Education in Poland

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Polish educational system is quite complicated. As you know in 1989 Polish political system changed and that's why the changes in education has become essential.

However the process of changes is not a matter of one day and it will take long before the reformed educational system will come into force for good. That's why for a few years there will be two educational systems simultaneously. It means that students who are in their last year of primary school and those who are learning in secondary schools continue their education in accordance with the old rules whereas all pupils under 14 are bound by the new law.

As the new educational system is more important I will later go through it in details but first just a few words about the old one.

old_polish.jpg (26715 bytes) Children started their education at the age of 7. Then for the next eight years they learnt at primary school. After the first level of education young people could choose either a 4-year secondary school or a 5-year technical school and then continue their education at universities or postgraduate schools and courses, or they could choose a 3 -year vocational school and having been trained in a particular profession they could start working in a factory. However all students who after vocational school wanted to broaden their knowledge still had a chance to continue their education in a 3-year complementary technical school and then at universities or postgraduate schools and courses. That is in brief how Polish educational system looked like up till now.

As I mentioned before the reform of the educational system in Poland is currently among the most important issues on the government's agenda. The proposed educational reforms aim to eliminate the drawbacks of the current educational system. Current proposals would increase the age of compulsory schooling in Poland from 14 to 18 years of age. This would reduce the number of people in Poland who only possess a primary school certificate. The reform would change the organisational structure of the school system, including teacher training, career patterns and financing methods.

On September 1, 1999, seven-year-old Poles will start their primary education in a new system. Primary education will last six years and will be split in half. During the first three years, children will learn writing, reading, mathematics and basic technical and social skills. This first level will be directed towards integrated teaching. During the following three years, children will learn subjects, which fall into broader topics such as nature (instead of biology and geography), history, science and art so the second level will cover teaching modules. After the first six years of school, all children will be tested to determine their levels of knowledge and skills. The test will serve not to classify children but to forecast further education needs. After six years of primary schools, 13-years olds will enter a junior high school to learn traditional subjects such as mathematics, chemistry physics biology and geography. In addition, the aim of junior high schools will be to develop students' capacity to think independently and to shape their interests and abilities. Junior high school will end with a pre-orientation test, which aims to help students to decide where to continue their education. new_polish.jpg (28993 bytes)

The common educational path will end at the age of 16. Students will then decide whether to enter a 3-year high school, which will lead to a diploma and then to a university education, or to enrol in a 2-year vocational school. One of the main aims of high schools is to form the features of character that are essential in our modern world.

High school diplomas will be granted nation-wide by a state commission. This will open the way to a university education without further exams (high schools will announce the minimal grade accepted for university entrance). Vocational schools will offer a wide range of training in specific skills. They are to educate qualified workers and the education will end with a professional exam that should be assigned by employers. After that young people can start work. However with a view to promoting a long-life learning and to providing equal opportunities for all, students after vocational school will be able to continue their education in a 2-year secondary complementary school, which will lead to a diploma and then to a university education.

Universities and technical colleges will continue to offer five-year masters degree programs. In addition, a new two-stage educational program will be introduced. The first will be a three-year program leading to a bachelor degree. After obtaining a bachelor degree, students will have the option of enrolling in a two-year master degree program. The government recognises that structural changes in the Polish education system must be complemented by an inflow of well skilled and motivated teachers. Current low salaries and the lower social prestige of teaching positions do not attract the best talent to teach at elementary and high school levels. One of the objectives of educational reform in Poland is to eliminate poor performance by motivating teachers to work harder and improve their qualifications. The reform proposes six categories of teachers, from intern teachers through teachers on contracts to professors. The present teacher salary system is based on the number of years of experience that a teacher has.

The reform project intends to increase salary differentials between teacher categories. Educational reforms aim to make schools more responsive to the needs of local communities. As a result, school financing will be changed. Elementary schools and junior high schools will be financed by local governments, high schools will be financed by provincial governments, and higher education will still remain within nation-wide budget expenditures. Presently, elementary and high school education is dominated by public schools. Private schools teach only 0.6% of students. The Ministry of Education aims to encourage the establishment of private schools.