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Educational System—overview

Compulsory Education & Age Limits: Education is compulsory for all children ages 8 to 16. The most recent reform of education raised the upper age limit to 18. Primary school starts at age 7 and ends at 13. Currently, reformed secondary education still consists of two systems. According to the old one, education starts at age 16 and finishes at age 19 or 20 for technical schools, and, according to the new, the age range is from 16 to 18.

Enrollment as of the 1999-2000 School Year:

Nursery Schools: The total number of nursery schools during the 1999-2000 school year was 8,733, serving 719,611 children, which included 6,763 who had some disability. In towns, such schools contained 575,736 children, 6,358 of whom were disabled. In the countryside, schools served 144,875, including 405 disabled.

Preschool Education: During the same period, Poland had 10,152 preschools, containing 199,506 toddlers, which included 1,180 disabled. In towns, the children totaled 53,866, including 941 disabled. In the country, the figures were 145,640 and 239.

Primary Schools: This system contained 17,743 schools that were attended by 3,957,986 pupils, 1,919,281 of whom were girls. In the 1999-2000 school year, the system graduated 656,245 students of whom 320,645 were girls. Public (state) primary schools totaled 17,375 and served 3,926,577 pupils. Of these 1,904,719 were girls. During the same school year, 651,862 students were graduated, including 318,725 girls. The far smaller non-public (private) primary schools numbered 368, having 31,409 students, of whom 14,652 were girls. This system graduated 4,383 children, including 1,920 girls. The total number of primary school repeaters, not including those in special schools, was 29,789, of whom 6,983 were girls. Repeaters in towns totaled 20,535, including 4,986 girls. Rural repeaters numbered 9,254, among them 1,997 girls. Special primary schools for the disabled numbered 801. They contained 59,397 pupils, of whom 22,654 were girls. Some 13,143 were graduated, including 4,772 girls.

Gymnasium: Polish schools at this level totaled 6,121, serving 615,328 pupils, of whom 296,256 were girls. Public schools numbered 5,766, and held 609,414 children, including 293,648 girls. There were 355 non-public schools. They contained 5,914 students, of whom 2,608 were girls. The nation had 709 special gymnasiums to meet the needs of 14,948 children, including 5,534 girls.

Secondary Schools: Polish schools at this level totaled 2,156. They held 864,091 students, of whom 551,531 were girls. During the 1999-2000 school year, 173,917 students graduated, including 115,973 girls. Public schools numbered 1,715 and served 823,049 children, including 530,463 girls. The system contains 439 nonpublic secondary schools of public school status; they teach 40,986 pupils, including 20,947 girls. There are also two non-public secondary schools, teaching 56 students, of whom 21 are girls. Finally, there were 24 special secondary schools. They held 1,198 adolescents, including 630 girls.

Technical & Vocational Schools: Schools of this type numbered 8,066. They taught 1,552,350 pupils, including 651,235 girls. Of a total of 379,566 graduates, 164,063 were girls. Most of these technical and vocational schools or 7,749 were public; they instructed 1,526,089 students, including 636,778 girls. The system contained 306 nonpublic schools of public school status. They taught 25,905 pupils, of whom 14,326 were girls. Poland had 11 non-public technical schools, which served 356 students, including 131 girls. There were also 353 special technical schools, holding 30,954 students; 12,866 of these were girls.

Complementary Secondary Schools: Schools in this category numbered 2,328. They taught 205,538 students, including 133,686 girls. Of these complementary secondary schools, 925 were public. They served 100,731 pupils, of whom 71,695 were girls. Another 1,072 nonpublic schools of public school status existed. They held 83,393 youths, including 50,347 girls. Non-public schools of this type numbered 331, training 21,414 students, which included 11,644 girls.

Academic Year: The school year for all types of primary and secondary schools begins on 1 September and finishes in June. The exact closing date is not prescribed, but the year must contain at least 42 weeks. It contains two semesters. There are three major holiday periods: Christmas break (usually one week), winter holiday (two weeks), and Easter recess (one week). The winter holiday period is usually in late January or early February, but exact dates are defined by regional education authorities. National holidays and Teachers Day (14 October) are free by law.

The academic year for university-type institutions starts usually in October, but the decision is left to the university rector who may move it to late September. It is usually divided into 2 semesters, each 15 weeks long. Some private three year colleges have trimesters, depending on decisions by college authorities. Holiday periods at universities vary and are decided by their governing bodies. Typically, they fall at the same periods as nonuniversity schools. Rectors may decide about an extra day off for students and faculty (called Rector's Day), which is usually the Academic Year Inauguration Day, or any other day that should be free for important reasons. In both types of institution, winter holiday marks the end of the winter semester and beginning of the summer (spring) semester.

Language of Instruction: The language of instruction is Polish in schools for Poles and in minority schools the language is the minority's language. According to Oswiata i wychowanie w roku szkolnym 1999/2000, during the 1999-2000 academic year, there were 429 primary schools of this type. Belorussion was the language of instruction in 31 schools, serving 2,220 students. Sixteen Kashubian institutions instructed 980 youth. Thirteen Lithuanian programs affected 528 students. German schools, numbering 273, taught some 25,545 young people. Eleven Slovakian establishments reached 303 students. Ukranian institutions (76) instructed 1,919 students, and 8 Lemk schools taught 66 youth. That same year there were 25 pupils studying the Hebrew language as their mother tongue.

In 1999-2000 there were 91 gymnasium-type schools for 3,383 ethnic minority pupils. Ten Belorussian institutions reached 354 students. Two Kashubian schools instructed 144. Two Lithuanian establishments taught 73 young people. The nation had 49 German language schools with 2,588 pupils. Slovakian speakers (29) studied at three schools, while 190 who spoke Ukranian learned at 23 schools. Finally, 2 Lemk programs reached 14 students.

That same year there were 10 lycees for 2,214 ethnic minority pupils. Two Belorussian schools reached 1,046 students. One Kashubian institution instructed 346; a Lithuanian establishment, 128; a German, 111; and a Slovakian, 53. Four Ukranian schools taught 530 pupils. There were no Lemk lycee.

Grading System & Examination: Polish education marks students from one to six. One means failure; two is poor; three signifies satisfactory; four good; five very good; and six excellent. The grading system is not considered effective, and many believe it should be modernized in accordance with European standards. Grading rigor varies widely, and marks on school certificates are not always legible. In the reformed system of education, the Matura examination and school certificate are expected to be external and standardized, comparable with the European Committee. The latter arrangement affords graduates better opportunities at higher education or employment.

Currently, pupil progress is assessed internally by each school. Detailed examination requirements are designed by a teacher and approved by a Pedagogical Council and headmaster. Pupils and their parents are informed about these requirements. The requirements must not violate the Ministry of National Education directive of 19 April 1999, which delineates principles of public school evaluation, examination, grading, and promotion. Other external assessment standards are provided by Regional Examination Commissions and by State Examination Commissions, which are established by the Ministry of National Education.

The Polish system mandates standard testing at various levels. After primary school, students take an aptitude examination. After the gymnasium, they are given an orientation examination. After the profiled lyceum they take an exit examination, known as the Matura. Upon completing the program at a vocational school, students are tested in the appropriate trade. After a supplementary lyceum, they may take the Matura examination. During the 1998-1999 school year, at the general secondary school level, 172,216 students took the Matura examination (99.1 percent of the total). The vast majority, 163,977 (94.4 percent), passed it. For the same time period, in technical and vocational schools, 176,402 students took the Matura. Again most, 151,309 (85.8 percent), succeeded. University candidates take entrance examinations for their chosen institution. The education reform that has introduced the Matura produced agreement from university authorities that it would serve as the entrance examination.

Private & Religious Schools: In Poland all non-public schools are considered private. The word "private" might be part of a school's name, but it is not used in official documents. Consequently, all religious schools are private, because the state generally does not support them financially. On the other hand, Lublin Catholic University receives state financial support from time to time. Twice a year a collection for LCU is taken in Polish churches. There is a Catholic state university, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, but it is not subsidized by the church. Another church institution is the Papal Academy of Theology in Craców. Religious primary and secondary schools may be subsidized by state money. Seminaries, which prepare students for the priesthood, are maintained by the diocese.

Education of Pupils Needing Special Care: Special courses and curricula for gifted students try to take into consideration the student's social skills and attitudes. A new experimental gymnasium and academic lyceum are being considered. Also, plans include a Nationwide Center for Supporting Gifted Pupils (Ogolnopolskie Centrum Wspierania Uczniow Wybitnie Uzdolnionych) that would be based on a local institution in Torun.

Polish schools are available for everyone, including pupils suffering from physical, emotional, or other disabilities. Such students comprise about 3 percent of the nation's children. In recent years the disabled have been integrated into the mainstream. Today, a typical class may have 15 to 20 students, plus 3 to 5 possessing handicaps. As much as is possible, all participate in common activities, and act together to solve common problems. Some of the disabled, such as the blind and the deaf, receive individual lessons with specialists, making use of sign language, Braille, and exercises to help develop a sense of direction. As of 1997, approximately 3,590 pupils attended integrated classes. Children and youth who need special care but lack the opportunity to attend integrated classes make use of special education.

Instructional Technology: Schools use computers as instructional aids. No exact number is available. The goal is to have a computer laboratory with Internet access in every school. The subject "informatics" informatyka) teaches computer skills. Many schools participate in a program called "Internet for Schools."

The new, reformed educational system needs textbooks that are consistent with the programming basics. Teachers have the right to choose the most appropriate textbooks from a list compiled by the Ministry of National Education. Listed books are those deemed appropriate in content, methodology, and reading level. They must be constitutional, consistent with the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, non-racist, respectful of children's rights, and not at variance with international textbook principles. Beyond the Ministry of National Education's list, schools may add experimental textbooks that comply with the legal system.

Foreign Students: During the 1999-2000 academic year, there were 6,025 students in Poland from the following countries: Ukraine (1,073); Belarus (831); Lithuania (515); the Czech Republic (265); Kazakhstan (363); Russia (262); the United States (270); Vietnam (168); Germany (147); and Bulgaria (127).

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferencePoland - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education