the bottom line on what I found out.

  1. The accreditation process was established for and is used by universities and colleges.  Recently some high schools have opted to participate in an accreditation process as a mark of excellence.
  2. Parents schooling their children outside North America want their children to meet the educational requirements of US and Canadian schools.
  3.  To keep current with North American curricula, a student needs to be enrolled in high-quality programs. For students studying out of their home country and in remote locations, this becomes a concern for parents.
  4. School accreditation and quality programs are two different things.
  5. It is quite common for an unaccredited primary school to offer a high-quality program from which students easily transfer to other schools. A parent home-schooling a child is another example of this.
  6. These days, students can enroll in accredited online schools and work alone from home.
  7. Many students that are home-schooled or choose alternative schools like PCIS are successfully enrolling in colleges and universities. In other words, high-school accreditation is desirable, but not mandatory.
  8. It is rare for primary schools, Kindergarten through Grade 8, to seek accreditation.
  9. US school accreditation is a lengthy and expensive process.
  10. School accreditation is an endorsement from a private corporate body. It is not a government-regulated standardization.
  11. Accredited lessons are looking to prepare kids for college.
  12. In Panama City, a well established US-style school, called Crossroads, took 10 years to receive accreditation. It has over 200 students.

How does PCIS meet up to all this?

  1. PCIS high-school students are required to be enrolled in accredited online programs that offer US diplomas and Advanced Placement courses to ensure the opportunity of attending university.  They receive support and guidance from Kathy as well as balance their computer-filled day with elective courses, ethics lessons, PE, Spanish, and community-service projects.
  2. Primary parents are offered a quality curriculum that can be shown to schools back in the home country and potential schools the student may be attending in the future to ensure that it will meet transfer criteria.
  3. Students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 attend a quality teacher-run school with a curriculum that meets accreditation standards.
  4. Spanish students are required to learn English.
  5. All students are required to learn Spanish.
  6. As a certified teacher, Kathy is able to utilize a wide variety of learning tools to help kids understand subjects.
  7. Kids have the opportunity to socialize with other kids.
  8. Kids take part in community-service programs.
  9. At this moment, the school has an average of 6 students to 1 teacher.
  10. Parents are required to volunteer 30 hours per year.
  11. Kathy is an experienced certified teacher, trained to teach all grades.

Is PCIS accredited? NO.  Will kids attending PCIS receive a quality US-based education? YES.

If you want to live on Panama’s Pacific coast and send your child to a US-based school, PCIS is a good option. I recommend talking to Kathy Kress of PCIS and the future schools you want your child to attend. If your child is of high-school age, be aware that the Advanced Placement study plans required at PCIS are rigorous.

When you hear that “PCIS is not accredited,” understand that the PCIS primary school is not accredited and does not need to be, but the lessons are accredited and are of a high level.  In high school, when accreditation IS desirable, students enroll in accredited programs.  Kathy Kress is a certified teacher, and PCIS is run as a corporation, as many private schools do.

Kathy Kress, the principal of PCIS noted, “Our entire program, Kindergarten through Grade 12, has been carefully planned and designed for excellence.  There is no doubt that the quality of education our students receive exceeds the standards of the accrediting agencies and our students are welcome in schools around the world.”

To learn more about Panama Coast International School, contact Kathy Kress at