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Poland:Improving the Quality and Efficiency of Education and Training

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Overview Poland

Contents

Poland:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Poland:Historical Development

Poland:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Poland:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Poland:Political and Economic Situation

Poland:Organisation and Governance

Poland:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Poland:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Poland:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Poland:Organisation of Private Education

Poland:National Qualifications Framework

Poland:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Poland:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Poland:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Poland:Funding in Education

Poland:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Poland:Higher Education Funding

Poland:Adult Education and Training Funding

Poland:Early Childhood Education and Care

Poland:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Poland:Assessment in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

Poland:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

Poland:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

Poland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Poland:Primary Education

Poland:Organisation of Primary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

Poland:Assessment in Primary Education

Poland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

Poland:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

Poland:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

Poland:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Poland:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Poland:Higher Education

Poland:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Poland:First Cycle Programmes

Poland:Bachelor

Poland:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Poland:Second Cycle Programmes

Poland:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Poland:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Poland:Adult Education and Training

Poland:Distribution of Responsibilities

Poland:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Poland:Main Providers

Poland:Main Types of Provision

Poland:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Poland:Teachers and Education Staff

Poland:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Poland:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Poland:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Poland:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Management and Other Education Staff

Poland:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Poland:Management Staff for Higher Education

Poland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Poland:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Quality Assurance

Poland:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Poland:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Educational Support and Guidance

Poland:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Poland:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Poland:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Poland:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Poland:Mobility and Internationalisation

Poland:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Mobility in Higher Education

Poland:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Poland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Poland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Poland:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Poland:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Poland:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Poland:National Reforms in School Education

Poland:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Poland:National Reforms in Higher Education

Poland:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Poland:European Perspective

Poland:Legislation

Poland:Institutions

Poland:Glossary

Basic Skills (Literacy, Mathematics, Science and Technology), Languages

Recent reforms of the Polish education system implemented in the last few years including changes to the content, methods and assessment of learning outcomes, resulted in a clear improvement in the level of basic skills development among young people participating in the PISA Survey, especially in the area of reading and natural science. Starting in 2003 the international PISA Survey shows the improvement of Polish pupils, visible mainly in the widely understood reading competence. In 2003 Polish pupils had results close to that of OECD average, and in the years 2006 and 2009 had results visibly higher than the average (the most recent PISA Survey results will be available in December 2013). Poland is so far the only country which noted such a progress – from results well below the OECD average to those well above it. In PISA 2009 the Polish pupils had a result above the OECD average, also in the area of natural science. Only in the area of maths in PISA 2009 Polish pupils had results close to that of the OECD average. Moreover, the PISA Survey proves that Poland, as one of very few EU countries, successfully managed to reduce a number of 15-year olds with low attainments levels in reading and natural sciences. Starting in 2009 Poland is a leader among the EU Member States together with such countries as Finland, Estonia and the Netherlands. It is also crucial that in Poland in the years 2000-2009 the highest level of reduction of differences among schools was noted in terms of pupils’ attainment levels. Poland – a country which in 2000 noted one of the highest levels of such differences among developed countries – has become an OECD and EU leader in terms of leveling the learning outcomes at the end of compulsory schooling.

PISA 2012 Survey results

Polish lower secondary school students have significantly improved their results in all three areas covered by the PISA Survey: mathematical, scientific and reading literacy. Poland takes a position among the top EU countries.

Polish students’ results in the area of mathematical literacy place them in the group of the best UE Member States together with the Netherlands, Estonia and Finland. The average result of Polish students in mathematical literacy has increased by 23 points. Poland is the only European country which has increased its results so visibly. Since 2009 Polish students have improved their results in the area of complex skills - they have better results than the students from OECD countries in reasoning and argumentation as well as in strategic thinking.

In the area of scientific literacy results of Polish students have increased by 18 points which gives Poland one of the leading places among countries participating in the survey. Among EU Member States only Finnish and Estonian students had better results.

In the area of reading literacy Polish students are also among the best in the EU together with the Finnish and Irish ones. The average score of Polish students in reading literacy has increased by 18 points.

The proportion of low achieving students - in danger of social exclusion - has visibly decreased: in 2012 in the area of mathematical literacy it amounts only to 14.4% (in 2009 it was 20.5%), in the area of scientific literacy – 9% (in 2009 – 13.1%), and in the area of reading literacy – 10.6% (in 2009 – 15%). This means that the Polish education system has already fulfilled the EU 2020 benchmark which was to lower this proportion to 15%.

Also a group of students with the best results has increased. In 2012 in the area of mathematical literacy 16.7% of Polish students fell in the category of high-achieving students (in 2009 – 10.4%), in the area of scientific literacy – 10.8% (in 2009 – 7.6%), and in the area of reading literacy – 10.2% (in 2009 – 7.2%).

This very significant increase in results in the years 2009-2012 is undoubtedly due to the improving performance by Polish lower secondary schools, and it can be also linked to the implementation of the new core curriculum supported by the changes in the structure and content of the lower secondary school leaving examination.


Adjustment of content of the general and vocational education to the needs of persons entering the developing civic society and rapidly modernized economy is one of the key elements of the education system reform. In response the reform of core curricula for pre-school and general education has been prepared and implemented in two stages – since September 2009 in pre-schools, primary schools and lower secondary schools and since September 2012 – in post-gymnasium (upper secondary) schools (both general and vocational). Since September 2012 a reform of core curricula for vocational education (in particular occupations) has been introduced in parallel to the curricular reform in general education.

The new core curriculum for general education implemented in two stages has been formulated in terms of learning outcomes through defining requirements for the end of every stage of school education. This will allow for increased school autonomy in terms of organization of the educational process. More freedom and flexibility in organisation of school activities and more responsibility for precisely formulated learning outcomes can be pointed out as basic assumptions for the introduced changes. The new educational offer stresses the development of self-reliance, creativity and responsibility for one’s own learning process. While respecting the Polish educational tradition the set of eight key competences agreed at the EU level has been adopted. In the framework of the new educational offer the levels ISCED 2 and 3 are considered as a consistent 6-year learning stage. This period of learning which uniformed character is reflected in the core curriculum, gives solid foundation for further education based on key competences. After this stage time for further development of knowledge and skills is envisaged.

The following basic skills are considered to be the most important ones to be acquired by pupils at the 3rd and 4th educational stages (ISCED 2 and 3):

  1. reading – understanding, use and ability to reflect on the processed text including the texts of culture leading to the attainment of own goals, personal development and active participation in the social life;
  2. mathematical thinking - an ability to use mathematical tools in everyday life and to formulate judgments based on mathematical thinking;
  3. scientific thinking - an ability to use scientific knowledge for identification and solving of problems, and for formulating of results based on empirical observation of nature and society;
  4. communication skills in the mother tongue and in foreign languages, both in speech and in writing;

The curricular reform of the education system envisages strengthening of the foreign language teaching – one compulsory foreign language starting at the beginning of primary education and two compulsory foreign languages from the beginning of ISCED level 2.

The external exams have been reviewed in correlation to changes in the content of core curricula for general education (since September 2009 in primary and lower secondary schools – ISCED 1 and 2, and since September 2012 in upper secondary schools – ISCED 3 including vocational education at this level. At the end of 3-year education in a lower secondary school (ISCED 2, gimnazjum) in between September 2009 and June 2012 – a new edition of the external examination was introduced – the new exam is more focused on testing of reasoning and problems solving skills, as well as meta-subject knowledge and skills. The remaining external exams in general education will be reformed at the end of the relevant stage of education e.g. in 2015. Since the reformed vocational exams are being implemented also during the educational stages (for defined separate vocational qualifications) first such exams have been organized since 2013 (based on the curricular reform introduced as of September 2012).

Professional Development of Teachers, Trainers and School Leaders

With a view to a sound and comprehensive preparation of teachers for their professional duties the Ministry of National Education prepared the new teacher training standards for higher education institutions (degree programmes in the first and second cycle and non-degree postgraduate programmes). The Ministry also prepared teacher training standards for teacher training colleges and foreign language teacher training colleges. Apart from content related training preparation for subject teaching and pedagogical preparation (psychology, pedagogy and subject related teaching methods) the teacher has to learn how to use modern ICT in teaching and have a command of at least one foreign language at the advanced level. These new skills turned out to be indispensable in work with pupils in a modern school. Moreover teachers have been trained in two subject specializations – major and additional ones which will enable them to obtain qualifications for the teaching of two subjects. This applies both to training at the HEIs (both academic and non-academic) and in teacher training colleges.

The model graduate has been defined in the most recent legislation by the following competences:

  • Preparation in terms of chosen specializations,
  • Preparation in terms of psychology and pedagogy,
  • Preparation in terms of teaching methods related to the subject,
  • ICT skills,
  • Command of at least one foreign language (level B2 of CEFR),
  • Cooperation with pupils and teachers, pupils’ families and local community in the implementation of educational tasks,
  • Ability to undertake educational tasks outside the area of the taught subject,
  • Ability to plan own activities and undertake efforts to disseminate examples of good practice in teaching,
  • Ability to manage own professional and personal development and undertake in-service teacher training,
  • Ability to use the legislation related to the education system and the professional status of teachers.

Modernising Higher Education and Increasing Tertiary Attainment Levels

The amended Law on Higher Education (LoHE), which came into force on 1 October 2011, provided for a number of changes related to the quality and effectiveness of education.

One of the main reasons for the introduction of the changes in the law is, as stated in the justification for reform, adjusting the Polish higher education system to the European Higher Education Area especially in the context of the National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education consistent with the National Qualifications Framework which incorporates all the qualifications in the country.

What has changed are the terms “first-cycle studies” and “second-cycle studies” as well as long-cycle studies, in line with the new act lead to the acquisition of a qualification of a certain degree and not an academic title which was the case so far. Also the post-graduate studies lead to the acquisition of post-graduate qualifications. In line with the amended act “third-cycle studies” lead to the acquisition of “third-cycle qualifications” (according to the previous 2005 Law third cycle studies led to independent academic work and research and acquisition of a PhD title). In view of the NQF these changes are fundamental.

In the Strategy for the Development of Human Capital the following measures are envisaged:

  • Implementation of quality of teaching evaluation system and the system for tracking the professional careers of graduates. It will enable the candidates for higher education programmes to make better choices in terms of institutions and study areas, will help the HEIs in their competition to win more students and strengthen the importance of social control of the quality of provision which will contribute to the formal evaluation provided by the state. These activities are to be supported by involving HEIs in efforts to improve the quality of information on their educational offer, e, g, through the HE information system POL-on and the new ranking tool U-Multirank.
  • Support to the functioning of quality assurance systems in HEIs which verify the attainment of expected learning outcomes at a given level and in a given area of study and which help to rationalize the teaching process (e.g. distribution of classes between staff, types of classes) in order to attain the defined goals. This will require a wide range of training activities directed to the dissemination of examples of best practice in terms of drafting study programmes and syllabi on the basis of learning outcomes and the strengthening of the Polish Accreditation Committee.
  • Improvement in the quality of part-time studies and adjusting their organizational forms to the needs of students who combine studies with work which will make this type of studies much more user-friendly and help to increase the number of students with special educational needs while avoiding the risk of stigmatization of these students.
  • Implementation of measures leading to the improvement of the quality of doctoral studies which will help to improve the quality of PhD thesis and to the increase of proportion of completed doctorates in comparison with the number of doctoral students. Regulations concerning doctoral studies will serve the purpose of effective development of advanced research competences during doctoral studies, needed not only in research but also on the labour market. Public funds should serve the efficient training of future doctors and doctoral stipends should be directed to the students in such amounts that would enable the recipients to concentrate on the research without the necessity to undertake additional forms of employment not directly linked to the research in question.

More details on higher education reform in the chapter on higher education.

Attractiveness and Relevance of VET

Amendments to the School Education Act, which are being implemented since 1 September 2012, introduce a number of significant changes in the vocational education and training (VET) system:

  • Changes in the classification of professions: Individual qualifications will be distinguished within each occupation, and occupations will be grouped according to common or similar qualifications in 8 broad vocational areas. Each occupation will be described through 1 to 3 qualifications, and one qualification can be a component of several occupations.
  • Changes in the structure of the VET system: Some types of schools will cease to exist – specialized upper secondary schools and supplementary upper secondary schools will be transformed into general upper secondary schools for adults. Moreover, vocational schools can be merged into vocational and continuing education centres offering a more diverse range of programmes and courses and ensuring closer cooperation with employers.
  • Curricular changes: Vocational education at upper secondary level will be linked to the general lower secondary curriculum. This means that students will continue to follow a general education curriculum in the first year of vocational upper secondary education, and thus may continue education in general upper secondary schools for adults as from the second year.
  • Changes in the examination system: The changes introduced will make it easier to gain complementary qualifications and acquire qualifications for new occupations. Exams confirming single qualifications will be held at different stages of education, and not only at the end of education in a vocational school. Upon passing an exam, an individual will receive a certificate confirming that he/she has gained a given qualification. A diploma will be awarded when an individual has acquired all qualifications, confirmed by certificates, which are required for a given occupation.
  • New settings for VET: Vocational courses to be provided will make it possible to take exams confirming qualifications.
  • Changes to the continuing education of adults: vocational schools for young people can organise vocational courses for adults. Moreover, exams confirming particular vocational qualifications can be taken not only by vocational schools students and graduates but also by adults who obtained professional experience outside the formal education system.

Efficient Funding and Evaluation

Implementation of regulations supporting the efficient administration of small schools (up to 70 pupils) has been in place since 2011. The implementation of the legislation enabling transfer of small public schools, especially those operating within compulsory education, to non-public school running bodies has been recently intensified. The purpose to this transfer is to keep the schools open and running but on different, more economic basis, including different rules for employment of teachers working with small groups. Implementation of these regulations brings savings to local authorities which still co-finance the non-public schools (but the expense is lower than in the case of public ones).

Additional funds for primary schools: in the years 2010-2013, local governments at province level will have received over 600 million PLN in order to, among other things, prepare all primary schools to enroll 6-year old children following the implementation of the reform which has lowered the age of entry to full-time compulsory education. The funds are allocated for additional teaching and learning facilities and for extra classes addressing the needs of pupils (including classes for children with specific difficulties in reading and writing, children at the risk of dyslexia, children with difficulties in learning maths; speech therapy classes for children with speech disorders; classes for children with difficulties in communicating with the environment; activities for children with posture problems; therapeutic activities for disabled children; and activities developing interests of gifted children, with special emphasis on science).

In the framework of the development of the evaluation system in Poland there has been a noticeable reinforcement of the research on education carried out by the Educational Research Institute in Warsaw. The ERI has a supervisory role, in both institutional and content-related terms, over the new curricula for general education which introduced fundamental changes into school programmes. The ERI has a number of tasks which include: systematic creation of didactic/ methodological tools (sample tasks, assessment standards) showing ways and methods for the implementation of the new curricula and monitoring and evaluation of the new curricula. The Institute in cooperation with higher education institutions participated in the process of drawing up of new teacher training standards. The research done by the Institute is comprehensive and interdisciplinary.