Access to education

Poland

Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 26/05/22

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 2021, 1,160 asylum-seeking children attended 304 public schools in Poland. 353 of them lived in the reception centres.[2]

There are various obstacles to accessing education in practice[3]. The biggest problem is a language and cultural barrier. However, asylum-seeking children are supported by:

  • Polish language courses that are organised in all reception centres – 410 children benefited from this assistance in 2021. However, courses have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic COVID-19.[4]
  • additional free Polish language classes, that should be organised by the authority managing the school that asylum seekers are attending.[5] Those classes are organised as long as it is needed, not less than 2 hours a week but max. five hours per week for one child.
  • basic supplies necessary for learning Polish.[6]

Asylum-seeking children can also participate in compensatory classes:

  • in reception centres – 84 children benefited from this support in 2021. However, classes have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic COVID-19.[7]
  • in schools – assistance granted for a maximum of twelve months, max. five hours per week for one child.[8]

Overall, Polish language and compensatory classes in schools are considered insufficient. They are either not organized at all or organised for an insufficient amount of time (both the limitation to 12 months and to 5 hours a week are being criticised). Moreover, they are not adapted to individual needs of foreign pupils.[9]

Children have also a right to assistance of a person who knows the language of their country of origin, who can be employed as a teacher’s assistant by the director of the school.[10] This help is limited to a maximum of twelve months, which is considered not enough.[11] There is no uniform system of providing this assistance: in some schools the assistant accompanies foreign pupils at all times, while in others he or she is only available by phone or with regard to particular issues.[12] The profession is not standardized, the assistant’s status and duties are unclear and it is vague what qualifications should be expected from the assistants.[13] Moreover, the remuneration of such assistants is too low.[14] Despite that, finding financing in order to employ the assistant is difficult for some schools.[15] Thus, some NGOs cover the assistant’s renumeration in the framework of their projects. Such support is dependent on the NGOs’ funding, however. Overall, teacher’s assistants hired in schools are insufficient in numbers (it is estimated that it is 60-70 persons in the whole country for all foreign children, not only asylum-seeking ones).[16] Moreover, during the pandemic COVID-19, some assistants were laid off as schools considered their job not needed in the online-schools reality. Those who continued working had to limit their assistance to activities online.[17]

Furthermore, asylum-seeking children should receive the allowance ‘Good start’ (300 PLN or around 64 Euros) that according to the law should be granted once a year for every child that begins a school year in Poland. However, SIP informs that asylum seekers have problems with receiving this support.[18] In 2020, the Supreme Administrative Court confirmed that asylum-seeking children should have access to the ‘Good start’ allowance. However, in each single case the court proceedings must be initiated for an asylum-seeking child to have a chance to receive such allowance.[19] In 2021, SIP informed that the access to the ‘Good start’ allowance is still very difficult for asylum seekers.[20]

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.[21] However, some training initiatives are taken up by local and governmental authorities.[22]

Some schools manage to meet those challenges and offer education adapted to foreign pupils’ needs. For years, the primary school in Bezwola (near the reception centre) was praised as exemplary in teaching asylum seekers. However, in 2021, despite the protests[23], the school was closed. The closure was justified by the growing costs of running the school that accommodated only a small number of pupils (at the beginning of 2021: 22 foreigners and 19 Polish nationals). Subsequently, asylum-seeking minors from Bezwola were enrolled to another school.

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 2021, 7 asylum-seeking children were attending a special school.[24]

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. The Supreme Audit Office informed in 2020 that 23% parents that they interviewed declared that their children have met with intolerance in school once or twice a year, according to 4% of respondents it was occurring often.[25]

The Supreme Audit Office published in 2020 a report on education of all foreign children staying in Poland (and Polish children who returned to Poland after living abroad). The report confirmed that the Ministry of Education did not have any interest in this topic for many years, despite the significant increase in the number of foreign pupils in Polish schools. No monitoring was conducted of the situation of foreigners in schools. Despite having public funds for a training for teachers who work with foreign pupils, they were not spent. The Supreme Audit Office monitored also 24 schools that foreigners attended in years 2017-2020. It found many violations of Polish law and concluded that the schools’ responses to foreigners’ needs and problems were insufficient. In 23 schools, additional Polish language lessons were conducted; in 13 schools, compensatory classes were also organised. However, the specific needs of foreign pupils were not recognised before commencing Polish language and compensatory classes. Polish language classes were organised only for one hour a week and too many pupils attended one class. In 21 schools no adjustment was made in the curriculum to respond to the foreign pupils’ needs. No integration activities or only incidental ones were organised. Moreover, teachers’ training on working with foreign pupils was not sufficiently (or at all) supported by the schools’ directors.[26]

To sum up, the current education system is not taking into account the special needs of foreign children. 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. As a consequence, asylum-seeking and refugee children are disappearing from Polish education system.[27]

The COVID-19 pandemic further hampered the access to education.[28] Schools were closed for some time and children had to learn online. Not all asylum-seeking children had laptops or computers they could use; thus, they could not attend school for some time. Moreover, they often could not be assisted by their parents who lacked essential digital and linguistic competences.[29] Foreign pupils often did not have proper conditions at home to participate in online school (e.g. they shared a room with siblings/parents who learned/worked at the same time). Teacher’s assistants who support foreign pupils had to limit their assistance to activities online for some time.[30] According to the Office for Foreigners, staff in the reception centres assisted asylum-seeking children and their parents with adjusting to this new situation and motivated them to participate in the school online. In all centres access to Wi-Fi was ensured. Some laptops and mobile equipment were also gathered by the Office for Foreigners, UNHCR, NGOs, schools, private persons and the contractors who manage two reception centres. In 2021, additionally, 40 computers were bought by the Office for Foreigners, inter alia in order to support online education of asylum-seeking children.[31] Moreover, NGOs stepped in to provide asylum-seeking children with online Polish language classes and to organize support in online compulsory education.[32]

In 2021, information materials on educational system in Poland were published in ten languages by the Office for Foreigners.[33] Moreover, parents can now contact the Office for Foreigners with their questions concerning school system by e-mail on an address especially created for that purpose.[34]

 

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. Learning Polish as a foreign language can be limited only to 3 hours per week,[35] which raise serious doubts concerning the effectiveness of such solution.[36] If a school decides to organise such classes, foreign children are not obliged to participate in regular classes.

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 fueling separation.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39] Meanwhile, the program of such classes should concentrate on learning Polish.[40] 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.[41] Furthermore, experts point out that there is no system which would prepare teachers to work in preparatory classes with foreigners.[42]

In the 2020 report of the Supreme Audit Office, it was established that in 5 schools (out of 24 schools controlled) in total 14 preparatory classes were organised in years 2017-2020. In 4 schools, violations of Polish law were found in this regard, i.e. there were too many pupils per class and the curriculum was not adjusted to foreigners’ needs and possibilities.[43]

According to the Ministry of Education, in the school year 2018/2019 approximately 300 foreign minors (number of asylum-seeking pupils is not available) were participating in the preparatory classes.[44] In 2020, 61 preparatory classes were organized accommodating 658 foreign pupils.[45] Data for 2021 are not available.

 

Kindergarten

In all of the reception centres, some form of kindergarten is organised, which is sometimes supported by NGOs.[46] This day care is provided minimum 5 times a week for 5 hours a day. In 2021, as in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kindergartens were being temporarily closed. [47]

 

Educational activities for adults

There is no access to vocational training for asylum seekers provided under the law. It is considered ‘one of the biggest shortcomings of the reception system in the area of education’.[48]

The only educational activities that adults have constant access to are courses of Polish language organised in all centres. They are open both for asylum seekers living in the centre and outside. Additionally, since August 2020, Polish language classes for adults are organized in Warsaw for those asylum seekers who receive financial allowance and do not live in a reception centre. In 2021, there was also a possibility to learn Polish online. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Polish language lessons both in and outside reception centres were temporarily suspended in 2020 and 2021.[49]

The Polish language course’s level is considered insufficient by some NGOs. Foreigners evaluate those classes in general positively.[50]

The Office for Foreigners indicated that asylum seekers participate in Polish language lessons actively. In total, 336 adults attended such course in 2020 and 388 in 2021.[51] However, these numbers seem meager when the overall number of asylum seekers is taken into account. The earlier 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 small 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] Another research showed that asylum seekers were unwilling to attend classes also due to traumatic experiences from the country of origin or the lack of the childcare.[53]

Usually, other courses in the centres, including vocational training and integration activities, are organized by NGOs, but in 2020 and 2021 these initiatives have been impacted by the pandemic. Since March 2020, access to the centres of any person whose presence there was not indispensable was excluded. Any assistance was granted only online or by phone. In June-September 2020, NGOs could again access the reception centres, but limitations were reintroduced in November 2020 and continued until the second half of 2021.

 

 

 

[1] Article 165 (1) and (2) of Law of 14 December 2016 on education.

[2] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2022.

[3] Some problems with late enrollment to schools were reported, see M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, K. Sobczak-Szelc, J. Szałańska, ‘Reception Policies, Practices and Responses: Poland Country Report’, 2020, RESPOND Working Papers 2020/45, available at: http://bit.ly/3jLCvsV, 73-74.

[4] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2022.

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

[6] Article 71(1)(1f) Law on Protection.

[7] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2022.

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

[9] J. Kościółek, ‘Children with Migration Backgrounds in Polish Schools – Problems and Challenges’, Annales Series Historia et Sociologia 30, 2020, 4, available at: https://bit.ly/3vBdl8j, 607. Cf. K. Sobczak-Szelc, M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, J. Szałańska, ‘Integration Policies, Practices and Responses. Poland – Country Report’, Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond Project (#770564, Horizon2020), available at: http://bit.ly/3pjlXtq, 79.

[10] Article 165 (8) of the Law of 14 December 2016 on education.

[11] 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.

[12] K. Kamler, J. Orlikowska, J. Schmidt and J. Szymańska, ‘Młodzi migranci w pandemii COVID-19. Raport z badań jakościowych sytuacji uczniów cudzoziemskich w warszawskich szkołach’, 2021, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3HIZLC8, 13.

[13] J. Kościółek, ‘Children with Migration Backgrounds in Polish Schools – Problems and Challenges’, Annales Series Historia et Sociologia 30, 2020, 4, available at: https://bit.ly/3vBdl8j, 607-608.

[14] 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.

[15] K. Sobczak-Szelc, M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, J. Szałańska, ‘Integration Policies, Practices and Responses. Poland – Country Report’, Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond Project (#770564, Horizon2020), available at: http://bit.ly/3pjlXtq, 70; K. Potoniec, ‘Comparative analysis of instruments supporting the integration of pupils under international protection in the educational systems of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary’, December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3sHaxVq, 15.

[16] K. Potoniec, ‘Comparative analysis of instruments supporting the integration of pupils under international protection in the educational systems of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary’, December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3sHaxVq, 12, 15.

[17] K. Kamler, J. Orlikowska, J. Schmidt and J. Szymańska, ‘Młodzi migranci w pandemii COVID-19. Raport z badań jakościowych sytuacji uczniów cudzoziemskich w warszawskich szkołach’, 2021, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3HIZLC8, 13.

[18] M. Sadowska, ‘Świadczenia ‘Dobry start’ in SIP, Prawa cudzoziemców w Polsce w 2019 roku. Raport, 2020, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/3jT7weM, 68.

[19] SIP, ‘Wyrok NSA: świadczenie Dobry Start („300+”) przysługuje osobom ubiegającym się o ochronę międzynarodową’, 11 sierpnia 2020, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/37bWxb8.

[20] M. Sadowska, ‘Świadczenie dobry start 300+’ in SIP, Prawa cudzoziemców w Polsce w 2020 roku. Raport, 2021, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3sGmlXS, 78-80.

[21] See inter alia Ministry of Interior and Administration, Polityka migracyjna Polski – diagnoza stanu wyjsciowego, available in Polish at: http://bit.ly/377T5Ov, 40.

[22] Ministry of Education, ‘Nauka dzieci przybywających z zagranicy w polskim systemie edukacji’, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/31KtY0C; information confirmed by the Ministry of Education and Science, 26 January 2022. See also K. Potoniec, ‘Comparative analysis of instruments supporting the integration of pupils under international protection in the educational systems of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary’, December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3sHaxVq, 13.

[23] Petition to save the school in Bezwola is available in Polish: https://bit.ly/3txw6XA.

[24] Information from the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2022.

[25] Supreme Audit Office, ‘Kształcenie dzieci rodziców powracających do kraju i dzieci cudzoziemców’, September 2020, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/3piaNVR. See also J. Kościółek, ‘Children with Migration Backgrounds in Polish Schools – Problems and Challenges’, Annales Series Historia et Sociologia 30, 2020, 4, available at: https://bit.ly/3vBdl8j, 604.

[26] Supreme Audit Office, ‘Kształcenie dzieci rodziców powracających do kraju i dzieci cudzoziemców’, September 2020, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/3piaNVR.

[27] 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; 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.

[28] J. Kościółek, ‘Children with Migration Backgrounds in Polish Schools – Problems and Challenges’, Annales Series Historia et Sociologia 30, 2020, 4, available at: https://bit.ly/3vBdl8j, 603.

[29] Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Sytuacja migrantów i migrantek w czasie pandemii. Stanowisko RPO i Komisji Ekspertów ds. Migrantów’, 13 May 2020, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2ZeqWkQ; Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Koronawirus. RPO pyta MEN o ocenę zdalnej edukacji’, 24 April 2020, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/3qkmQ6m; Polskie Forum Migracyjne, ‘Komentarz PFM do spec-ustawy – sytuacja cudzoziemców’, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/3qjlby5; K. Kamler, J. Orlikowska, J. Schmidt and J. Szymańska, ‘Młodzi migranci w pandemii COVID-19. Raport z badań jakościowych sytuacji uczniów cudzoziemskich w warszawskich szkołach’, 2021, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3HIZLC8, 17, 31-33.

[30] K. Kamler, J. Orlikowska, J. Schmidt and J. Szymańska, ‘Młodzi migranci w pandemii COVID-19. Raport z badań jakościowych sytuacji uczniów cudzoziemskich w warszawskich szkołach’, 2021, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3HIZLC8, 13, 16-17, 35-37; J. Kościółek, ‘Children with Migration Backgrounds  in Polish Schools – Problems and Challenges’, Annales Series Historia et Sociologia 30, 2020, 4, available at: https://bit.ly/3vBdl8j, 603.

[31] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021 and 4 March 2021 as well as 26 January 2022.

[32] Fundacja Ocalenie, ‘Działania dla dzieci: podsumowanie roku szkolnego 2019/20’, 2 July 2020, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/37bwIIa.

[33] Office for Foreigners, ‘Informacja o edukacji dzieci cudzoziemskich’, available at: https://bit.ly/3IIKFxT.

[34] Office for Foreigners, ‘Edukacja dzieci w procedurze uchodźczej – kontakt mailowy’, 2021, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3hF0J86.

[35] 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).

[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] Commissioner for Human Rights, Posiedzenie Komisji Ekspertów ds. Migrantów, 12 December 2016, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2odhX16. See also K. Kamler, J. Orlikowska, J. Schmidt and J. Szymańska, ‘Młodzi migranci w pandemii COVID-19. Raport z badań jakościowych sytuacji uczniów cudzoziemskich w warszawskich szkołach’, 2021, available in Polish at: https://bit.ly/3HIZLC8, 25-27.

[38] 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.

[39] 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.

[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, 50-51.

[41] J. Kościółek, ‘Children with Migration Backgrounds in Polish Schools – Problems and Challenges’, Annales Series Historia et Sociologia 30, 2020, 4, available at: https://bit.ly/3vBdl8j, 607.

[42] 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.

[43] Supreme Audit Office, ‘Kształcenie dzieci rodziców powracających do kraju i dzieci cudzoziemców’, September 2020, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/3piaNVR, 47-48.

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

[45] K. Potoniec, ‘Comparative analysis of instruments supporting the integration of pupils under international protection in the educational systems of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary’, December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3sHaxVq, 13.

[46] In 2020 and 2021, Dialog Foundation organized a day care in the centre in Czerwony Bór (information from the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021 and 26 January 2022).

[47] Information provided by the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021 and 26 January 2022.

[48] M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, K. Sobczak-Szelc, J. Szałańska, ‘Reception Policies, Practices and Responses: Poland Country Report’, 2020, RESPOND Working Papers 2020/45, available at: http://bit.ly/3jLCvsV, 82.

[49] Information from the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021 and 26 January 2022.

[50] R. Baczyński-Sielaczek, Język polski w ośrodkach. Wyniki badania ewaluacyjnego, Instytut Spraw Pubicznych 2016, 19-22, information from the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2022.

[51] Information from the Office for Foreigners, 26 January 2021 and 26 January 2022.

[52] R. Baczyński-Sielaczek, Język polski w ośrodkach. Wyniki badania ewaluacyjnego, Instytut Spraw Pubicznych 2016, 34.

[53] M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, K. Sobczak-Szelc, J. Szałańska, ‘Reception Policies, Practices and Responses: Poland Country Report’, 2020, RESPOND Working Papers 2020/45, available at: http://bit.ly/3jLCvsV, 78-80.

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