Poland spends less than half of the amount on education for each school pupil in comparison with countries such as the United States and Norway. Furthermore, Poland has been reaping the results of educational reform which has taken place since 1999. Traditionally, in Poland the school system channelled most pupils into basic vocational training through an emphasis on employment where most pupils left studying at the age of 15. By the 1990s Poland had one of the lowest participatory rates of pupils in full secondary and university education. In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of 2000, Poland scored well below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. (see the OECD/Pearson report: http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/oecd/poland.html).
The tide has changed and the most up-to-date results of the PISA tests rank Poland in 14th place for reading. This ranks Poland higher than the USA, France, Germany and Sweden and most notably significantly ahead of the United Kingdom being ranked 25th. (BBC News Website ‘Poland scores late goals in Education’, 13th June 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18151512)
Results have been attributed to reform in Poland evolving from 1999 essentially consisting of three strands namely, aiming for educational opportunity for all, improving the quality of education and raising secondary and higher education participation. The focus of the reform is to meet the unique talents of each pupil and where university education is seen as not only for the privileged but for everyone who aspires to this goal. Revised curriculum based on learning outcomes, national standardised tests, changing the academic years of studying, softening the division between vocational and academic education has opened up the door for a rapid increase of pupils progressing to university education and changed the educational structure. Universities are now adjusting to cope with the rapid increase in demand.
Emphasis is placed on decentralisation and greater autonomy for schools and teachers to encourage innovative teacher practice. Teachers participate in many professional development programmes which promote active teaching methods.
According to the presentation in 2011 by Mr Miroslaw Sielatycki as the Under-Secretary of State, Polish Ministry for National Education teacher salaries have been increased to Poland’s average salary and there has also been the introduction of the teachers’ career promotion system. The number of teachers with university diploma qualification has risen from 50% to 98% of 600,000 teachers. Professional development is now undertaken by 90% of teachers. Increased focus has been placed on teacher professional development with the establishment of the National Centre for Teachers’ In-Service Training.
The variance of achievement between schools by pupil performance across reading, mathematics and science from 2000-2009 has reduced the most significantly amongst all the OECD and EU countries indicating that Poland is reducing the gap in inequality of pupil outcomes. The number of pupils entering university education has increased more than four-fold from 10% to 41.2% of pupils from 1989 to 2011. The challenges for Poland remain the high unemployment rate for graduates, participation in early childhood education and the variance in performance between general education and technical schools.
Despite these challenges, Poland proposes to continue their success by proper monitoring of the educational system and development of evidence-based policy via national educational research capabilities and data collection systems. Please see the following link for a copy of the presentation by Mr Miroslaw Sielatycki on ‘Poland: Successes and Challenges: Educational Reform, 28-29 June 2011’: www.oecd.org/poland/48357781.ppt
The Good CPD Guide has a range of courses which encourage innovation in teaching practice: http://goodcpdguide.com/