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Brief description of review process in the country

The preparatory work on the country reports Education for ALL: the Year 2000 Assessment has started with a serious delay. In April 1999, a new co-ordinator had been appointed to take part in the Bucarest workshop, which was held between 1st and 3rd, May and whose purpose was to discuss the methodology how to construct the report.

The EFA indicators have been calculated by the following persons: Dr. Alina Baran - Indicators 1 – 8 and 12 – 14, Lucyna Nowak, M.A. – Indicators 16 – 18, Stanislaw Radkowski, M.A. – Indicators 9 – 11.

Experts and reviewers from various scientific and educational environments contributed to the process of producing the report, as well.

The assembly and arrangement of relevant statistical data, according to the UNESCO guidelines, terminated in August 1999. Simultaneously, the analysis of the collected data and their later completion took place. Conclusions were formulated, as well. The entire work concerning the report, including translation into English, was finished in the end of October.

PART I - Descriptive Sections


The political changes of 1989 and 1990 have had impact on the process of shaping new conditions for the development of education in Poland. In September 1991, after nearly two years since the new, non-communist government had been established, the new Act on the Education System was passed. In accordance with the Act, the education system composed of:

nursery schools, primary and post-primary schools of all types (including institutions of special education), except higher education institutions;

educational institutions enabling the development of individual interests and abilities, providing various forms of recreation (including organised holiday camps and pastime activities at place of residence);

institutions of child care and education, together with centres of social readaptation for those who were completely or partially deprived of parental care;

foster families, as well as adoption and child care centres backing up substitute forms of the family upbringing and education;

voluntary labour corps;

institutions of teacher education and further training;

educational libraries.

The education policy is framed by the Parliament (the so-called Sejm approves the budget, among other responsibilities), the government, the Council of Ministers and the body of committees through their laws, the standpoints of various ministries and government departments, the opinions of teachers’ environments (including the union positions), the views of economic and social environments and, finally, the contributions of national and foreign experts.

The Minister of National Education has the leading position in regard to initiating and exercising control over current and long-term educational policy. The legal foundations of the Minister’s competencies are provided by the Constitution, relatively scarce numbers of parliamentary laws and legal regulations of lower levels.

The Parliament, through members of the Commission of Education, is in a position to express individual proposals and initiatives. However, it generally works on materials produced by the Ministry of National Education. In spite of that, the Parliament has influence upon the final contents of legal regulations, which give directions to the education policy and determine the allocation of funds.

Teachers’ unions play a significant role in the process of pursuing the policy lines on education. The Minister ought to consult particularly important decisions with the unions which, in some cases, need to give their approval. The unions usually have a say on pragmatic issues concerning teachers’ load, salaries, appointments or dismissals from employment. They also express their views in regard to the school curriculum.

1. EFA goals and targets

1.1. General dimensions

The international conference EDUCATION FOR ALL. Basic educational needs at the time of transition in Central and Eastern Europe. The case of Poland was organised between 9th and 11th September 1993 in the capital city of Warsaw.

The 1993 conference participants admitted that the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs, adopted at the 1990 Jomtien Conference, is complementary to the World Declaration on Education for All, and it constitutes important and useful guidelines for the development of further co-operation among Central and Eastern European countries. It has been stated that, owing to the specific conditions in this particular subregion of Europe, various organisations - UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF and the World Bank as four chief sponsors of the Jomtien Conference - together with the Council of Europe, OECD and the European Community have a meaningful role to play in the support of reforms and improvements of the education system, as well as in developing framework for co-operation and the exchange of expertise. It is expected that specialised institutes, centres and programmes run by the above-mentioned organisations will contribute to the renewal of education in this part of the world.

In the light of the World Declaration on Education for All, the first priority goal is to enable every person - child, youth and adult - to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs, ensure them a high quality education adjusted to the demands of the 21st century. Long-term endeavours aimed to achieve such a goal can only be successful if intermediate objectives are determined and the progress of their implementation is measured.

Taking into account the basic learning needs are complex and diversified, multiform strategies and ways of action are required. Educational authorities must gain various partners, which means, among others, an active involvement of families, local communities, private enterprises, mass media, non-governmental agencies and associations.

1.2. Ways of action at the local level

The final progress made in meeting basic learning needs will depend on internal ways of action adopted by individual countries. The co-operation and the assistance on the regional and international scale may support and facilitate various activities, but local governments and communities together with their partners are the key actors of improvements and changes.

The participants of the Warsaw Conference have considered various specific approaches agreed at the Jomtien Conference as ways of action on the national scale. Mention must be made here of: the definition of needs, the development of a propitious political climate, working out policy and strategy measures, the improvement of organisational and analytic skills in support of the education reform, building up new partnerships.

The Warsaw Conference has affirmed that, for the good of the transformation process in Central and Eastern Europe, particular emphasis needs to be given to the following issues:

the promotion of democratic, humanistic values and attitudes;

the expanded international dimension of education, taking into account the needs of national minorities, in particular;

the increased ecological education and consciousness in regard to the management and the protection of the environment;

the development of a broader scope of education in economic and vocational fields aimed to improve employment opportunities and counteract the unemployment;

backing up preventive initiatives against functional adult illiteracy;

the support of education for children with special needs;

The development of adult education of various structures and programmes, with a particular stress on the revival of teacher education and in-service training.

The agreements and recommendations of the Warsaw Conference constituted a crucially important premise for the purpose of the reform of the national education system in Poland. The first stage of the reform in regard to the school structure and curriculum was inaugurated on 1st September 1999.

2. Plan of action

2.1. Old and new development trends

Following the downfall of the communist regime in 1989, system transformations have taken place primarily in the political and economic area; now, the social sector services such as education, health care, insurance is profoundly changed.

The reform of the State system should include the reform of the education system. Widely known as they are, the shortcomings of the present education system from the neopositivist concept of the school, which dates from the beginning of the 20th century. This concept has already been abandoned, through rather radical reforms, by all highly developed countries, particularly in Europe.

The old educational system is characterised by the following basic features:

the primacy of information (understood as a set of facts) over skills,

teaching by academic areas,

the reduced educational role of the school and its lack of partnership with the pupil’s home,

the narrow-specialisation and long-duration vocational training,

the primacy of collective education over individual education.

The most important, immediate reasons underlying the necessity to carry out as soon as possible a comprehensive reform of the whole education system are, as follows:

the lack of capacity within the present education system to adapt to the pace and scope of economic, social and cultural change,

the crisis of the educational role of the school resulting from the predominance of the transmission of information over the development of skills and the shaping of personality,

the lack of equal opportunities in the access to education at all its levels and the low percentage of young people completing secondary and higher education,

the necessity to adapt the education system to the provisions of the Constitution and the system reform of the State, the necessity to adapt vocational education to the changing needs of the market economy, the need to establish closer links between schools at all levels and the family, as well as the local community.

Never before the situation evolved has been so exceptionally conducive to the introduction of comprehensive reform as it is at present. This comes about through the convergence of the following factors:

the increasing need to cope with the challenges related to the integration of Poland with the European Union,

the necessity to introduce changes resulting from the system reform of the State,

the serious demographic decline in the population of 6 to 7-year olds which will reach its minimum in the years 2001-2002.

These three main factors make it necessary to carry out the reform of education right now, and the deadline for its launch should be fixed for the beginning of the school year 1999/2000.

In view of the urgent need to introduce the reform and the favourable concurrence of many factors, we should decide on a comprehensive reform, which would cover the following areas:

the structure of the education system ranging from the nursery school to doctorate studies, including the introduction of a new school system,

changes in the methods of administration and supervision of education to adjust them to the new State system,

a curriculum reform comprising the introduction of the curriculum framework, as well as changes in the organisation and methods of teaching,

the establishment of a system, as well as procedures for assessment and examination independent of the school,

the determination of the economic status, sources and methods of financing the school,

the identification of qualification requirements for teachers, which would also be linked with promotion paths and the system of remuneration at an adequately high level.

Such a broadly viewed comprehensive reform of the whole Polish education system should lead to:

the increased participation in education at the secondary level, as well as a marked increase in the number of those enrolling in higher education studies,

the increased and equal opportunities in access to education at all its levels,

the restoration of the balance between the transmission of information, the development of skills and concern about the development of personality,

the increased autonomy of the school,

the promotion of the quality of teacher’s performance through assessment paths and the introduction of adequate salary differentials,

the improvement in the financial situation of education through the increase in budget outlays, as well as the schools’ own income,

the establishment of links between the school and the family, as well as the local community.

2.2. The structure of the education system

The education system should comprise the whole possible education route from the nursery school to doctoral studies, including continuing education. Educational cycles should be established in a way which ensures the involvement of children or young people who are at the same stage of psychological and physical development.

Analysing the structure of education at the school and academic level in the highly developed countries, one can identify three clearly predominating organisational forms of school education and three stages of academic education. In the Polish terminology these are: primary school, gymnasium and lyceum at the school level and bachelor, master and doctorate at the academic level. It is this division that constitutes the basis of the proposed system, as presented in the diagram.

The entry to the compulsory school education is preceded by a year-long pre-school preparation ("zero-class") which in the future may be transformed into a compulsory cycle and possibly integrated into the structure of the primary school. At the moment, it is however proposed to leave it in the present form.

The primary school education has duration of six years for children at the age between 7 and 12 years, i.e. in the period of the distinctive childhood development. It should focus on the transfer of basic skills to the children and bringing them up in close co-operation with parents. During this period the curriculum would be delivered in integrated educational blocks, not thought in separate subjects. Given its tasks, the primary school should be located as close as possible to the place where children live, and the parents must have decisive influence on the work of the school.



The primary education cycle should culminate with a competence test which would provide all participants in the educational process (the pupils, parents and teachers) with the information about pupils’ achievements, as well as the deficiencies to be eliminated. The test would not determine selection for future schools.

The gymnasium is a compulsory, general education school with duration of 3 years and as such would be designed for younger teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 years. It would introduce education by subjects, the widest possible variety, but at the basic level. One of the aims of this cycle would be to identify the abilities and interests of the pupils. Upon completion of this educational cycle, the pupil should be able to make a rational choice of a further education route. This would also be the purpose of the final aptitude test, qualifying the pupils for the entrance to the lyceum. At this stage, a 16-year old young person would be making his/her first choice about the direction for further education.

The lyceum would be a 3-year period of secondary school education, which is completed by the final maturity examination, "the matura". Lyceums will be not only of the classical, humanities or mathematics type but also, for example, of the technical or economic type, thus providing vocational orientation for pupils. In the new system, it is proposed to replace the present technical schools with such specialised lyceums. All lyceums would obligatorily follow a certain group of subjects at the advanced level, which would be compulsorily tested at the maturity examination. The other part of teaching programme would consist of various subjects to be tested at the elective part of the maturity exam. The maturity exam will simultaneously serve as the basis for recruitment to higher education studies. A higher education institution would not be allowed to organise an exam which would be a repetition of the matura, but it could organise special entrance tests relevant to a particular course e.g. testing artistic abilities, physical fitness, etc.

The vocational school with a wide variety of subjects over a two-year education cycle would prepare its graduates for predominantly technical work in such a way to ensure that they can be flexible by adjusting their skills to the needs of the changing labour market through specialist semester-based training.

The supplementary lyceum of two years duration would be intended for graduates of vocational schools who would make late decision to continue their secondary education leading to the matura exam.

Higher education schools would recruit secondary school leavers to two types of institutions: higher education vocational schools and higher education academic schools offering first-degree courses of average duration 6-8 semesters or uniform master-degree courses of 10-12 semesters.

Graduates of both higher education vocational schools and the first-degree academic courses could continue their studies at master-degree courses of between 3-5 semester’s duration. The apex of the education system would be doctoral studies, which means that those enrolled in doctoral studies would obtain the status of students.

2.3. Implemented and planned tasks

Education reform policy was designed by Minister of National Education in January, 1998. The Polish Parliament adopted its programme in July, 1998, and decided that on the force of the Act of 8 January 1999, the implementation of the education system reform in Poland started on the 1st of September 1999.

The reform is planned to cover the following areas: educational administration, structural organisation of the education system, curricula.

The main goals underlying the reforms are: the increased participation in secondary schools, equal opportunities in access to education in towns and rural areas, better integration of knowledge, skills and moral education.

Changes in educational administration

Local self-governing authorities at the level of communes (gminy) or districts (powiaty) will be responsible for kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools. Administrative and pedagogical supervision has become separated - the latter will be carried out by regional educational authorities (kuratoria).

The reformed structure of the education system

The following schools types will be established: 6-year primary school, 3-year gymnasium, 3-year specialised lyceum and 2-year vocational school. Compulsory education begins for all children at the age of 7 and lasts until they reach 18 years of age. Full-time compulsory schooling lasts 9 years and covers primary schools and gymnasia. At the end of each school, pupils will be assessed by means of external standardised tests or examinations. At the end of the 3-year specialised lyceum, it will be a matriculation examination (matura). Graduates from 2-year vocational schools will also have a possibility of passing the matura, on the condition they successfully complete 3-year supplementary lyceum. The new system of pupil assessment will enable better evaluation and monitoring of the quality of schoolwork.

New core curricula have been developed for all school types. They cover 80% of the activities included in the timetable, while the remaining 20% are flexible timetable, left to the school’s own discretion. Individual schools may either choose one of the curricula listed in the register of those approved by the Minister of National Education, or decide to use "author curricula", i.e. those developed by teachers themselves. In close co-operation with parents, each school is expected to develop a programme of moral education.

2.4. Basic learning needs

The curriculum framework for general education in 6-year primary schools and 3-year gymnasia

Teachers should aim at a comprehensive development of students’ abilities as the superior goal of their educational work. The school education provided by teachers consists in the harmonious implementation of tasks related to learning, the acquiring of skills and educating in general. These tasks are of complementary nature as equally important elements of every teacher’s work.

In the area of learning, which constitutes a very specific task of the school, pupils need to have ensured, in particular:

the learning of how to correctly and freely express themselves, as well as write and read understandingly;

the study of notions - which are required - and the acquisition of a suitable knowledge which enables to at least continue education at the next stage of schooling;

the understanding of contents - which are imparted - and not merely memorising them;

the development of abilities how to observe various relations and interdependences (casual, functional, time and spatial relations, etc.)

the development of abilities leading to analytic and synthetic thinking;

the perception of knowledge - which is related to individual subjects and which represents a cognitive value in itself - as integrity helping to better understand the world, its people and one’s own self;

the study of the principles of personal development and the rules of social life;

the recognition of the national cultural heritage perceived in the European perspective.

The school should develop students’ abilities how to use the acquired knowledge in order to become better prepared to work in the modern world environments. Teachers are expected to create conditions, which enable pupils to acquire the following skills:

how to plan, organise, evaluate and assess one’s own learning process, and how to take greater and greater responsibility for one’s own education;

how to efficiently communicate in various situations, express individual points of view and respect other people’s opinions, correctly use one’s native language, as well as make presentations in public;

how to effectively co-operate in teams, work in groups, build interpersonal relationships, make individual and group decisions, act in accordance with the adopted standards;

how to creatively solve problems;

how to search, select and use the information - which comes from various sources - and how to make an effective use of the information technology;

how to use the acquired knowledge in practice, build up necessary experiences and habits;

how to develop intellectual skills and individual interests;

how to learn the methods and techniques of solving problems and social conflicts through negotiations.

Teachers, who support parents’ responsibilities for the education of children, should help pupils to achieve the following objectives:

to attach importance to the comprehensive personal development of students in the school environment; this includes the intellectual, psychical, social, wholesome, esthetical, moral and spiritual development;

to encourage the inquiring disposition of students in their search of the truth, right and beauty in the world;

to build up students’ consciousness of the practical utility of knowledge, in regard to individual subjects and the entire education at a given level of schooling;

to support students’ self-dependence conducive to the search of right of individuals and whole society, to knowingly reconcile one’s own well-being, responsibility for oneself and one’s own freedom with the well-being of the others, the responsibility for the others and other people’s freedom;

to encourage students to seek, discover and attempt to achieve great life goals and major values through earnest work, with the aim to find one’s own place in the world;

to teach students respect for the common values on which the social life is based, to prepare them to live in the family, local community and the country itself, taking into account the recognition of the cultural heritage and patriotic attitudes;

to help students to identify moral values which they arrange in a system in order to make the right choices; to give them the opportunity of self-improvement;

to create positive attitudes of a mutual dialogue, teach students the ability to listen to the others and be apprehensive of their opinions, to co-operate and jointly establish the community of teachers and pupils.

The attention of teachers should be brought to students’ personal development. Teachers need to work together in order to arouse pupils’ consciousness of an integrated system of knowledge, skills and attitudes. This is particularly important at the level of beginning learning (primary grades 1 to 3).

2.5. Target groups

Rural areas and small towns, which are inhabited by poor families, are educationally disadvantaged. The following selected indicators illustrate how greatly education needs to be restored there. They also clearly demonstrate the conditions in which the process of renewal will be occurring:

35% of adult population in urban areas completed secondary education, while rural areas reported somewhat less than 15%;

10% of the population living in cities and towns completed higher education; the indicator for rural areas is below 2%;

approx. 1/3 of the rural population up to 24 years of age is unemployed;

approx. 52% of Polish villagers have only completed primary school;

rural areas show a high level of unemployment with the total of at least 1.5 million;

rural areas are inhabited by 25% of children, while the proportion of primary schools does not exceed 75% (10% of them are branch schools with 30 pupils each, as maximum).

Efforts aimed to increase the level of education in rural areas are undertaken by the Ministry of National Education in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Management. After preliminary agreements between the two ministries, a project of joint activities in favour of the development of education in villages has been worked out. The presentation of the National Programme of the Development of Polish Villages - Education took place on 27th January 1999 at a meeting of the Consultancy Council for the Reform of National Education.

Very specific conditions of education in villages and rural areas require special actions and ways of responding to the problem. Intensive work is in progress and detailed operational programmes and projects, comprising organisational, legal and financial aspects of a complex policy on rural areas are being elaborated. It is expected that the ministerial projects will improve the status of rural education. Particular attention is brought to an expanded assistance in the form of scholarships for the village children and young people, an increased access to students’ credits and loans, a better access to recreation, and, finally, the improvement of teacher education and training. The government looks forward to receiving an active support of their endeavours to increase the level of rural education from teachers’ environments and social organisations (people’s universities, housewives’ circles, youth organisations).

The education reform, in terms of the school structure and curricula, advocates increased numbers of young people in rural areas who finish secondary schools of broad fields of study, complete the higher education level and have at their disposal various kinds of training opportunities. Rural population needs to be offered a wide access to learning in order to become properly educated, professionally skilful and be able to develop individual interests and aptitudes.

2.5.1. Rural population by selected characteristics

The transformation, as regards the political system, accompanied by social and economic changes, which have been under way since 1989, has given spectacular evidence of the backwardness of agriculture. The disproportion between the conditions and standards of living of the population in rural areas and big urban centres has become extremely visible.

Rural areas are inhabited by 14.7 million people who equal approx. 38.1% of the total population of Poland. Out of that, 11,560 thousand Poles - the proportion of 29.9% of the total population - run farms or own plots of land over 0.1 ha. Households consisting of 5 persons and over do not exceed 12.2% of the total in cities and towns, while they reach 29.7% in villages. In farmers’ households, there are over 4 persons on average. The proportion of children up to the age of 14 is significantly higher in rural areas and it records 24.1% on average. The same indicator for cities and towns equals 19.8%.

The sector of agriculture employs 4.3 million people, which is nearly 28% of the total employment (23 persons per 100 ha). In the European Union countries, the total employment in agriculture does not go beyond approx. 5% on average. Out of 8.2 million people who run individual farms, a high proportion of 77.8% falls on lands whose area does not exceed 10 ha.

2.5.2. The school as a multifaceted local development centre

The development of education in rural areas is an absolutely necessary condition upon which Polish villages could make a cultural and social progress. Taking this into account, it is crucially important to expand the activities of local schools and educational institutions. Preference funds, such as the so-called rural educational bonus would be particularly helpful. The pace of growth in the agriculture sector and food management will greatly depend on the higher quality of educational and other social services, as well as on the improvement of technological rural infrastructure. Only then, living standards throughout rural population may report a progress.

Disproportionately large numbers of the employed in agriculture call for various forms of continuing education in the rural environments. Professional development and the acquisition of new qualifications would enable to switch from one occupation to another and would open employment opportunities (for example, by providing services to agriculture and local rural communities). It is necessary, in this regard, to use the existing potential of local schools in terms of staff, equipment, and organisational skills.

2.5.3. The role of rural nursery schools in the provision of equal educational opportunities

Particular attention will be brought to early childhood care and development activities aimed to equal the educational opportunities of the village children.

The network of rural nursery schools mainly consists of one- or two-grade institutions and pre-school classes of primary schools. Approx. 50% of children who benefit from pre-school education in villages (compared to 8% in urban areas) attend the so-called zero class (one-year preparatory course of reading skills and basic mathematics) of primary schools.

The performance of both urban and rural nursery schools largely depends on the economic conditions of the communes (gminy). The impoverishing rural communes, in particular, cut down funds for the running of nursery schools, charge higher fees from parents, reduce the time of children’s every day stay or simply close down the nursery schools. These difficulties might be overcome if:

the poorest communes are supported with additional funds for the running of nursery schools;

new organisational approaches are adopted in order to make the idea of pre-school education popular and universal in the rural environment.

In the light of the latest amendments to the Act on the Education System, exclusive responsibility for the nursery schools’ network has been delegated to the commune councils. This is a matter of great concern because, by virtue of local decisions, the operation of nursery schools might be stopped and the institutions closed down. The communes’ responsibility for running nursery schools should be subject to changes. There is a great need to obligate local authorities to ensure universal access of the village children to pre-school education.

3 – 4. EFA decision-making and co-operation

The Act on the Education System of 25th July 1998 (Official Gazette 1998, no. 117, par. 759) explicitly regulates the responsibility share for inherent educational tasks, which are performed at various levels of local self-governments. The law also permits voluntary involvement of the latter in the accomplishment of other kinds of educational tasks.

The communes (gminy) are inherently in charge of founding and running public (state) nursery schools (including integrated classes), special nursery schools, primary schools and gymnasia (including integrated classes), other than special primary schools and special gymnasia, art schools, schools attached to penitentiaries, reformatories and juvenile shelters (art. 5, par. 5).

The districts (powiaty) are inherently in charge of founding and running special primary schools and special gymnasia, post-gymnasium schools (including integrated classes), sport and championship schools, as well as schools which are listed in art. 2, par. 3-5 and par. 7 (for example, child care and education institutions, centres of out-of-school education - including art circles, institutions of continuing education, centres of care, education and social readaptation, institutions of psychological and educational guidance, centres of adoption and care, other than schools and institutions of particular importance for regional development, and except junior and senior art schools until 1st January 2001 (art. 5, par. 5 a).

The self-governments of the voivodship level (provinces) are inherently in charge of founding and running public (state) education institutions, centres of the professional development and in-service training of teachers, educational libraries, as well as schools and institutions of particular importance for regional development (art. 5, par. 6).

Communes and districts may found and run schools whose operation is not included in their inherent tasks (par. 5 b). Upon agreements with the educational supervisor (kurator) on the range of inherent tasks, communes and districts are also authorised to open and run public (state) centres of in-service teacher training, other teacher education institutions and educational libraries (par. 6 a), as well as other institutions within the scope of their control (par. 6 b).

Local self-government units may open and run exclusively public (state) schools and educational institutions (art. 5, par. 3).

5. Non-public schools and educational institutions

Nursery schools (including institutions of special education), primary schools and gymnasia (including integrated classes), other than special primary schools and special gymnasia, and except primary art schools receive grants from the commune budget (art. 90, par. 1).

Special primary schools and special gymnasia, post-primary schools with the right of public (state) schools (including integrated classes), receive grants from the district budget (art. 90, par. 2), of 50% of the average cost of educating a pupil in a state school.

The institutions listed in art. 2, par. 5 and 7 of the Education Act receive grants from the district budget (art. 90, par. 3 a).

Schools without the right of public (state) schools and non-public education institutions, which are listed in art. 2, par. 3, 4 and 10 of the Education Act, may receive grants from the district budget (art. 90, par. 3 b). Detailed rules on the allocation of grants are established by the founding body of local self-government units.

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