How long has it been since you finished school? Today we can all 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.
When you are born, you stay at home with your parents for at least 20 weeks (including at least 14 weeks exclusively with your mom). These 20 weeks are obligatory and paid 100% of the parent’s salary. Later parents can either go back to work, or choose to extend their paid parental leave almost until their child's first birthday. For this extended parental leave they are entitled to 60% of the salary, which explains why most children at day nurseries are at least one 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.
Apart from public pre-schools, there is a large number of private pre-schools. As a matter of fact, there are state-funded and private-funded institutions at all levels of education, but private preschools are exceptionally popular.
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 or at school. The “0” form is supposed to prepare you for the "real" school education.
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, the results of which determine whether you will be admitted to the high school of your choice or not.
Once you graduate from primary school, that’s the end of full-time compulsory education for you. Between the ages 15 and 18 only part-time education is obligatory, and 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 follow:
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.
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 in the recent years 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.