“Lifelong learning” is almost always greeted with acclamation.
However, what do statistics really say about it?
Read the article below, published today, on the EurActiv site and
take a closer look at the education goals Poland has set for 2020.
Poland is one of the leading member states when it comes to the EU’s 2020 education goals and has set itself high targets. Yet it is lagging behind in other areas, such as kindergarten attendance rates and lifelong learning for adults.
Both education targets in the new ‘Europe 2020’ strategy – reducing the share of early school leavers to below 10% and increasing the proportion of youngsters with tertiary education qualifications to at least 40% by 2020 – have been welcomed by Poland.
Yet the country’s education authorities want to go even further and have set themselves more ambitious targets.
The current share of early school leavers in Poland is just 5% of the student population and there are plans to reduce it by a further half percentage point.
As for tertiary education, it wants to attain a higher rate than the EU-wide goal – i.e. 45% instead of 40% of citizens with a higher education degree by 2020.
According to data for 2008, 29.7% of 30-34-year old Poles hold a higher education qualification.
However, there are EU education benchmarks outside of the Europe 2020 strategy – set by the European Commission – where Poland falls below the member state average.
For example, the proportion of children between the age of three and five who attend kindergarten (early childhood education) has increased from 44% to 60% over the past three years, but the EU average is over 90%. Poland has a lot to do if it is to reach this threshold.
Another problem is lifelong learning among adults aged between 25 and 64. The EU average is 9.5%, while in Poland it is only 4.7%. The Commission aims for an average figure of 15% by 2020. For Poland, this area constitutes another extremely difficult challenge.
The Polish System
Since changes to the system in 2009, education in Poland begins at the age of five or six for the ‘0’ class (kindergarten) and six or seven for the first year of primary school. Children must complete one year of formal education before entering primary school.
On leaving primary school, pupils take a compulsory exam to determine which lower secondary school they can attend. After three years, they sit another exam to determine their upper secondary school. The most common higher education choices are three years in a liceum (high school) or four years in a technikum (vocational secondary school).
In Poland, education is free of charge until university. State universities are also free. Before 1990, there were only state higher education institutions in Poland, with the exception of the Catholic University of Lublin. The ‘Higher Education Act’ then enabled the creation of non-state institutions. When the ‘Schools of Higher Professional Education Act’ came into force in 1997, courses for professional higher education were established.
There are 131 state-owned higher education institutions in Poland and 326 private ones. The total number of students in tertiary education is 1.92 million, of which 612,000 study in private institutions.
According to experts, the most significant problem in the Polish system is the huge proportion of extramural and evening students – they constitute more than 50% of the total number. This is the major reason for the low quality of Polish higher education, they say.