On October 14th Poland is celebrating the National Education Day (also known as the Teachers’ Day), which is a wonderful pretext for us all to feel as if we were students again and take a peek into the Polish classroom. All the more so as the Polish education system is undergoing structural changes, with a reform being implemented between the school years 2017/2018 and 2022/2023. Let us take you on a journey along the Polish education path.
Nursery and pre-school in Poland
When you are born, you stay at home with your parents for at least 20 weeks (including at least 14 weeks with your mom). These 20 weeks are obligatory and paid 100% of the parent’s salary. Later you can go to a day nursery (however, most children don’t go to day nurseries earlier than when they turn 1 year old).
Day nurseries don’t form part of the education system. You officially enter the system when you start pre-school. Pre-school is a care and education institution for children aged 3 to 5 or 6 (in exceptional cases 2,5-year-olds can also be admitted). Public pre-schools are partially paid. There is a number of hours daily that are free of charge (at least 5, but local governments determine the exact number independently) and all the hours above this limit are paid. Parents also need to pay for meals.There are also private, paid pre-schools. Actually , there are state-funded and private-funded institutions at all levels of education.
It’s school time!
When you are 6 years old, education becomes obligatory for you. You start the so-called “0” form. You can do it either in your pre-school (and thus it can be partially paid) or at school (where it is free of charge). The “0” form is supposed to prepare you for school.
You start 1st grade of primary school when you are 7 years old. Primary school entails 8 years of education and is compulsory for all children. Grades 1-3 are dedicated to “integrated” learning, so you will be taught most subjects by just one teacher (usually with the exception for English and Religion). Later education becomes subject-based. At the end of 8th grade you take exams that influence admission to secondary schools.
Secondary education in Poland
Once you graduate from primary school, that’s the end of full-time compulsory education for you. Between the ages 15 and 18 part-time education is obligatory for you. It can take place in school settings or outside of school (e.g. vocational training offered by employers). However, most pupils continue their education at school. The options to choose from are as follows:
4 years of general secondary school
5 years of technical secondary school
3 years of VET school (stage I)
2 years of VET school (stage II)
3 years of special school preparing for employment
If you choose to continue your education at a general or technical secondary school, at the end you can take an external secondary leaving examination and get you Matura certificate, which opens the gates of higher education.
Polish students rank high
Overall the level of Polish education is valued all over the world and our pupils rank high in international tests, such as the PISA test. Hopefully, the structural changes introduced last year will make education in Poland even better and that the phasing out of lower secondary schools and the transition to a new structure will go smoothly.