Spanish as a Second Language for Indigenous Peoples of Panama (Español para los Pueblos Originarios or EPO)


Located in Central America, Panama has a population of 4 million spread across 10 provinces, 3 Indigenous comarcas, and other Indigenous territories. Many of the areas in which Indigenous peoples live are remote and difficult to access, decreasing access to and quality of education for the children who live there. As Spanish is the primary language of instruction in Panama, Spanish language competency is essential for educational advancement and future employability. Many Indigenous languages are at risk due to the fact that Spanish is now the primary language spoken in many comarcas, although Spanish language skills are weak. Finally, there is a need for education among the comaracas of the different Indigenous cultures.

Education Development Center is implementing the Spanish as a Second Language (Español para los Pueblos Originarios or EPO) project, an interactive audio instruction (IAI) program in collaboration with Panama’s Ministry of Education (MEDUCA), including the National Directorate of Intercultural Bilingual Education (DNEIB), and the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), with support from the Inter-American Development Bank. EPO is working with local experts to produce the IAI programs, which will support the development of intercultural bilingual education that is contextualized and accessible and that contributes to the improvement of oral language and pre-reading skills in Spanish and basic vocabulary in Indigenous languages for first-grade students from the seven Indigenous communities.

Key Activities

The project is conducting the following activities:

  • Collaborate with MEDUCA (the Ministry of Education in Panama) in all project activities, including the production and formative evaluation of the IAI programs
  • Design and administer a literacy diagnostic assessment for children in grades 1–6 in all seven Indigenous communities to determine their level of Spanish oral fluency.
  • Develop a series of 80 thirty-minute IAI programs for children of Panama’s Indigenous communities with quality instruction in Spanish as a second language and basic instruction in Indigenous languages and cultures
  • Provide seven versions of the original IAI program, each one adapted to the cultural and linguistic elements of each Indigenous community.


  • Capacity building of the DNEIB in linguistic evaluation methodologies
  • Capacity building of the DNEIB in the design and development of IAI programs
  • Conducted evaluations of linguistic competencies

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Inter-American Development Bank

Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI)