The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Education Targets for 2020 Poland

“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.

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Filed under: ■ EurActiv, ■ Poland, ►11.ON LINE▼

3 Responses

  1. Imladris says:

    Well, I’ve been trying to start writing this comment for several days. I`m sorry in advance if I`m going to bore someone out of their wits, but I`m afraid that I`m going to rant about my favorite subject: payment for higher education.
    First things first: I have no social education, I`m relying on my experience during creating my opinions. Also, I`m sorry for any glaring mistakes that can creep in.
    There are some important points in this article concerning higher education:
    *”…and increasing the proportion of youngsters with tertiary education qualifications to at least 40% by 2020.”
    *”…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.”

    There is curious dissonance between the goals and the actions taken in order to achieve them. We hear all the time that the higher education in our country is low quality; we hear it usually from politicians who graduated – or not – from universities in times when the system was different, the standards higher, and the high schools were more difficult to graduate from than nowadys. Another group that claims this are those people who would benefit from school fees, and use the “quality” argument to back up the bill. Unfortunately, the only apparent method used for curing the situation has been, so far, the plan for putting into effect university fees.

    First, there is a question that everyone should answer according to one`s beliefs: what does it mean to increase the quality of education? According to me it simply means better educated people, with wider knowledge and abilities. The academic teachers often complain that high school graduates know nothing and understand even less. It makes it more difficult for them to learn something new without having properly learned the basics. Well, that`s true according to me. From this point of view it`s obvious that the root of the problem lies with the high schools, not with universities.

    According to the “money” argument the students forced to pay will do their best and will take their studies more seriously.
    By observing the foreign universities, we can tell that that`s not true, because the population of students elsewhere is the same as in Poland: there are people who are good (not many of them), mediocre and lousy. Nothing can change people’s character, and the cure for difficulties in the superficial education in high schools does definitely not rest in the money that the students would be forced to pay.

    There is something else: we don`t have job vacancies for specialists in our country. If the higher education were to be payable, people will avoid taking higher education curses because they would not have the means to pay potential debts for the sake of education. In foreign countries other than Poland there are better perspectives on the job market, and this is a crucial difference that “money” enthusiasts seem to forget about.

    My point is that school fees will not increase the quality of education, because money can`t mend shallowly-educated minds or laziness and will only create new problems, such as:
    – the difficult access to education
    – in several generations, the birth of a caste social system (the best education only for the richest)
    – fewer well-educated people
    – a devaluation of the higher education („you have money, you have studies”),
    and more of which I`m now too peeved to think about. Of course payment will not solve the problems that currently exist.

    Back to the article: how do they want to increase the number of university graduates by introducing fees in schools?
    *”…and increasing the proportion of youngsters with tertiary education qualifications to at least 40% by 2020″
    It`s obvious that payment will decrease the number of students.
    *”…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.”

    I`m not sure if this is about PhD and other post-graduate studies, for people who started higher education later for various reasons, or if this also concerns students studying at two universities and thus graduating at the age of, say, 27. In this last case, then there is also another project aiming to make the second university payable for students.

    • Alina Alens says:

      I watched this movie called “High Life” the other day and the story in it had nothing to do with the title. Just as in the case of this movie, it may happen that the 2020 predictions for the higher education in Poland might not bring what “they” might expect.

      In Romania students have had to pay for the second University studies for the last 10 years or so now, which led to more private universities and more students. How they managed to pay for their studies seems a miracle. Many had to take up jobs. On the other hand many agree on a decrease in quality compared to the older state university systems.
      So far the students in Poland and Romania have had the same kind of “troubles”, the ones in Poland being fortunate enough in not having had to pay for second specialisations.

      The world is full of contradictions. I recently returned from Bucharest, where I went out with friends the night before my flight back to Krakow. At a time when the majority of (if not all the employees) in the country had had their salary cut by 25%, on a week night, not even during a weekend, you could hardly find a seat
      free at the street terraces and cafes downtown.

      Hard facts to associate, isn’t it?

      To conclude, I understand your concerns and hope, along with students and teaching staff, that the measures and strategies to be taken in our European Union will benefit all parts involved in education, as soon as possible. The quality of the system resides in each one of its parts, that is, in each and every one us, whether we like to see ourselves as such, or not.

      Thank you for your comment, Imladris! It brings us one step further to improving the quality of our dialogue concerning education.

  2. Alina Alens says:

    More on the 2020 education goals in this article posted August 23rd, 2010.

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