Compulsory education in Poland starts at the age of six from the mandatory “0” reception class. The reception class is a part of kindegarten/pre-school rather than school.
The actual school education, primary school (szkoła podstawowa), starts at the age of 7 (earlier entry is possible on the condition of receiving a positive opinion on emotional and intellectual school readiness of the child).
Primary school (szkoła podstawowa)
There are 8 years of education in primary school in Poland with a division into:
- grades 1 – 3 – early education where teaching is delivered in the form of teaching blocs rather than single subjects; the class teacher delivers classes in literacy and numeracy as well as in musical education and art; the marks at this stage are descriptive rather than numerical;
- grades 4 – 8 – there is a clear division into subjects (Polish language, English language, Mathematics, Nature, History, Computing, PE, Music, Art, Practical skills, Religion/Ethics, and from grade 7 also Chemistry, Biology and a foreign language); students receive numerical marks for all subjects on a scale from 1 to 6 (1- failed, 6 – excellent).
The primary school ends with end-of-school exams the results of which are taken into account when applying to a secondary education school.
Secondary school (szkoła średnia)
At the age of 15 young people in Poland start secondary education which can take a form of:
- 4-year general secondary school (high school),
- 5-year technical (vocational) secondary school,
- 3-year vocational school (stage I),
- 2-year vocational school (stage II)
Students of vocational schools – basic vocational schools and technical secondary schools – may take exams confirming vocational qualifications in a given occupation during the course of study or upon completion of school to receive a diploma confirming their vocational qualifications.
Graduates of general upper secondary schools (liceum ogólnoształcące) and technical secondary schools may take the school-leaving examination (egzamin maturalny) to obtain the Matura certificate, which gives access to higher education.
In the Polish education system full-time compulsory education and part-time compulsory education are defined. Full-time compulsory education (obligation to attend primary school applies to pupils aged 7-15 years while part-time compulsory education (obligation to be in education) concerns pupils aged 15-18 and it may take place either in school settings (the student attends secondary school) or in non-school settings (e.g. the student follows vocational training offered by employers).