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Poland - Education and Schools
Poland spends almost 5% of its GDP on education, and almost everyone aged over 15 in the country can read and write. Education is delivered through:
• free public schools funded by the state
• private schools for which parents pay fees
• association schools for which parents pay fees
• a 2010 amendment to the Education Act removed restrictions on homeschooling
Compulsory education begins with kindergarten for six year olds, and ends at the age of eighteen.
• Pupils attend primary school “szkola podstawowa” from the ages of 7 to 13
• Pupils attend middle school “gimnazjum” from the ages of 13 to 16
• Pupils attend high school “szkola srednia“ from 16 to 19
The standardised tests at 16 determine which high school the pupils attend. Academic, technical and vocational pupils will be sent to different institutions which cater to their different strengths.
The school year starts on the first weekday of September each year, and ends on the last Friday of June. There are no half term holidays. The break at Christmas is approximately one week, and the break at Easter is typically a long weekend. A winter holiday of two weeks will happen between February and March, with each area having its own holiday dates. This winter break separates the two semesters of the academic year. Schools are closed for the last week of June, all of July and the whole of August.
A typical school day will start at 8am, and end between 2.45pm and 3.30pm. The pupils attend Monday to Friday, with the weekends free. Pupils do not wear a school uniform. Anecdotal evidence suggests that schools in Poland have a less relaxed atmosphere than found in English state schools or US public schools, with more emphasis on discipline and a lot of pressure on pupils to do well in tests.
Outside of school, children participate in many of the dancing, sports and creative hobbies enjoyed in the UK and US. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Poland and many people continue to play even when they are adults. Ballet dancing and drama are also very popular.
At the end of high school the pupils take the matura certificate exams. This allows access to higher education. Academic grades are awarded from a numerical scale of 1-6, with 1 being the lowest grade and 6 is the highest. High performing pupils will often take the International Baccalaureate (IB) in addition to the matura.
Between 2000 and 2012, Poland’s results in the Pisa tests improved dramatically. These tests compare the performance of children in different countries. Children in Poland perform well in science, maths and reading tests at a higher level than many other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. Equity of achievement between girls and boys, and equity of achievement between children of different socio-economic backgrounds is at an average level for OECD countries.
Over the past twenty years Poland has undergone Educational reform, implemented standardised tests at key points in a child’s educational life, an overhaul of the curriculum and investment in teacher training and development. Pupils now spend longer being taught core subjects as vocational education is now delayed until the age of 16.
Everyone who is lawfully resident in Poland may send their children to public schools for free. However, the teaching will be in Polish. The 2010 amendments to the Education Act requires schools to provide support to pupils with a language barrier. Since additional funds were not provided the anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that children must pick up the language themselves as quickly as they can. However, there are a number of initiatives such as that in Wroclaw where many activities take place to integrate non-Polish speaking children including those of the sizeable Ukrainian community. Additional teaching hours in Ukrainian, Polish language lessons and recruiting volunteers to support language learning for adults are all part of the Wroclaw education and inclusion initiative.
There are several private schools in Poland which will teach in both Polish and English, or just in English. These include the international schools, which will teach in English and will offer a variety of qualifications if pupils do not wish to take the Polish matura certificate. Applications for a place should be made by the May preceding a September entry, as places are frequently hard to find. Placement tests in mathematics and English language skills are normal. Some of the international schools available are:
Pharmaceutical Studies, Psychology, Veterinary Medicine, Medicine, Dentistry and Law are studied at Universities in a two stage system of a Master’s degree followed by a Doctorate. All other subjects were restructured in the 2007/08 reforms into a three stage system. The Bachelor’s degree (Licencjat, Inżynier) is followed by a Master’s degree (Magister), and then a Doctorate (Doktor).
In addition to using formal qualifications to select students, some University courses will also ask applicants to demonstrate their aptitude in further tests. Teaching, art and drama, physical education and medicine are the areas most likely to closely assess an applicant’s aptitude and potential at a practical level.
Polish students studying on a full time course taught in Polish at a Higher Education Institution do not have to pay tuition fees. This also applies to other qualifying students, such as those who are citizens of the EU/EEA and those who hold the Polish Charter (Karta Polaka).
For students who do not qualify for free tuition, fees will be charged as follows:
• EUR 2000 per year for a one year Polish language course prior to commence studies in Polish
• EUR 2000 per year for first, second and long cycle studies
• EUR 3000 per year for doctoral, postgraduate and medical postgraduate internships as well as scientific, arts, specialist and post-doctoral internships
• EUR 3000 per year for vocational courses and apprenticeships
There are a number of public and private Higher Education Institutions which set their own fees levels, ranging from EUR 2000 to 6000 per year. The cost of an MBA can vary from EUR 8000 to EUR 12,000 per year.
There are a number of university courses which are taught in English. However, this will require living in Poland for several years so students should learn some basic language skills. This will be useful when interacting with the local community, and will help students settle in if they have recently arrived in the country.
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