Access to education

Poland

Author

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

All children staying in Poland have a constitutional right to education. Education is mandatory until the age of 18. It is provided to asylum-seeking children in regular schools and it is not limited by law. Monitoring took place by the Polish Ombudsman in 2011-2013 and it was determined that in most of the centres all children were attending schools regularly. Only in four centres some children were not attending school (mostly because they were admitted to the centre at the end of a school year or they were still waiting to be enrolled to the school).1 In NGO research conducted in 2012-2013, 17 schools from 146 researched admitted asylum seeking children (130 minors).2

There are different obstacles in practice for asylum seeking children to access education. The biggest problem is a language and cultural barrier. Children do not know Polish, but they are obliged to participate in classes in Polish. However, in all centres except the reception centre in Biała Podlaska, there are courses of Polish language for children being organised3 and social assistance includes providing children with basic supplies necessary for learning Polish.4 In period 2012-2014 not many asylum seekers took part in Polish language courses organized in the centres. In 2012 only 360 children and 73 adults were learning Polish in the centres (14, 8% of the asylum seekers who were entitled to material reception conditions), in 2013 – 504 children and 92 adults (15, 1%), in the first half of 2014 – 456 children and 103 adults (17%). The amount of lessons of Polish language organized in the centres (2-5 hours a week) was not enough to learn a language and integrate with local society.5

Moreover, children are entitled to additional, free Polish language classes, which should be organised by the authority managing the school, which asylum seekers are attending.6 Children can also participate in additional lessons on other subjects if their education level is different from this of the class. Both forms of assistance can be granted for a maximum of twelve months.7 Preparatory lessons and additional Polish language classes can last for a maximum of five hours per week for one child. In practice, schools organise two to ten hours of additional Polish language lessons per week (most of the times it is 2 hours per week which is not sufficient).8 In some schools they are not organised at all.9 During the audit concucted by the Supreme Audit Office in 2012-2014, only 3 out of 11 schools admitting asylum seeking children organized additional Polish language lessons and only one organized additional lessons on other subjects. Schools’ representatives explained that lessons were not needed, because children were quickly learning Polish and easily adapting into Polish society, which was contradictory to the information given by social workers, NGOs and foreigners themselves.10

Children have also a right to assistance of a person who knows the language of their country of origin, which can be employed as a teacher’s assistant by the director of the school. This help is limited to a maximum of twelve months. During the Polish ombudsman monitoring held in 2011/2012, only six schools (from sixteen schools visited) employed such “cultural assistant”.11 Moreover schools are not aware of the above mentioned legal possibilities to support education of children from third countries. During the monitoring held by NGO in 2012-2013, half of the responding schools did not know about the possibility to employ teacher’s assistant, the other half did not ask for financial means for that purpose or received a rejection from local authorities to grant such financial means.12 During the audit conducted by the Supreme Audit Office in 2012-2014, only 6 schools employed teachers’ assistant.13 In some schools NGOs are providing support of teacher’s assistant in the framework of their projects.14 Such support is though dependent on the NGOs’ funding. As a result, e.g. in 2014/2015 in school responsible for education of children staying in the reception centre in Linin there was no teacher’s assistant because of the financial problems of the NGO, who had been employing them before. NGO could not pay for the teacher’s assistant’s support as a result of i.e. a delayed implementation of the AMIF.15

The above mentioned measures are not considered sufficient by the teachers and directors of the schools concerned. In particular, lack of any adaptation period was criticized for many years.16 As a rule, foreign children are qualified at once to join regular classes which are handled in Polish. By law, they should participate in them for couple hours a day understanding nothing. Afterwards they should take part in the additional classes of Polish language and other subjects, which are organized after regular lessons. Teachers assess that solution as a waste of children’s time – they should first take part in the intensive Polish language course and when they are ready - join regular classes. Those critical opinions finally caused the amendment of law in 2016.17 Since 14.09.2016, schools have a possibility to organize preparatory classes for foreign children who do not know sufficiently Polish language. Those classes last for 20-26 hours a week. If a school decides to organize such classes, foreign children are not obliged to participate in regular classes, but learning Polish as a foreign language is still limited only to 3 hours per week.18

Schools criticize also the limitation to five hours of preparatory and additional Polish language lessons per week, as their practice showed the additional classes should take at least six hours per week. NGOs criticise the automatic limitation of the duration of provision of additional assistance to twelve months, as it should be adjusted individually.19

Moreover additional Polish language classes do not meet its goal.20 In some schools, additional Polish language lessons are organised, but it often happens that the teachers have not received training in teaching Polish as a second language, nor have experience in working in a multicultural environment.21 During the Polish ombudsman monitoring held in 2011-2012, these classes were taught by teachers trained to learn Polish language as a second language only in four schools.[22 During the monitoring held by NGO in 2012-2013, in 64% of responding schools (65 schools) teachers were not qualified properly to teach Polish language as a second language (only in 14 schools participating in the research specially qualified teachers were conducting these classes).23

Experts also point out that there are no legal provisions concerning assessment and promotion to the higher class of the foreign children not knowing sufficiently Polish language. Those children are also obliged to write exams at the end of 6 grade and secondary school, even if they have joined school couple days before. Since the year 2015/2016 they can though use dictionaries and simplified forms during an exam.24

Moreover schools admitting foreign children often have to cope with a lack of sufficient financial means to organize proper education for this special group of pupils. Moreover, teachers working with foreign children are not receiving sufficient support, like courses and materials.25

The Minister of National Education said in September 2015, that Polish schools are prepared to teach asylum seeking and refugee children. This resulted in a protest of Polish Teachers Union and NGOs, who send a letter to the Polish Prime Minister, in which they disagreed with this statement and accused Polish authorities to fail to create the concept of the education of these children and cooperation with their parents. They stated that it is essential to prepare trainings for teachers from schools to which asylum seeking children will be attending and to design activities aimed at local communities in a place, where these schools will be situated.26

Asylum seekers benefit from education in public secondary schools under the same conditions as Polish citizens until the age of 18 or completion of secondary school.27 Currently all children in Poland (Polish and non-polish) have a problem with pre-school learning – there is not enough places for them in public kindergartens, so it is difficult to enrol a child there.28 As a result in most of the centres some form of kindergarten is organised, mostly supported by NGOs. This day care is provided mostly 5 times a week for 5 hours a day.29

If the child cannot enter the regular education system (e.g. because of illness) their special needs are addressed by the Office for Foreigners, e.g. by placing a child in special school, or by NGOs (there was a case when one NGO gave lessons for asylum seekers who were disabled in the centre).30

There is no access to vocational training for asylum seekers provided under the law. The Supreme Audit Office after the audit which took place in 10 reception centres in 2012-2014 criticized that there is no identification of the labour market’s needs provided and as a result there are no tailored workshops for asylum seekers.31

The only educational activities, that adults have access to, are courses of Polish language organised in the first half 2015 in all centres except the reception centre in Biała Podlaska, where asylum seekers mostly stay for a short amount of time. The course’s level is considered insufficient by some NGOs.32 From 2014 in all centres there are organised “Open days”, during which asylum seekers can present their culture and customs to polish society.33 There are some initiatives by NGOs, organising other courses in the centres, including vocational training. These courses are sometimes publicly funded to a certain extent.34 Problems with AMIF diminished the presence of NGOs in the centres in 2015. Most of the NGOs ceased their activities in the centres with the end of the projects financed from EU funds (from30 June 2015). In 2016 NGOs carried out projects in partnership with the Office for Foreigners which aimed at general integration, learning Polish, vocational activism, cultural activities, psychological and legal assistance.

  • 1. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich, (Polish Ombudsman), Realizacja prawa małoletnich cudzoziemców do edukacji. Raport RPO (PL) (Implementation of the right to education for foreign minors. Polish Ombudsman report), 2013, available at: http://bit.ly/1Hz4N4a, 22-23.
  • 2. Fundacja na rzecz Różnorodności Społecznej, K. Kubin, E. Pogorzała “Raport z badania systemu nauczania dzieci cudzoziemskich języka polskiego jako drugiego/obcego w szkołach w Polsce” (“The reporton the research onthe educationof foreign children of Polishlanguageas a second/foreign languagein schoolsin Poland”), May 2014, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/1lywuQW, 25.
  • 3. Letter from the Head of the Office for Foreigners from 27 August 2015 no BSZ-0811/1429/15/RW.
  • 4. Article 71(1)(1f) Law on protection.
  • 5. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 9, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 6. Article 94a(4) Law of 7 September 1991 on the education system, Journal of Laws 2004 no 256 position 2572, (Ustawa z dnia 7 września 1991 r. o systemie oświaty, Dz. U. 2004 nr 256 poz. 2572), available at:http://bit.ly/1NzbqBG.
  • 7. Article 94a(4a) and (4c) Law of 7 September 1991 on the education system.
  • 8. Fundacja na rzecz Różnorodności Społecznej, op. cit., 29, 78.
  • 9. Polish Ombudsman, op. cit., 32.
  • 10. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 9, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Fundacja na rzecz Różnorodności Społecznej, “Rekomendacje z badań Fundacji na rzecz Różnorodności Społecznej dotyczące sytuacji dzieci cudzoziemskich w szkołach w Polsce” (“Recommendations from the study of the Foundation for Social Diversityon the situationof foreign childrenin schoolsin Poland”), 2014, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/1MRrH45.
  • 13. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 9, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 14. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich (Polish Ombudsman), Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci (Refugees presence in small communities.Góra Kalwaria and Podkowa Leśna experience in refugees integration and education of their children), 2016, 30-31, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n.
  • 15. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich (Polish Ombudsman), Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci (Refugees presence in small communities.Góra Kalwaria and Podkowa Leśna experience in refugees integration and education of their children), 2016, 30-31, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n.
  • 16. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich (Polish Ombudsman), Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci (Refugees presence in small communities.Góra Kalwaria and Podkowa Leśna experience in refugees integration and education of their children), 2016, 30-31, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n.
  • 17. Rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej z dnia 9 września 2016 r. w sprawie kształcenia osób niebędących obywatelami polskimi oraz osób będących obywatelami polskimi, które pobierały naukę w szkołach funkcjonujących w systemach oświaty innych państw- Dz. U. 2016 poz. 1453 (Ordinance of the Ministry of National Education of 9 September 2016 on the education of the persons not having Polish citizenship and persons who have Polish citizenship and were educated abroad - Journal of Laws 2016 pos. 1453), available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lQvXu1.
  • 18. §17 of the above mentioned Regulation.
  • 19. W. Klaus, Prawo do edukacji cudzoziemców w Polsce (Foreigners’ right to education in Poland), Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej, 2011, available at: http://bit.ly/1GQW4ng, 8.
  • 20. Fundacja na rzecz Różnorodności Społecznej, K. Kubin, E. Pogorzała “Raport z badania systemu nauczania dzieci cudzoziemskich języka polskiego jako drugiego/obcego w szkołach w Polsce”, May 2014, 77.
  • 21. Ibid. See also A. Kosowicz, Access to Quality Education by Asylum-Seeking and Refugee Children. Poland Country Report, Situational Analysis, Polskie Forum Migracyjne, 2007, available at: http://bit.ly/1FUXw7j, 3.
  • 22. Polish Ombudsman, op. cit., 32.
  • 23. Fundacja na rzecz Różnorodności Społecznej, op. cit., 32.
  • 24. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich (Polish Ombudsman), Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci (Refugees presence in small communities.Góra Kalwaria and Podkowa Leśna experience in refugees integration and education of their children), 2016, 30-31, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n.
  • 25. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich (Polish Ombudsman), Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci (Refugees presence in small communities.Góra Kalwaria and Podkowa Leśna experience in refugees integration and education of their children), 2016, 23-24, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n.
  • 26. Polish Teachers Union (Związek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego), Polish Humanitarian Action (Polska Akcja Humanitarna) and Foundation for Social Diversity (Fundacja na rzecz Różnorodności Społecznej), Letter to Prime Minister from 21 September 2015, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/1S8Bx59.
  • 27. Article 94a(1a) Law of 7 September 1991 on the education system.
  • 28. Information obtained from the Department for Social Assistance, Office for Foreigners, 25 March 2014.
  • 29. The Office for Foreigners’ letter to HFHR from 1 February 2017 no BSZ.WAiSM.0361.7.2017/TB.
  • 30. Information obtained from the Department for Social Assistance, Office for Foreigners, 25 March 2014.
  • 31. Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (Supreme Audit Office), Pomoc społeczna dla uchodźców. Informacja o wynikach kontroli (Social assistance for refugees. Information about results of the control), November 2015, 5, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/2lP90Z4.
  • 32. M. Abdoulvakchabova, op. cit., 45. Office for Foreigners claims that asylum seekers are generally not interested in Polish language lessons. Those asylum seekers who participate in classes are assessing them positively (based on Department for Social Assistance in Office for Foreigners’ own research), available at: http://bit.ly/1RTIHbU.
  • 33. Letter from the Head of the Office for Foreigners from 27 August 2015 no BSZ-0811/1429/15/RW.
  • 34. Information obtained in the Department for Social Assistance, Office for Foreigners, 7 February 2013, also EMN, op. cit., 40.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti