Friday, June 23, 2017

Education degree titles in Panama

An FSU Panama student cookout in 2015. Florida State University has a Panama City campus.
A North American was surprised to see that a recent high school graduate in Chitre received a diploma announcing that she had earned a "bachillers" in science with a secondary in mathematics. "I've seen that before," he says, "and have thought folks were graduates with university degrees... I did learn, for instance and after the fact, that the "lawyer" who stole the money from my bank account wasn't a real lawyer; he only had a certificate allowing him to represent certain kinds of cases and don't ask me how that works. Sheepkins in Panama are a little confusing."

The confusion stems from the fact that, in Panama, the high school diploma is called "bachiller" (which translates to "bachelor," which is what a college graduate in the U.S. and other places receives).

As for an actual university graduate, in Panama that person receives a degree called "licenciatura." This is the Panamenian equivalent of a bachelors degree in the U.S. In Panama having such a degree is a big deal and entitles the holder to respect. This is why you see some people being addressed as "licenciado (first name)."

It's important not to ignore this custom. I've seen this in other developing nations as well, where earning a bachelor's degree is uncommon and warrants acknowledgment. Of course if the other person wishes to waive this formality that's up to them, but it's a good idea to start out by respecting tradition.

Like in the U.S., those that complete a master's degree receive a "maestria." These people could be addressed as "Magister (first name)." Again, using such a person's title is expected and is a matter of respect.

Finally, those who complete a doctorate degree receive a "doctorado." These people should be addressed as "Doctor (first name)."