Vocational education in Poland

Vocational education in Poland is based on two types of school: basic vocational schools (BVS) and technical upper secondary schools. Both of these entities exist in the education system pursuant to the Act on the Education System. Recent changes were implemented to it on 20th May 2015. Important documents are also the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 23 December 2011 on the classification of professions for vocational education and the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 7 February 2012 on the core curriculum of vocational education (as amended).

The amendment of the Act of 2012, assumed the reform of vocational education, among others, introduced the concept of the so-called qualifications in the profession. Qualifications are carried out during the vocational training. After passing the examination, student obtains a qualification certificate and after passing all the qualifications required in a given profession (and graduation) receives a diploma and professional title. A new core curriculum for vocational education has been implemented as well. It is consistent with the National Qualifications Framework - an EU project aiming to facilitate getting a job in the EU.

Students go to vocational school or technical upper secondary school after graduating from lower secondary school (at the age of approx. 15 years). The BVS is 3 years, technical upper secondary school - 4 years. Completion of technical upper secondary school allows students to obtain the technician title and high-school certificate. The BVS students who want to get a high school diploma must complete the so-called "complementary high-school". Before starting vocational school students are directed by the school for the compulsory medical examination and after the test, they receive a certificate which confirms the lack of contraindications as to starting the education.

Adult education is carried out in school and extracurricular in schools for adults, centers of continuing education, practical and vocational training centers, as well as postgraduate studies. At the same time, within the limits of the system of training of the unemployed and looking for work, vocational courses are organized e.g. in labor offices. The basic vocational school does not provide the education of adults.

Given the historical conditions of the current situation of vocational education please note that the end of the 80s is a time of decline of vocational education in Poland. The importance of vocational training was marginalized, operational schools ( practical training base called school workshops) were being closed. At the same time, a negative image of the "inferior school choice" was created. Unfortunately, this negative perception is still quite strong among Polish youth. People in Poland tend to believe that only the university will provide an adequate level of education. Unluckily, since the beginning of the political, social and economic transformation, a number of non-public (private) universities have been created. They do not maintain an appropriate level of training for graduates. At the moment, we have a situation in which universities bring to the job market many young people with so-called general education. The reality is that a significant portion of these people cannot find their place in the labor market, in many cases, thereby increasing the number of young people called "NEET" ( not in employment, education or training).

Activities taken, also by the Ministry of Education aim to restore the splendor of vocational schools and the introduction of solutions to practical training professions.

In the current state of the law in the Polish education system practical classes can be held with employers on the principles of the dual education system, based on:

1) The employment contract for vocational training, concluded between the juvenile and the employer;

2) A contract of apprenticeship concluded between the school principal and the host employer of students on apprenticeship

In practice, the dual school system is used in the training of young workers attending vocational schools who have the status of a juvenile worker. Classes in the technical upper secondary schools are held by employers almost exclusively in the form of monthly practical classes, with the detachment from the school classes. According to the Ministry, only 60 percent of students of vocational schools have the status of juvenile worker, and only every fifth student of vocational education receives the vocational training in the dual education system, receiving On-the-job Training with an employer (only 20% of the students are juvenile workers). Today, the problem of vocational education in Poland is that the professional experience is not gained in practice, only in schools. Students of technical upper secondary schools benefit from dual education system only in a limited way. After all, they should be specialists in their own branches, trained in the best conditions.

In the current economic and social realities of Poland, abilities to cover all vocational schools students with the dual education system are limited. This is mainly due to the vocational training system, which is still mismatched to the labor market: the need to implement the core curriculum developed centrally, high qualification requirements for teachers and staff shortages in vocational training. Furthermore, there is also insufficient interest on the part of employers in cooperation with schools, the reluctance of employers to contribute to the curriculum, lack of financial incentives to accept students for practical classes. Moreover, despite the ongoing campaign to advertise vocational education, these schools are selected by the still students whose aspirations are limited only to obtain a secondary education. Professions' selections are made non-reflective, and often the most important motivation for the choice of a profession is a close distance from home to school, which educates him. Students are not so convinced that the school, which they chose will provide solid vocational training and the profession, they want to learn provide them in future work.

The number of students opting for vocational training, and selections of lower secondary school graduates in the school year 2014/2015 shows that vocational education starts to recover, and the choice of a vocational school may be a chance for students' personal development and therefore success in the labor market.

Vocational education still needs many changes at the system level, among others, supplementary trainings for teachers (in schools often teach theorists), high-end workshop equipment, cooperation of school with the entrepreneurs and real dual system giving students access to real knowledge required in the labor market. Our legislature is aware of changes in the global economy, hence the emphasis on the development of apprenticeships, but it seems to have too little knowledge in particular for the quickly progressing fourth industrial revolution.

Source: The System of Education in Poland in Brief, Polish Eurydice Unit, 2015