Educational Challenges in Poland: A Deepening Crisis

Written by Aneta Orlowska

The state of education in Poland has reached a critical point, with concerns mounting over the future of the country’s schooling system. Recent research and surveys conducted by various organisations shed light on the challenges faced by Polish schools and the urgent need for action to address these issues.

According to a survey by the Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP), the situation in schools is rapidly deteriorating, and its impact will be felt by everyone involved. The survey aims to draw attention to the problems plaguing the education system and highlight the need for immediate intervention. While amendments to education laws have been proposed, they do not adequately address the underlying issues.

One of the primary concerns highlighted by the ZNP is the severe shortage of teachers. It is estimated that there will be a shortfall of 25,000 to 30,000 teachers this year alone, but the actual number of deficiencies is expected to reach a staggering 55,000. This shortage has far-reaching consequences, affecting the quality of education and the overall learning experience for students. Classrooms are overcrowded, leaving teachers with limited time and resources to provide individual attention to students. This, in turn, hampers the students’ ability to learn and thrive academically.

The picket organised by the Polish Teachers’ Union on September 1 in front of the Ministry of Education and Science aims to express strong dissatisfaction with the current state of education in Poland. The main focus of the protest is the recently passed amendment to the educational law, which grants parents greater control over the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in schools. This amendment has sparked concerns among teachers and educators regarding its potential impact on the autonomy and quality of education.

Furthermore, the picket also serves as a platform to address broader issues that affect the education system in Poland, such as inadequate funding, overcrowded classrooms, and the lack of resources for students and teachers. By taking part in this protest, the Polish Teachers’ Union hopes to raise awareness and initiate a dialogue with the government and other stakeholders to bring about positive changes in the education sector. Krzysztof Baszczyński, Vice President of the Polish Teachers’ Union, emphasises the need for dialogue and collaboration to improve the situation. The picket seeks to engage NGOs and other stakeholders to join forces in finding solutions that prioritise remuneration, the core curriculum, and working conditions. The participation of NGOs in the protest is crucial, as they play a vital role in shaping the learning environment and supporting educational initiatives. The amendment to the educational law, which may hinder the access of NGOs to schools, is a cause for concern as it limits the resources and support available to students

Critics argue that the amendment to the educational law may further hinder the access of NGOs to schools, leading many directors to question the value of their involvement. The fear of potential repercussions from authorities may discourage schools from collaborating with NGOs, further limiting the resources and support available to students.

The concerns raised by the Polish Teachers’ Union are not limited to the amendment to the educational law. They also encompass the broader issues of staffing shortages, working conditions, and the quality of education. The union estimates that the current vacancies represent only a fraction of the actual need for teachers. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that young people are increasingly discouraged from pursuing a career in education due to unattractive salaries and working conditions.

While the government emphasises the increase in educational subsidies, critics argue that these increases are not sufficient to address the ongoing challenges. They also contend that the difference between the government’s claims and the actual situation highlights the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and increased investment in education. This disconnect between words and actions has significant consequences, as it perpetuates educational inequality and hampers social mobility. It is crucial for policymakers to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and take decisive measures to bridge this gap. By implementing substantial reforms and allocating ample resources to education, we can pave the way for a brighter future and ensure equal opportunities for all learners, regardless of their socio-economic background.

The crisis in Polish schools is not limited to staffing shortages. In fact, the situation goes beyond just a lack of teachers and educators. The survey conducted by SW Research for reveals a deep and widespread dissatisfaction among the public with the government’s education policy. It is clear that there are significant concerns regarding the quality of education and the scarcity of resources available to students and schools alike. This survey serves as a stark reminder that the current education system is in dire need of comprehensive and effective reforms. It is crucial for the government and policymakers to take immediate action to address these pressing issues and ensure a better future for the education system in Poland.

In addition to the shortage of teachers and concerns about education policy, other problems plague the Polish education system. These include inadequate access to mental health support, the politicisation of the curriculum, the lack of resources for extracurricular activities, and the pressing need for comprehensive career counselling. Students and recent graduates stress the need for a more balanced and well-rounded education that not only focuses on academic subjects but also includes practical life skills such as financial literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving. They believe that this kind of education will better equip them to navigate the complexities of the modern world and prepare them for success in their future endeavours.

Refugee students in Poland face additional challenges within the education system. Language barriers, cultural differences, and limited access to support services make it difficult for students to fully integrate and succeed academically. Many refugee students have experienced interrupted education and trauma, which further complicates their educational journey. There is a need for targeted initiatives and resources to address the specific needs of refugee students and ensure their smooth transition into the Polish education system.

The educational challenges in Poland are undeniable, and urgent action is needed to prevent further deterioration. The government, in collaboration with educational stakeholders, must prioritise addressing the shortage of teachers, improving working conditions, and ensuring access to quality education for all students. Only through a concerted effort to address these challenges can Poland’s education system regain its strength and provide a solid foundation for the future generations.

To overcome these challenges, it is crucial for the government to allocate more resources to education and increase funding for teacher salaries and professional development programmes. Additionally, the government should establish mechanisms to attract and retain qualified teachers, such as offering attractive incentives and improving working conditions. Moreover, there is a need for comprehensive educational reforms that prioritise the holistic development of students.


Cover image “Presentation for 6th and 7th graders (Poland)” via Flickr

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