The Republic of Poland, a Central European country with a northern coast on the Baltic Sea, has throughout history experienced a constant ebb and flow of its borders as it acquired and lost nearby territories.
During the second half of the 18th Century, the then Kingdom of Poland included all of the area that is now called Lithuania, Belarus and half of contemporary Ukraine. At that same time, nearly 50% of what is the territory of contemporary Poland belonged
to Prussia. The resulting impact of these meandering borders was a very diverse population of ethnic cultures and religions.
The population of Poland was heavily impacted by World War II. Because of this, current day Poland has almost no ethnic minorities—a radically different population than existed in the earlier years of Polish history.
The constant upheaval from political, economic and social changes throughout its history also impacted education. With a transition towards a market economy in 1990, there was a greater demand for well-trained workers and legislation was enacted to support
this need. The 1991 Act on the Education System defined education as a “common welfare of the whole society.”
Until the reforms of September 1999, the system consisted of 8 years of primary school, ages 7 to 15, followed by a choice of 4-year general secondary, 4-year technical secondary, 5-year technical secondary, or 3-year basic vocational schools. Students
could apply for their choice of secondary schools. Completion of any of the first three secondary schools allowed students to sit for the Maturity Examination (Matura); students leaving the 3 year vocational schools had to sit for a vocational exam
leading to a Vocational School Leaving Certificate.
The reforms of 1999 introduced a 6-year primary school followed by a 3-year gymnasium and several upper secondary level choices. Post gymnasium study consists of: a 3-year specialized lyceum, a 3-year general lyceum, 4-year technical secondary school,
2- or 3-year vocational school, and 2-year complementary technical secondary school. Both systems continued simultaneously through 2005, at which time the new system was in effect.
The school year is divided into two semesters and normally starts on September 1 and ends the third or fourth week of June. It consists of 38 weeks on average. Winter holidays must be during the period between mid-January and the end of February and last
two weeks. The calendar is issued by the Ministerstwo Edikacji Narodowej.
Pre-primary education is provided at Przedszkole (nursery schools) or the nursery division at primary schools. The one year long compulsory program begins at age six, but students can enter pre-school at age 3.
The educational system implemented in 1999 changed the form of primary and secondary education. Primary education is provided by szkoła podstawowa (primary schools) and is six years longs beginning at age 7. Lower secondary education is provided
by 3-year gimnazjam (gymnasiums).
Students have several choices at upper secondary schools following lower secondary education. Basic vocational education is provided by 2-year zasdnicza szkoła zawodowa (basic vocational schools). Upon completion, students are awarded a świadectwo ukonczenia zasadniczej szkoły zawodowej.
Basic vocational schools do not provide direct access to higher education. Students can continue their education in complementary secondary schools: liceum uzupelni ajace (complementary lyceum) or technikum uzupelnisjace (complementary
technical secondary schools). Following completion, students can sit for the egzamin dojrzałości/matura (Maturity Examination) and obtain a świadectwo dojrzałości (Certificate of Completion of Upper Secondary School) and become eligible
for higher education.
Technical secondary education is provided by 4-year technical secondary schools (technikum zawodowe) from ages to 16 to 20. 3-year general lyceums (Liceum Ogoinoksztaicace) and specialized lyceums (Liceum Profilowane) provide general
or specialized upper secondary education from ages 16 to 19. Following completion of a general or specialized upper secondary program, students sit for Maturity Examination (egzamin dojrzałości/matura). Students who pass the Maturity Examination
are issued a świadectwo dojrzałości (Certificate of Completion of Upper Secondary School).
In 2005 a Higher Education Law was passed that reformed higher education to conform to the Bologna Process to which Poland had been an original signatory. This resulted in the first cycle degrees of Licencjat (3, 3.5, and 4 years/180, 210, and
240 ECTS), an Inzynier (3.5 or 4 years/210 or 240 ECTS), second cycle Magister (1 or 2 years/60 or 120 ECTS) and Magister Inzynier degrees (1.5 or 2 years/90 or 120 ECTS), and third cycle Doktor (3-4 years with precise requirements
determined by the individual university programs) being created. Long cycle degrees continue to exist in some specific fields.
The post-secondary academic year lasts from October to June with a vacation from July 1 to the 30th of September. The language of instruction is Polish. The Ministry of Education and Science regulates most universities and other national ministries regulate
specializes institutions; there are more than 100 institutions of higher education in Poland. These include 11 universities, 14 technical universities, 4 higher schools of engineering, 8 agricultural academies, 5 academies of economics and 10 teacher-training
colleges. Admission to post-secondary institutions requires the świadectwo dojrzałości (Certificate of Completion of Upper Secondary School) with a minimum score of 2 (mierny). Prior to 1991, the minimum score requirement was 3. Some institutions
require their own entrance exams for admission.
Studia 1 stopnia (First-level university studies) last three to four years, depending on the area of study. Upon completion, students are awarded the professional title of licencjat (licentiate), licencjat położnictwa (midwifery licenciate),
licencjat pielęgniarstwa (nursing licenciate), inżynier (engineer), or inżynier architect (architect). Until 2005, graduates of first-level university studies were awarded a dyplom ukończenia studiów wyższych. Since
2005, the name of the diploma has been changed to dyplom ukończenia wyższych studiów zawodowych.
Studia 2 stopnia (Second-level university studies) represent 5 to 6 years of education, depending on the area of study, and award academic and professional degrees. Admission to complementary studies (post-first level) requires the title of licencjat or inżynier or the equivalent. Upon completion, students awarded a tytuł magistra after one to two years of study or the tytuł magistra inżyniera awarded after one year of study. Until 2004, graduates of complementary studies
programs were awarded a dyplom ukończenia studiów wyższych. In 2005, the name of the diploma was changed to dyplom ukończenia uzupełniających studiów magisterskich.
Students are admitted to professional medical programs after completion of upper secondary school. The tytuł lekarza is awarded after six years of study. The tytuł lekarza stomatologa is awarded after five years of study, and the tytuł lekarza weterynarii is awarded after 5 to 5.5 years of study.
Third-level university studies are three to four years and require the magistra for admission. Upon successful defense of a dissertation and passing an examination, students are awarded a doktor or doktor nauk. In 2003, the doktor sztuki was introduced to students in the arts. Holders of a doktor who work in academic and research institutions can be awarded a doktor habilitowany upon successful defense of a new dissertation, a review by supervisors, and passing an examination.
Holders of a doktor habilitowany are eligible for the title of professor in academic institutions in Poland.
In 2005 a Higher Education Law was passed that reformed higher education to conform to the Bologna Process to which Poland had been an original signatory (see EDGE Bologna profile). This resulted in the first cycle degrees of Licencjat (3,3.5,
and 4 years/180, 210, and 240 ECTS), an Inzynier (3.5 or 4 years/210 or 240 ECTS), second cycle Magister (1 or 2 years/60 or 120 ECTS) and Magister Inzynier degrees (1.5 or 2 years/90 or 120 ECTS), and third cycle Doktor (3-4 years with precise requirements determined by the individual university programs) being created. Long cycle degrees continue to exist in some specific fields. For a discussion of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
All teacher education in Poland is at the post-secondary level. Primary and lower secondary school teachers are trained at a 3-year kolegium nauczycielskie (teacher training college) or a nauczycielskie kolegium języków obcych (foreign
language teacher training college). Upon completion, students are given the title of licencjat and are awarded the dyplom ukończenia kolegium nauczycielskiego. Prior to 1990, pre-primary and primary teacher training took place at secondary
schools: liceum pedagogiczne (teacher training lyceum), studium nauczycielskie (teacher-training institute), studium wychowania przedszkolnego (pre-primary education institute), studium nauczania początkowego (beginning
learning institute), and pedagogiczne studium techniczne (technical teacher training institute). Upon completion, students were awarded świadectwo dojrzałości and/or dyplom ukończenia.
Secondary school teachers must have the degree of magister and complete a university pedagogical course to be eligible to teach at a secondary school. In 1990, 3-year foreign language teacher training schools opened. Graduates are awarded the dyplom ukonczenia nauczycielskiego kolegium jezykow obcych.