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Poland:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

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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

Compulsory Education

Until the 1990s, there was only one form of compulsory education: full-time compulsory education in the 8-year primary school. The 1997 Constitution of the Republic of Poland introduced part-time compulsory education. Within the framework of the school education reform implemented from September 1999, the duration of full-time compulsory education was extended by one year as part of a new structure establishing a 6-year primary school and a 3-year lower secondary school. As from September 2004, one-year compulsory preschool preparatory classes were introduced for children aged 6. As from September 2011, one-year preschool preparatory classes have been compulsory for 5-year-olds. In recent years, the primary school entry age was lowered: for the first half of the 6-year-old cohort as from September 2014, and for the entire 6-year-old cohort as from September 2015. Since December 2015, the school entry age has been raised again to 7 years. In the near future, i.e. when a new School Education Law enters into force (1 September 2017, as announced), full-time compulsory education will probably again be provided by an 8-year primary school, and young people will pursue part-time compulsory education in public and non-public schools above the primary education level or in the form of vocational training at an employer’s organisation.

Currently, compulsory education is divided into:

  • one-year compulsory pre-school preparation;
  • full-time compulsory education (obligation to attend school) which starts at the beginning of the school year in the calendar year when the child reaches the age of 7 and lasts until the completion of lower secondary education (gimnazjum) but not beyond the age of 18;
  • part-time compulsory education until the age of 18 in an upper secondary school or as part of vocational training at an employer’s organisation.

Moreover, children and young people may pursue compulsory education in nursery schools or schools abroad and at foreign diplomatic missions in Poland. A pupil who has completed upper secondary education before the age of 18 may also carry out the obligation to pursue part-time compulsory education by taking courses at a higher education institution (HEI).

In principle, corresponding forms of compulsory education will be maintained after the entry into force of the new school system.

The structure of the school education system

In accordance with the School Education Act of 7 September 1991 (with further amendments), the school education system comprises nursery schools (przedszkole) and other pre-school education settings, primary schools (szkoła podstawowa), lower secondary schools (gimnazjum), upper secondary and post-secondary schools and art schools. Higher education institutions are not included and form a separate higher education system. However, the school education system comprises initial teacher training institutions, including teacher training colleges, foreign language teacher training colleges (to be phased out by 1 October 2016) and colleges of social work classified at the ISCED 5B level for international comparisons.

The Polish education system is illustrated in the Eurydice publication “The Structure of the European Education Systems 2016/2017: schematic diagrams.”

In addition to the above-mentioned schools, the school education system includes:

  • education and care institutions which enable children and young people to develop their interests and talents and to participate in various leisure and free time activities;
  • continuing education centres, practical training centres and further training and in-service training centres which enable learners to acquire and broaden general knowledge, and vocational or professional skills and qualifications;
  • art institutions: fine art centres which develop artistic interests and talents;
  • counselling and guidance services (referred to as Psychological and Educational Support Centres), including specialised services which provide counselling (pedagogical and psychological support) to children, young people, parents and teachers, and guidance to children in the choice of the area of study or occupation;
  • youth care centres, youth social-therapy centres, special schooling and education centres, special educational centres for children and young people requiring special organisation of education, methods of work and education, and centres providing compulsory education to children and young people with severe intellectual disabilities and intellectual disabilities combined with multiple physical disabilities;
  • institutions providing care and education to pupils receiving education away from their home;
  • in-service teacher training institutions;
  • educational resources centres.

Pre-school education is offered to children at the age of 3 and above. As from the school year 2004/2005, all 6-year old children attended a nursery school (przedszkole) or pre-school classes (oddziały przedszkolne) in primary schools as the School Education Act introduced a one-year obligatory pre-school preparation. As from September 2011, this requirement applied to 5-year old children, and has applied again to 6-year-olds since 2015.

As from the school year 1999/2000 children between the ages of 7 and 13 attend a new 6-year primary school (szkoła podstawowa) (the 8-year structure at the primary level ceased to exist in 2000). Primary education is divided into two stages: the first stage (grades I to III) offering integrated early school education, and the second stage (grades IV to VI) at which subject-based teaching is provided. Between 2002 and 2015, at the end of the 6-year primary school, pupils took an external obligatory test (set by the Regional Examination Boards and assessed by examiners selected by these boards). The external test, which was designed to provide information (and not, strictly speaking, as an examination), has now been abolished by amendments to legislation.

Until the school year 1999/2000, the 8-year primary school leavers could continue their education in a 4-year general upper secondary school, 4 or 5-year technical upper secondary school, 4-year technical upper secondary school (liceum techniczne), or vocational upper secondary school (liceum zawodowe) or 3-year basic vocational school (zasadnicza szkoła zawodowa). At the end of education in the first four types of school, pupils could take the maturity exam (egzamin dojrzałości) which opened access to higher education. Those who did not pass the examination or were not admitted to higher education institutions could continue their education in post-secondary schools offering programmes that lasted between 1 and 2/2.5 years. Basic vocational school leavers entered the labour market with qualifications of skilled workers (robotnik wykwalifikowany).

From 1999/2000 (based on the Law of 8 January 1999), all primary school leavers continue their education in the 3-year lower secondary school (gimnazjum). At the end of lower secondary education, pupils take a compulsory external examination organised by the Regional Examination Boards. According to the original aims of the school education reform, pupils completing lower secondary education were expected to choose between the two options: a 3-year specialised upper secondary school (liceum profilowane) leading to the maturity exam (egzamin maturalny) or a 2-year basic vocational school (zasadnicza szkoła zawodowa).

At present (on the basis of the Education System Act amended on 19 August 2011), lower secondary school leavers can continue their education in the following types of upper secondary schools:

  • a 3-year basic vocational school (zasadnicza szkoła zawodowa) which leads to a diploma confirming vocational qualifications upon passing of exams confirming vocational qualifications in a given occupation, and which also opens the way to further education starting from Grade II of general upper secondary school for adults;
  • a 3-year general upper secondary school (liceum ogólnokształcące) which leads to the maturity certificate (świadectwo dojrzałości) upon passing the maturity exam (egzamin maturalny);
  • a 4-year technical upper secondary school (technikum) which leads to a diploma confirming vocational qualifications upon passing exams confirming vocational qualifications in a given occupation and, optionally, to the maturity certificate upon passing the maturity exam;
  • a post-secondary school (szkoła policealna) for graduates of upper secondary schools, offering programmes of maximum 2.5 years duration, which leads to a diploma confirming vocational qualifications upon passing exams confirming vocational qualifications in a given occupation,
  • a 3-year special school which prepares pupils with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities and pupils with multiple disabilities for employment.

The maturity exam is an external exam which has replaced entrance examinations at higher education institutions. The School Education Act introduced the external maturity exam in the spring of 2005. More information in Polish on the external examination system can be found at the website of Central Examination Board.

After the re-establishment of the ‘8+4’ system as the basic model of education, the external examination system is also likely to be reformed. See the updated information at: Poland: National_Reforms_in_School_Education.

The structure of the higher education system

In terms of the types and levels of programmes, higher education is divided into:

  • first-cycle programmes: undergraduate programmes for applicants holding the maturity certificate which provide knowledge and skills in a specific area of study and prepare for work in a specific profession, leading to a Bachelor's degree (licencjat or inżynier);
  • second-cycle programmes: graduate programmes for applicants holding a Bachelor’s (licencjat or inżynier) degree which provide specialist knowledge in a specific area of study and prepare for creative work in a specific profession, leading to a Master’s degree (magister) or an equivalent degree; second-cycle programme graduates may apply for admission to third-cycle programmes;
  • long cycle programmes: graduate programmes for applicants holding the maturity certificate which provide specialist knowledge in a specific area of study and prepare for creative work in a profession, leading to a Master’s degree (magister) or an equivalent degree; long-cycle programme graduates may apply for admission to third-cycle programmes;
  • third-cycle programmes: doctoral programmes open to applicants holding a Master’s or equivalent degree which provide advanced knowledge in a specific area or discipline of science, and prepare for independent and creative research and for the award of a doctoral degree (doktor);
  • non-degree post-graduate programmes: programmes for holders of a Bachelor's or Master's degree.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) provide programmes leading to a Bachelor’s degree (licencjat or inżynier), a Master’s degree or an equivalent degree. These programmes are classified at ISCED 6-7 levels. Colleges of social work are classified in Poland at ISCED 5 level and are not included in the higher education system (they are part of the school education system).

HEIs may be:

  • public institutions, established by the State represented by the competent authority or public administration body;
  • non-public institutions, established by a natural person or legal entity other than a legal entity administered by national or local authorities.

HEIs may be organised as:

  • a university-type higher education institution (uczelnia akademicka): where at least one organisational unit is authorised to award doctoral degrees;
  • a non-university institution (uczelnia zawodowa): which offers first- and second-cycle programmes or long-cycle programmes and is not authorised to award doctoral degrees;
  • a military higher education institution: a public HEI supervised by the Minister of National Defence;
  • a government service higher education institution: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for home affairs;
  • a higher education for art studies: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for culture and national heritage;
  • a medical higher education institution: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for health;
  • a higher education institution for maritime studies: a public HEI supervised by the minister responsible for maritime economy.

HEIs may use the following names:

  • „university" if HEI organisational units are authorised to award doctoral degrees in at least ten disciplines, including at least two in (1) humanities, legal, economic or theological sciences, (2) mathematical, physical or earth sciences, or engineering and technology; (3) natural sciences, pharmaceutical, agricultural or veterinary sciences.
  • „technical university” if HEI organisational units are authorised to award doctoral degrees in at least ten disciplines, including at least six in engineering and technology sciences;
  • „university” together with an adjective or adjectives used to define the profile of a HEI if its organisational units are authorised to award doctoral degrees in at least six disciplines, including at least four in the areas which correspond to the profile of the HEI;
  • „university of applied sciences" if HEI organisational units are authorised to award doctoral degrees in at least six disciplines, including at least four in engineering and technology sciences;
  • „academy” if HEI organisational units are authorised to award doctoral degrees in at least two disciplines.

With regard to the mode of study and the organisation of higher education, programmes are divided into:

  • full-time degree programmes: comprising modules related to the research conducted in a given HEI, and based on the principle that more than half of the curriculum defined in terms of ECTS credits comprises courses/classes which enable students to acquire in-depth knowledge; 
  • part-time degree programmes: comprising modules which enable students to acquire practical skills and social competences, and based on the principle that more than half of the curriculum defined in terms of ECTS credits comprises practical training/classes developing such skills and competences which are conducted by persons who have work experience gained outside of an HEI.