Access to education

Poland

Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Independent

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. Asylum seekers benefit from education in public schools under the same conditions as Polish citizens until the age of 18 or the completion of higher school.[1] In September 2019, approximately 850 asylum-seeking children attended around 110 public schools in Poland. Most of them (approx. 490) stayed in the reception centres, predominantly in Łuków, Czarny Bór and Linin.[2]

In 2018, the Ministry of Interior and Administration proposed the amendment to Polish law enabling teaching asylum-seeking children in the reception centres instead of public schools. The proposal was grossly criticized as inter alia violating children’s rights and leading to discrimination and separation from Polish society.[3] The Ministry explained that the aim of the proposal is not to change the current model of teaching applied to those children, but to provide the possibility to react in case of a massive influx of foreigners.[4] However, due to widespread criticism, the Ministry withdrew from this idea.[5]

There are different obstacles to accessing education in practice. The biggest problem is a language and cultural barrier. Children do not know Polish but they are obliged to participate in classes in Polish (see next section on the Preparatory classes). However, in all centres courses of Polish language for children are organised.[6] In 2017 the Office for Foreigners together with Linguae Mundi Foundation created a comprehensive programme and materials for teaching Polish language in the centres.[7] Since recently, the compensatory classes are also being organized in the centres.[8] The Office for Foreigners emphasizes that teachers working in the centres are in contact with the schools in order to gather the information on the real needs and problems of theirs pupils, to adapt the lessons accordingly.[9] Moreover, material reception conditions for asylum seekers include basic supplies necessary for learning Polish.[10] Furthermore, asylum-seeking children should receive the allowance ‘Good start’ (300 PLN) that according to the law should be granted once a year for every child that begins a school year in Poland. However, the SIP informs that asylum seekers have problems with receiving this support.[11] The refusals result from the internal incompatibility of the law in this regard.

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.[12] Those classes are organized as long as it is needed. Children can also participate in additional lessons on other subjects if their education level is different from this of the class (compensatory classes). This form of assistance can be granted for a maximum of twelve months.[13] Compensatory 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). In some schools they are not organised at all.[14] The limitation of compensatory and additional Polish language lessons to five hours per week is criticised as insufficient.[15] NGOs find fault with the automatic limitation of the duration of provision of additional assistance to twelve months, as it should be adjusted individually.[16]

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.[17] This help is limited to a maximum of twelve months, which is considered not enough.[18] Moreover, the remuneration of such assistants is too low[19]. In some schools NGOs provide support as teacher’s assistant in the framework of their projects.[20] Such support is dependent on the NGOs’ funding, however. In the end of 2018 the media has reported that in some schools there was only one assistant for as much as 70 foreign children.[21]

Experts also point out that there are no legal provisions concerning assessment and promotion to higher classes of foreign children who do not know the Polish language sufficiently. Those children are also obliged to write exams at the end of the school, even if they have joined school a couple of days before. Nevertheless, they can use dictionaries and simplified forms during an exam.[22]

Moreover, schools admitting foreign children often have to cope with a lack of sufficient financial means to organise proper education for this special group of pupils. Moreover, teachers working with foreign children are not receiving sufficient support, like courses and materials.[23] However, it should be pointed out that in the Warsaw teachers’ training institution (Warszawskie Centrum Innowacji Edukacyjno-Społecznych i Szkoleń) the unit for education of foreign children was established and a specialized assistant was hired. The institution conducts also on a regular basis trainings for teachers working with foreign children. There are also some training initiatives of the Ministry of Education.[24]

It happens that a school refuses to admit a foreigner because it is unable to cope with the challenge.[25] Parents have a right to appeal such refusal.[26] When the refusal is justified by the organizational reasons, by law authorities are obliged to provide a place in a different school.[27]

If a child cannot enter the regular education system e.g. due to illness, their special needs are supposed to be addressed in special school. At the end of 2019, at least 8 asylum-seeking children were attending a special school.[28]

NGOs inform that the asylum seekers most often complain about the hate speech that their children encounter in the school, both from their peers and the stuff.

To sum up, the current education system is not taking into account the special needs of foreign children.[29] As a result, adaptation of the education programme to the needs and abilities of the individual child is dependent on the goodwill and capacity of teachers and directors. Moreover, as a factor impeding effective teaching, schools also report the problem of the big fluctuation of the foreign children as a result of families’ migration to Western Europe.[30] As a consequence, asylum-seeking and refugee children are disappearing from Polish education system.[31] Another problem is that too many foreign children are admitted to the same class, which impedes education of both Polish and foreign children.[32]  

 

Preparatory classes

 

Since 2016, schools have a possibility to organise preparatory classes for foreign children who do not have sufficient knowledge of the Polish language. A foreign minor can join preparatory classes anytime during the school year. After the end of the school year, his participation in those classes can be prolonged, when needed, for maximum one more year. The preparatory classes last for 20-26 hours a week. If a school decides to organise such classes, foreign children are not obliged to participate in regular classes. Learning Polish as a foreign language is limited only to 3 hours per week,[33] which raise serious doubts concerning the effectiveness of such solution.[34]

Preparatory classes have been met with mixed reactions. In the opinion of the Ministry of Education, the implemented solution enables individual treatment of foreign children and adaptation of the methods and forms of education to their needs. According to the critics of this solution, children are placed exclusively in foreign classes, thus impeding their integration into Polish society and fuelling separation.[35] Furthermore, the preparatory classes were not designed as ‘welcome classes’ which have their own program, separate from the regular classes and adapted to foreign minors’ needs.[36] Teachers are obliged to implement the same curriculum in the preparatory classes as in the regular ones, the only difference is that all children in a class are foreign and a teacher can adapt his method of teaching to their special needs.[37] Meanwhile, the program of such classes should concentrate on learning Polish.[38]  Moreover, one preparatory class can be organised for children of different ages (e.g. children qualifying to classes I to III of primary school can be gathered in one preparatory class), which means that a teacher may be obliged to implement the curriculum even for three classes at once.[39] Furthermore, experts point out that there is no system which would prepare teachers to work in preparatory classes with foreigners.[40

According to data from the Office for Foreigners, in 2017/2018, the preparatory classes for foreign children were organized in schools in Grupa, Michał, Grotniki and Łuków and in 2018/2019 in a school in Warsaw.[41] According to the Ministry of Education, in the school year 2018/2019 approximately 300 foreign minors (number of asylum-seeking minors is not available) were participating in the preparatory classes.[42] The preparatory classes seem to become increasingly popular. For instance, in the school year 2019/2020 in Wrocław, 7 preparatory classes were set up.[43]

 

Kindergarten

 

In all of the reception centres, some form of kindergarten is organised, which are sometimes supported by NGOs.[44] This day care is provided minimum 5 times a week for 5 hours a day.[45] However, in one centre (Czerwony Bór) in 2019 there was no day care for couple of months due to the difficulties with finding a kindergarten teacher.[46]

Moreover, in 2018 and 2019, the additional play and educational classes for children were organised in the centres on Saturdays.[47]

In 2019, the Office for Foreigners informed that the works in the centre in Biała Podlaska were finalised. They were conducted in order to create a new room for kindergarten.[48]

 

Educational activities for adults

 

There is no access to vocational training for asylum seekers provided under the law.

The only educational activities that adults have constant access to are courses of Polish language organised in all centres.[49] The course’s level is considered insufficient by some NGOs. Foreigners evaluate those classes in general positively.[50] However, only a limited number of asylum seekers decides to participate in those classes (e.g. 45% in the research conducted in 2016, up to 17% according to the Supreme Audit Office).[51] The research showed that the low participation rate results, among others, from the fact that asylum seekers are not willing to stay in Poland or are aware that the chances for obtaining international protection in Poland are low so they have no motivation to learn the language. The time of language classes is also not adapted to the needs of working asylum seekers.[52]

In 2017 the Office for Foreigners together with Linguae Mundi Foundation created a comprehensive programme and materials for teaching Polish language in the centres.[53] According to the governmental data, the programme takes into account specific needs of asylum seekers and its aim is to enable the communication in everyday situations. Asylum seekers are provided with books and notebooks needed to learn Polish. They can receive a certificate confirming the attendance in the course and material prizes for good results[54].

There are some initiatives by NGOs, organising other courses in the centres, including vocational training, but these have been impacted by the lack of funding. In 2017 research was conducted on the impact of the suspension of AMIF in Poland on Polish NGOs and foreigners. The research showed that 9 out of 13 NGOs had to limit their legal and integration assistance for foreigners and 7 NGOs had to decrease the amount of trainings for foreigners, including Polish language lessons and vocational training.[55] NGOs continued to face the same impediments in 2019. In fact, compared to 2018, the NGOs’ presence in the centres seems to be considerably diminished. Moreover, most of their activities began only in September 2019.

In 2019 NGOs carried out some projects in the centres which aimed at general integration, learning Polish, vocational training, cultural activities, psychological and legal assistance.[56] Adults could consult a cultural mentor (in 3 centres), take part in the events engaging the local community (2 centres), handicraft workshops (one centre), integration meetings, touristic trips as well as go to cinema (one centre). In two centres some other activities for adults (unspecified in the information from the Office for Foreigners) were provided.[57] On the other hand, in the centre in Linin there were no integration, vocational nor cultural activities provided by the NGOs (there was only legal and psychological assistance provided there). In some other centres the NGOs mostly organised activities for children.  

 


[1] Article165 (1) and (2) of Law of 14 December 2016 on education.

[2]  Office for Foreigners, ‘Nowy rok szkolny dla dzieci w procedurze uchodźczej’, 3 September 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2SvIcy5.

[3] See i.a. SIP, Letter to Ministry of Interior and Administration, 5 March 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2U0qZw6; Dziennik.pl, ‘Getta edukacyjne dla uchodźców, dzieci nie będą się uczyć z polskimi rówieśnikami. "Już na starcie ich wykluczamy"’, 26 February 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2SMmPeI.

[4] Ministry of Interior and Administration, Letter to Commissioner for the Rights of the Child, 3 April 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2IsRfxV.

[5]  DGP, ‘MSWiA: Nie będzie gett edukacyjnych’, 4 April 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2SOFlDp.

[6] Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), https://bit.ly/3bstdgP, 5: ‘Classes for children consist in help with homework and compensatory classes (5 groups in each centre, classes 5 times a week, 1 hour a day each). Children beginning compulsory education in Poland can participate in a course addressed to them (classes 5 times a week, 3 lessons a day)’. Information confirmed by the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020.

[7] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 1 February 2018.

[8]  Office for Foreigners, ‘Wsparcie dla cudzoziemców w procedurze uchodźczej’, 13 November 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/38ecI61.

[9] Office for Foreigners, ‘Nowy rok szkolny dla dzieci w procedurze uchodźczej’, 3 September 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2SbaCOR.

[10]  Article 71(1)(1f) Law on Protection. See also Office for Foreigners, ‘Wsparcie dla cudzoziemców w procedurze uchodźczej’, 13 November 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31Dre54.

[11] M. Sadowska, ”Świadczenia ‘Dobry start”> in Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej (SIP), SIP w działaniu. Prawa cudzoziemców w Polsce w 2018 r. (2019), available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/37h1zjI, 52.

[12]  Article 165 (7) of Law of 14 December 2016 on education.

[13] Article 165 (10) of Law of 14 December 2016 on education.

[14]  Commissioner for Human Rights, Realizacja prawa małoletnich cudzoziemców do edukacji. Raport RPO, 2013, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/1Hz4N4a, 32. 

[15] K. Wójcik, ‘Więcej cudzoziemców w szkołach’, 11 September 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31MrM8H.l

[16] W. Klaus, Prawo do edukacji cudzoziemców w Polsce, Stowarzyszenie Interwencji Prawnej, 2011, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2T2hvDA, 8.

[17] Article165 (8) of the Law of 14 December 2016 on education.

[18]  K. Sołtan-Kościelecka, ‘Klasy powitalne. Realna szansa na poprawę warunków kształcenia cudzoziemców czy pozorne rozwiązanie?’, Biuletyn Migracyjny no. 57, June 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2EkcIF8.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Commissioner for Human Rights, Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci, 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n, 30-31.

[21] M. Sewastanowicz, ‘Kuratorium sprawdzi, czy dzieci uchodźców mają dostęp do edukacji’, 5 December 2018, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2SeH5Eb.

[22] Commissioner for Human Rights, Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci, 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n, 30-31.

[23]  Commissioner for Human Rights, Obecność uchodźców w małych gminach. Doświadczenia Góry Kalwarii i Podkowy Leśnej w integracji uchodźców i edukacji ich dzieci, 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2lKSM6n, 23-24; Iglicka, Krystyna, ‘Chechen’s Lesson. Challenges of Integrating Refugee Children in a Transit Country: A Polish Case Study’, Central and Eastern European Migration Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2GPiKiV, 132.

[24] Ministry of Education, ‘Nauka dzieci przybywających z zagranicy w polskim systemie edukacji’, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31KtY0C.

[25] Iglicka, Krystyna, ‘Chechen’s Lesson. Challenges of Integrating Refugee Children in a Transit Country: A Polish Case Study’, Central and Eastern European Migration Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2GPiKiV, 132-133. Schools are entitled to refuse admission on a basis of Article 166 of the Law of 14 December 2016 on education, when due to the demographic reasons such admission would require changes in the organisation of a school. See also Paras 13-15 Ordinance of the Ministry of National Education of 23 August 2017 on education of persons without Polish citizenship and Polish citizens who learned in schools in other countries (w sprawie kształcenia osób niebędących obywatelami polskimi oraz osób będących obywatelami polskimi, które pobierały naukę w szkołach funkcjonujących w systemach oświaty innych państw).

[26] Paras 13-15 Ordinance of the Ministry of National Education of 23 August 2017 on education of persons without Polish citizenship and Polish citizens who learned in schools in other countries (w sprawie kształcenia osób niebędących obywatelami polskimi oraz osób będących obywatelami polskimi, które pobierały naukę w szkołach funkcjonujących w systemach oświaty innych państw).

[27] Article 166(1)-(2) Law of 14 December 2016 on education.

[28] Information from the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020.

[29] See e.g. Iglicka, Krystyna, ‘Chechen’s Lesson. Challenges of Integrating Refugee Children in a Transit Country: A Polish Case Study’, Central and Eastern European Migration Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2GPiKiV, 132.

[30]  Institute of Public Affairs, Analiza przygotowania lokalnych instytucji do przyjęcia uchodźców z programu relokacji i przesiedleń. Raport końcowy z badań fokusowych, 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2GBfKr4, 57-62.

[31] Iglicka, Krystyna, ‘Chechen’s Lesson. Challenges of Integrating Refugee Children in a Transit Country: A Polish Case Study’, Central and Eastern European Migration Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2GPiKiV, 123, 130.

[32] Institute of Public Affairs, Analiza przygotowania lokalnych instytucji do przyjęcia uchodźców z programu relokacji i przesiedleń. Raport końcowy z badań fokusowych, 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2GBfKr4, 57-62.

[33] Para 16(9) Ordinance of the Ministry of National Education of 23 August 2017 on education of persons without Polish citizenship and Polish citizens who learned in schools in other countries (w sprawie kształcenia osób niebędących obywatelami polskimi oraz osób będących obywatelami polskimi, które pobierały naukę w szkołach funkcjonujących w systemach oświaty innych państw).

[34] K. Sołtan-Kościelecka, ‘Klasy powitalne. Realna szansa na poprawę warunków kształcenia cudzoziemców czy pozorne rozwiązanie?’, Biuletyn Migracyjny no. 57, June 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2EkcIF8

[35]  Commissioner for Human Rights, Posiedzenie Komisji Ekspertów ds. Migrantów, 12 December 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2odhX16.

[36]K. Sołtan-Kościelecka, ‘Klasy powitalne. Realna szansa na poprawę warunków kształcenia cudzoziemców czy pozorne rozwiązanie?’, Biuletyn Migracyjny no. 57, June 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2EkcIF8.

[37] Para 16(3) Ordinance of the Ministry of National Education of 23 August 2017 on education of persons without Polish citizenship and Polish citizens who learned in schools in other countries (w sprawie kształcenia osób niebędących obywatelami polskimi oraz osób będących obywatelami polskimi, które pobierały naukę w szkołach funkcjonujących w systemach oświaty innych państw). See also K. Wójcik, ‘Więcej cudzoziemców w szkołach’, 11 September 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2vgizth.

[38] M. Koss-Goryszewska, ‘Edukacja’ in A. Górska, M. Koss-Goryszewska, J. Kucharczyk (eds), W stronę krajowego machanizmu ewaluacji integracji: Diagnoza sytuacji beneficjentów ochrony międzynarodowej w Polsce (Instutut Spraw Publicznych 2019), 50-51.

[39] Commissioner for Human Rights, Posiedzenie Komisji Ekspertów ds. Migrantów, 12 December 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2odhX16.

[40] M. Koss-Goryszewska. ‘Edukacja’ in A. Górska, M. Koss-Goryszewska, J. Kucharczyk (eds), W stronę krajowego machanizmu ewaluacji integracji: Diagnoza sytuacji beneficjentów ochrony międzynarodowej w Polsce (Instutut Spraw Publicznych 2019), 51.

[41] This is not the exhaustive list, but it shows the scope of the application of this new solution in the context of asylum-seeking children, especially those staying in the centres. Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 15 January 2019.

[42] Ministry of Education, ‘Nauka dzieci przybywających z zagranicy w polskim systemie edukacji’, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2vZF5Xr.

[43] Wrocław.pl, ‘Klasy przygotowawcze dla dzieci obcojęzycznych. Gdzie są i jak się zapisać’, 22 July 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/38gsI7A.

[44] In 2019, Dialog Foundation organized a day care in the centres in Białystok and Czerwony Bór (information from the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020).

[45]  Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020. See also: Office for Foreigners, ‘Opieka przedszkolna w ośrodkach dla cudzoziemców’, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2Nfwx3q.

[46] Information from the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020.

[47] Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/38qtDlW, 5. See also: Office for Foreigners, ‘Opieka przedszkolna w ośrodkach dla cudzoziemców’, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2Nfwx3q; Office for Foreigners, ‘Wsparcie dla cudzoziemców w procedurze uchodźczej’, 13 November 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/3bvyQez.

[48] Office for Foreigners, ‘Punkt przedszkolny w ośrodku w Białej Podlaskiej’, 5 February 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2HaTSkt.

[49] In all centres such courses were provided in 2019 (information from the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020).

[50] R. Baczyński-Sielaczek, Język polski w ośrodkach. Wyniki badania ewaluacyjnego, Instytut Spraw Pubicznych 2016, 19-22.

[51]Ibid., 18, 28.

[52] Ibid, 34.

[53]  Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 1 February 2018.

[54] Ministerstwo Pracy, Rodziny i Polityki Społecznej, Informacja o sytuacji osób starszych w Polsce za 2018 r. (2019), 146. See also Office for Foreigners, Guidebook Department of Social Assistance (2019), available at: https://bit.ly/2HmFvdb.

[55]  W. Klaus, E. Ostaszewska-Żuk and M. Szczepanik, Fundusze Europejskie i ich rola we wspieraniu integracji cudzoziemców w Polsce, September 2017, 9. See also ECRE/UNHCR, ‘Follow the money II. Assessing the use of EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) funding at the national level 2014-2018’, January 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2OI01J2, 43. To learn more about the governmental policy in regard to AMIF and the impact on NGOs, see Pachocka, M. and Sobczak-Szelc K., ‘Refugee Protection Poland – Country Report’, Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond Project (Horizon2020), January 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2U1A9uL, 35-38.

[56] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020.

[57]  Information from the Office for Foreigners, 22 January 2020.

 

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation