Poland - Secondary Education
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Gymnasium: The gymnasium, the secondary stage of general education, is compulsory in Poland for pupils aged 13 to 16. Education at this level is designed to help pupils develop adequate knowledge and skills; take advantage of human achievements; fully master their mother tongue; become independent, confident in themselves and their abilities, and prepared to become responsible individuals; participate in cultural activity; develop sensitivity toward and empathy for disabled persons; solve the problems of adolescence; and learn how to work well with others.
In each of the 3 classes of the gymnasium, students must take a minimum of 28 lessons per week. Four are devoted to the Polish language. Another four are divided among history, traditional culture, and civic education. Three lessons per week are devoted to mathematics and three to foreign language study. Five lessons per week are divided among biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geography. Two per week cover computer sciences, technical education, music, or fine arts. Physical education makes up three lessons weekly. One lesson per week is determined by the student's tutor and another three by the tutor or headmaster. Two lessons per week of religion and ethics are required but not counted toward the total. All of the aforementioned subjects prepare students for higher education. They are supplemented by interdisciplinary lessons, which include preparation for family life; healthcare education; ecological education; philosophy; the culture of public relations; and civil defense.
Post-Gymnasium Secondary Education: At age 16, the gymnasium graduate chooses to prepare for higher education or to begin training for a vocation. Those seeking the former attend a three year profiled lyceum. Completion of this program leads to the Matura certificate, which confers entitlement to enter a university. Other students choose a two year vocational school, which ends with a vocational examination. The graduate of this school may elect to go on to a supplementary lyceum, which is a two year school that prepares one for the Matura examination. Passing that examination permits entry to academies.
Profiled Lyceum: The profiled lyceum (liceum profilowane) is a three year secondary school following the gymnasium. At this level, 80 percent of education in Poland is comprised of general courses, which follow a basic curriculum. About 20 percent is "profiled" or specialized education in academic or vocational subjects. Five profiles exist: academic; technology; agriculture and environment; social work and services; and culture and arts. The academic profile is made up of traditional college-preparatory courses and is designed for both those eventually seeking higher education and students whose precise future plans remain unclear. The technology profile deals with industrial production and features courses in: construction; chemistry; electricity and electronics; mechanics; the media; woodworking; food preparation; textiles; and biotechnology. The agriculture and environment profile is built around natural resource management and provides curricula that include: landscaping; forestry; horticulture; environmental protection; and related areas. The social work and services profile stresses the management and organization of social services. Its offerings include: economics and administration; trade; delivery of medicine; promotion and marketing; transportation; tourism; catering and hotel management; defense; and others ranging from beautician's training to insurance. A final profile concerns culture and the arts. It is aimed at those interested in organizing and managing cultural activities. Its courses include: European and regional culture; theatre and film; artisanship and monument restoration; fashion and interior design; and sports.
Despite this broad range of choices, most of a student's time in the profiled lyceum is spent taking mandated courses. Students have 15 lessons per week in the study of the Polish language. They take 10 a week in their primary foreign language and 6 in another. History and civics make up another six. Ten lessons every week are in mathematics. The science component is strong. Students must have four weekly lessons in physics and astronomy; three in chemistry; and three in biology. Rounding out the required courses are three lessons per week in geography; two in entrepreneurship; two in national defense; and nine in physical education. Every student's week also includes three lessons with a form tutor; three at the headmaster's discretion; and six in religion/ethics, though the latter do not count toward required totals.
Vocational Education: Vocational schools are two-year schools based on the gymnasium model and preparing graduates for employment. The certificate confirms their vocational knowledge and skills. In vocational schools, about 35 percent of the lessons stress general knowledge and social skills and aim to develop proper adult attitudes. The remaining lessons impart intensive vocational knowledge and skills to raise the graduate to the journeyman (or entry-level) employee. Education at this level strives to maintain a careful awareness of the labor market and local employers' expectations. The curriculum provides 12 lessons per week in the area of general education, including a foreign language and preparation for family life. Two lessons per week are spent with the form tutor. (Groups of students have a permanent mentor known as the form tutor.) Usually this time is spent on class bureaucracy, behavior problems, and arranging parental conferences. National Defense takes up two lessons a week and physical education six. Two lessons are reserved for entrepreneurship. A full 40 lessons per week are devoted to vocational training. Conditions vary from institution to institution, but in no case do theoretical approaches exceed 25 percent; the great bulk of these lessons are grounded firmly in the practical. For underage students, the number of vocational lessons is determined by the Labor Code.
Students who pass all subjects receive a graduation certificate. It proves the acquisition of both general and vocational knowledge and skills, which is confirmed by an authorized examination center appointed by the Regional Examination Commission. Special care is taken to protect juveniles. Their examinations are conducted by a craft guild or a trade commission. The under-aged graduate receives journeyman vocational entitlements, according to a professions register. Pupils who have served a suitable six month apprenticeship may also receive vocational degrees.
Supplementary Lyceum: The supplementary lyceum (liceum uzupelniajace) is a two-year general school, which is designed mainly for vocational school graduates who want to supplement their education. This school prepares students for the Matura examination and should thereby create an equal chance for all students to pursue the highest levels of education in the Polish system. Such education takes the form of daily or evening courses. Supplementary lycea concentrate approximately 85 percent of the lessons on compulsory subjects. Graduates may continue their education, including higher education.
The supplementary lyceum curriculum typically consists of 15 lessons per week on the Polish language and 10 on a foreign language. History and civic education require 6, and mathematics consumes another 10. Again a strong science component appears: physics receives four lessons per week; chemistry three; and biology three. There are three geography lessons; nine optional classes; and two at the headmaster's discretion.
Upper Secondary Specialized Lyceum: A specialized lyceum (szkola policealna) educates lycea graduates and makes possible vocational skill acquisition at the secondary level. This school is designed for graduates who possess the Matura certificate. The curriculum is quite flexible. Students take 437 lessons per semester in vocational training. They spend nine lessons studying the market economy and labor economy of their chosen field. Physical education accounts for 19 lessons, and 10 are devoted to topics at the headmaster's discretion. Vocational training in the secondary specialized lyceum is a combination of theoretical and practical courses. It is difficult to say how important the specialized lycea will be in the future. Graduates from the profiled lycea can choose from employment, supplementary education, and higher education. The main advantage the specialized lyceum provides is the acquisition of professional qualifications.