Childcare and education
Non-nationals working or studying in bigger cities may send their children to international schools and nursery schools or bilingual establishments where the language of instruction is, for example, English, French or Spanish. A number of higher education institutions offer full degree programmes or selected courses taught in a foreign language.
There is a well-developed day-care system for children under 3 years, organized in so-called crèches and day nurseries (żłobek) in Poland. They are payable but an exact amount depends on location as local authorities settle amounts of the fees.
Alimentation costs are always charged additionally. There are also a lot of private facilities concerning day-care for toddlers and there is no problem with finding a babysitter, using local portals, newspapers or babysitting agencies.
A child aged 3 to 5 may attend a nursery school (przedszkole), which is not compulsory and the decision remains at its parents’ discretion. The nursery schools are run by the state and private organizations or individual persons. Registers of state preschools within the territory of specific provinces are maintained by local educational authorities. Some private preschools run their activities in languages other than Polish.
Primary and secondary schools organise various extracurricular educational activities (for which parents usually pay a fee), such as special-interest clubs to develop the knowledge of specific school subjects, as well as sports, cultural and artistic activities (e.g. theatre, photography, painting). Numerous cultural centres, clubs and sports centres offer various courses and workshops where children can have active leisure in the afternoon and develop their interests under professional supervision.
Education is compulsory in Poland for children and young people between 7 and 18 years of age. The rule also applies to foreign children, irrespectively of their own or their parents’ status (e.g. foreigners holding permanent or temporary residence permit). The school year usually starts on 1 September and ends in the last week of June. In addition to a two-month summer holiday break, pupils in primary and secondary schools have short breaks of several days during Christmas and Easter and a two-week winter break. Classes usually start at 8 a.m. Each class lasts 45 minutes. Breaks last at least 5 minutes and no longer than 25 minutes. Pupils attend primary and secondary schools five days a week (from Monday to Friday).
All children aged 6 during a given calendar year are obliged to attend a one-year preparatory class at a nursery school or a primary school.
Children aged between 7 and 13 attend primary schools for a period of 6 years. In specific situations children aged 6 may also start primary education. Primary schools are divided into two stages: the first stage (grades 1 to 3) offering elementary integrated schooling and the second stage (grades 4 to 6) at which subject teaching is provided.
All the primary school graduates obligatorily continue their education in a 3-year gymnasium (gimnazjum), a lower-secondary compulsory school. At the end they are required to take an external examination test. The number of points indicated on the gymnasium graduation certificate (based on results achieved in chosen areas of study and other achievements) including points received at the gymnasium examination decides on students' admission to an upper-secondary school. Detailed admission rules are defined by each post-gymnasium school which opens admissions to new students.
Upon completion of gymnasium, compulsory education is implemented through one of the following types of upper-secondary schools:
- 3-year general secondary school (liceum)
- 3-year specialised secondary school (liceum profilowane)
- 4-year technical secondary school (technikum)
- 2-year basic vocational school (szkoła zawodowa)
Programmes in the first three types of the schools lead to a compulsory state examination, called “maturity examination” (matura), which gives access to higher education. Higher education institutions may specify the results of the maturity examination which will provide the basis for admission to their degree programmes.
If a pupil requires additional attention due to their special needs, the Polish schooling system offers individual programmes of education. The decision to qualify a student to such a programme is issued by a team of experts and is based on the results of medical, psychological and pedagogical tests. In Poland, children with special educational needs comprise 3% of all students.
Higher education institutions offer programmes at the following three levels:
- 1st level: Bachelor’s degree (first-cycle) programmes, open to holders of the maturity examination and secondary school leaving certificates; it lasts between 6 and 8 semesters, leading to the degree of licencjat (bachelor), or between 7 and 8 semesters, leading to the degree of inżynier (bachelor of engineering). The duration of the programme and the degree awarded depends on the field of study,
- 2nd level: Master’s degree programmes which are open to holders of the Bachelor’s degree and last 3 to 4 semesters (second-cycle programmes), and Master’s degree programmes which are open to holders of the secondary school leaving certificate and last between 9 and 12 semesters (long-cycle programmes). In both cases, students are awarded the degree of magister (master’s degree) or an equivalent degree, depending on the field of study,
- 3rd level: 4-year doctoral (third-cycle) programmes open to holders of the Master’s degree or an equivalent degree,
- Postgraduate studies – holders of the Master’s degree may attend an additional course to prepare for specialised placement. It is usually a 1-year programme in a chosen field.
- EURYDICE portal – Education in Poland
- Ministry of National Education
- Higher education system - Ministry of Science and Higher Education
- Ready, Study, Go! Poland
- Study in Poland