Education in Poland

Compulsory education in Poland starts at the age of six or seven, per the Reforms of 1999, from the "0" class kindergarten (Polish przedszkole, literally pre-school) and at the age of seven, for the 1st grade of primary school (Polish szkoła podstawowa). Compulsory education lasts nine years. After the first six years of primary education, pupils join the gymnasium for three years (lower secondary education) and at the end, take another compulsory exam.

Polish Ministry of Education established by King Stanisław August Poniatowski in 1773 was the first ministry of education in the world, and the traditions continue. The international PISA 2012 praised the progresses made by Polish education in Mathematics, Science and Literacy; the number of top-performers having increased since 2003 while the number of low-performers decreased again. In 2014, the Pearson/Economist Intelligence Unit rated Polish education as 5th best in Europe and 10th best in the world.

There are several alternatives for the upper secondary education later on, the most common being the three years of a liceum or four years in a technikum. Both end with a maturity exam (matura, similar to French baccalauréat), and may be followed by several forms of upper education, leading to Bachelor: licencjat or inżynier (the Polish Bologna Process first cycle qualification), Master: magister (the Polish Bologna Process second cycle qualification) and eventually PhD: doktor (the Polish Bologna Process third cycle qualification). The system of education in Poland allows for 22 years of continuous, uninterrupted schooling.

Compulsory education
Primary school

Primary school usually starts at seven years old. Primary school is divided into two cycles of three years. The first cycle is "integrated", with one teacher handling alone all the subjects, while the second cycle offers a subject-based teaching. At the end of primary school, pupils write a compulsory international competence test. If completed, the examination grants a primary-school leaving certificate. This certificate is however not needed to enter Gymnasium.

Middle school
Middle school covers lower secondary education and ends general basic education and lasts three years. The subject taught are: Polish language, history, civic education, two foreign languages, mathematics, physics and astronomy, chemistry, biology, geography, fine arts/music, technology, information technology, physical education and religion or ethics. At the end of the curriculum, pupils are evaluated based on their continuing results and on an examination in humanities, science and foreign languages.

Starting with the school year of 2017/18, middle schools are scheduled to be disbanded and primary schools to be extended to eight years, as it was before 1999.

Upper secondary education
The upper secondary education begins at the end of full-time compulsory education, preparing students for entry directly into the labour-market and/or tertiary (i.e. higher) education. Upper secondary education takes many forms.
General education can be pursued in general secondary schools (liceum): after three years, students can pass the "Matura", which grants access to higher education. Vocational and technical education is mainly provided by Technical schools (technikum) and/or basic vocational schools (zasadnicza szkoła zawodowa). Technical schools last 4 years and lead to the Matura. Their primary goal is to teach occupations and trades, the most popular being: accountant, mechanic, electronics specialist, and salesperson. Basic vocational schools also provide a vocational education lasting 2 years and grant a certificate of competence in various fields, the most popular being: shop-assistant, cook, gardener, automobile mechanic, hairdresser and baker. Graduates from basic vocational schools can pass the Matura after an extra-curriculum of two years in a general secondary school, or, since 2004, of three years in a Technical school. Profiled general secondary schools (liceum profilowane) provide a vocational education in three years, but only in fields described by the Polish Classification of Activities (PKD). In addition, mentally and/or physically handicapped students can join special schools (szkoła specjalna) which prepare to the Matura in three years.

Tertiary education
Poland follows the Bologna scheme and most of its tertiary level programmes are made of two cycles: a three-year bachelor's degree followed by a two-year master's degree. Some master's degrees are however granted after a unique long-cycle programme, lasting between four and six years (Ex: five years for pharmacy, six year for medicine). Doctoral programmes are achieved in about three years. The diploma of primary school teachers requires three years of study within a teacher training college. Vocational education is handled by post-secondary school(szkola policealna) with programmes lasting two and a half years.

Grading system at University level
The university-level education uses a numeric system of grades from two to five, with most grades including 0.5 point increments: 2.0 is the failing grade, 3.0 is the lowest passing grade, followed by 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5, with 5.0 being the highest grade. There is no grade 2.5. Also, 5.5 or 6.0 is sometimes given as an "exceeds expectations" grade, but this differs among various universities and may be equivalent to 5.0 for some purposes. Similarly "3-" is occasionally (but very rarely) given as a "barely passing" grade, but for all official purposes it is equivalent to 3.0.
The grading is done every semester (twice a year), not just once in a school year. Depending on the subject, the final grade may be based on the result of a single exam, or on the student's performance during the whole semester. In the latter case, usually a point system, not the 2-5 scale is used. The points accumulated during the semester are added and converted to a final grade according to some scale.

As a failing grade means merely having to repeat the failed subject, and can usually be corrected on a retake exam (and in some cases also on a special "committee exam"), it is used much more liberally, and it is quite common for a significant number of students to fail a class on the first attempt.

Foreign languages
Students in Polish schools typically learn one or two foreign languages. Generally, in 2005/06 the most popular obligatory foreign languages in Polish schools were: English - 67.9%, German - 33.3%, French - 13.3%, Spanish - 10.2%, Russian - 6.1%, Italian - 4.3%, Latin - 0.6%, and Others - 0.1%.

In 2005/06 there were 49,200 students in schools for national minorities, most of them in German, Kashubian, Ukrainian and Belarusian.

Due to the education reform introduced by Polish education minister - Katarzyna Hall, students of Polish lower secondary schools must learn two different foreign languages. The first foreign language (usually English) is taught three times a week and it is the language that students must write the egzamin gimnazjalny in. The second foreign language is taught two times a week and it is additional. The reform introduces two different levels of the exam - the higher level (if a student has been learning the same language as the first one at primary school) and the standard level (if a student has started learning the first language at lower secondary school). The result of the exam is held to account when a student applies to the upper secondary level school.

The education of Polish society was a goal of rulers as early as the 12th century, and Poland soon became one of the most educated countries in Europe. The library catalogue of the Cathedral Chapter of Kraków dating back to 1110 shows that in the early 12th-century Polish intellectuals had access to European literature. The Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364 by King Casimir III in Kraków, is one of Europe's oldest universities. In 1773 King Stanisław August Poniatowski established the Commission of National Education (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej), the world's first state ministry of education.

The first university in Poland, Kraków's Jagiellonian University, was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kraków. It is the oldest university in Poland. It is the second oldest university in Central Europe (after Prague University) and one of the oldest universities in the world. Casimir III realized that the nation needed a class of educated people, especially lawyers, who could codify the country's laws and administer the courts and offices. His efforts to found an institution of higher learning in Poland were finally rewarded when Pope Urban V granted him permission to open the University of Kraków.

The idea of compulsory education was put forward by Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski in 1555. After the partitions of Poland, compulsory education was introduced by Prussian authorities in Polish provinces which belonged to Prussia (1825), and Austrian authorities in Galicia (1873). In the Russian Empire compulsory education did not exist. As a result, in 1921, after Poland regained independence, one-third of the population of the Second Polish Republic was illiterate. Illiteracy was very high in the east, but almost non-existent in western provinces.

Compulsory education in Poland was introduced by a decree in February 1919. This covered all children aged 7 to 14. At the beginning, however, the newly created Polish state faced several problems of implementation - a lack of qualified teachers, buildings and funds. After World War Two, compulsory education remained as one of priorities of the state. By 1978, only 1.2 percent of the Polish population was illiterate. In Poland compulsory education ends at the age of 18. It usually starts when children are 6 years old and ends after 12 years of learning (usually in a high school). Contemporary Polish law distinguishes between compulsory school (obowiązek szkolny) and compulsory education (obowiązek nauki).

In 2006, in response to the suicide of a girl after she was sexually molested in school, the Polish Minister of Education, Roman Giertych, launched a "zero tolerance" school reform. Under this plan, teachers would have the legal status of civil servants, making violent crimes against them punishable by higher penalties. Head teachers (equivalent to principals in the US) will be, in theory, able to send aggressive pupils to perform community service and these students' parents may also be fined. Teachers who fail to report violent acts in school could face a prison sentence.