USP Parents - Student Handbook


3.09 USP Language Policy

Statement of Policy

USP will empower students by providing opportunities to develop as compelling communicators and to build confidence in the use of language. USP will recognize the linguistic diversity of its student community and strive to meet their educational needs including those associated with language acquisition and development.

USP offers a trilingual education: English, Spanish and Mandarin.
The primary language of communication and instruction at USP is English. USP will encourage students’ understanding and appreciation of the host country’s language (Spanish) and culture. Mandarin language and Chinese Culture will be offered within our curriculum in all grade levels.

Communication in English

All USP students should have expectations for thinking, inquiring communicating in English. USP embraces learner diversity; however, it will only enroll students whose educational needs can be met by the school. Therefore, upon admission, students must meet the English language requirements to ensure academic success.

English proficiency at USP is measured in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Reading fluency assessments: All students in Grades 1-7 are assessed for reading fluency (including words per minute) at least twice per academic year through the Language Arts department. A reading fluency assessment is also included in the entrance diagnostic exam for all new candidates applying to USP.
  • Internationally recognized standardized MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessments through NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association): MAP assessments are performed twice per Academic Year by all students in Kindergarten through Grade 9, measuring proficiency in reading comprehension and language usage. New candidates to USP may also be required to complete the MAP screening English diagnostic assessment as part of the entrance requirements.
  • Performance tasks: Tasks are designed for students throughout the Academic Year that require them to demonstrate their language proficiency in real-life situations. This can include presentations, debates, participating in discussions, or writing essays, which allows for a holistic assessment of language skills.
  • Teacher Observations: Teachers provide qualitative assessments of students’ language proficiency based on their classroom interactions, participation, and performance in language-related activities.


USP will provide a variety of instructional strategies, including but not limited to, intensive instruction, in class assistance, pull-out, support classes and program modifications.

For USP it is important that:
  • All members of the USP community should provide reasonable support for development of appropriate abilities to communicate in English.
  • All members of the USP community should have reasonable expectations for inquiring and communicating in English.
  • All USP students should have an expectation to meet the school’s promotion/graduation requirements.
Communication in Languages other than English

All students will be required to study 2 additional languages: Spanish and Mandarin. However, students requiring pull-out and/or support classes may be required to not join the Mandarin Language program until they exhibit sufficient proficiency of academic English and thus no longer require support. Each case will be handled on an individual basis striving to fulfill the student’s needs.

Spanish and Mandarin will be provided in continuum. Social studies classes required by the Ministry of Education of Panama will be offered in Spanish.

First language/Mother Tongue maintenance is the responsibility of the USP parent community. However, USP understands the importance of Mother Tongue Instruction as a means to helping students maintain their first language skills. Where academic performance and improvement of English proficiency is a key program objective, the school may consider to offer other languages as part of the ECA Program.

Language Philosophy

The USP mission statement is the foundation for our language policy guidelines. As language forms the basis for learning, these guidelines are critical for helping the school to achieve its mission.

In keeping with the USP mission: “We are dedicated to promoting literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills through creative and intellectual engagement and communication”, we educate our students to think and communicate with a holistic world-view. We foster USP students’ development as open-minded and compelling communicators, to encourage them to understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, to be open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals, to seek and evaluate other points of views, and to grow from these experiences.

As compelling communicators, USP students develop their skills in effective collaboration, and in the confident and creative understanding and expression of ideas in more than one language and in varied modes of communication.

USP Language Learning Principles
  1. Language is fundamental to learning and to the demonstration of learning.
  2. English is the primary language of communication and instruction at USP
  3. USP is enriched by our engagement in our local and national community; Panamanian traditions and culture and the Spanish and Mandarin Languages are celebrated and cultivated through our language program in all grade levels.
  4. USP provides students with opportunities to develop as compelling communicators and to build confidence in the use of language.
  5. All USP teachers provide opportunities for communication and confidence-building; therefore, all USP teachers are language teachers. The development of language amongst students is a shared responsibility.
  6. As a component to teaching the whole child in all subjects, USP will promote understanding of students’ cultural identities and backgrounds.
  7. All students will be required to study Mandarin and Spanish language. Students with low English proficiency may be temporarily requested to not take part in the Mandarin Language program classes, and instead should intensive English support lessons (external and/or as part of their regular schedule or ECA). This is always under the expectation that they will join the additional language programs once they have reached sufficient proficiency in academic English. All students must always participate in the Spanish Language program, regardless of their English proficiency level.