The education system in Poland has undergone many changes in curriculum, management, administration, and structure since the system's transformation in 1989. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Ministry of Education and Science introduced e-learning. As a result, schools in Poland had to transfer learning from school to home several times to curb the increase in infections between 2020 and 2021. Public expenditure on education and upbringing in 2021 amounted to 96.3 billion zloty, which accounted for 4.7 percent of the Polish gross domestic product.
The education system in Poland has experienced many changes in recent years. The most significant amendments took place in 1999 and 2017. The first led to the transformation of the two-tier education into a three-tier structure, shortening the period of primary schooling from eight to six years. In addition, compulsory three-year lower secondary schools were established. In 2017, another reform was launched, which restored eight-year primary schools, abolished lower secondary schools, and extended the duration of education in secondary schools and technical schools to four and five years. In addition, the vocational school was transformed into a three-year first-stage sectoral vocational school.
The Polish educational system consists of preschool education (three to six years), primary education (seven to 15 years), and secondary and post-secondary schools for children and adults (15 to 20 years).
Every primary school pupil must take the eighth-grade exam, which is necessary to graduate from school, but there is no minimum pass rate. In the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) global survey, Polish students scored above the average for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in all areas tested, ranking among the world's best. Most students take the Matura exam in their final year of secondary school. In 2022, 78.2 percent of secondary school graduates passed this exam. Some schools also allow students to take the International Baccalaureate exam.
Higher schools are not part of the educational structure in Poland. Academic and vocational universities conduct bachelor's and master's degree studies, but only academic universities can grant a doctoral degree. In Poland, universities can be established as public and non-public. A bachelor's degree can be obtained after three or four years, whereas an engineer's degree after 3.5 to four years. The bachelor's degree entitles one to undertake second-cycle studies, which last two to five years, depending on the field of study. Unified master's studies realized in some majors last from four to six years, whereas doctoral studies last three or four years. People with higher education can also enroll in postgraduate studies.
In the 2021/22 academic year, 1.22 million students studied at universities, 0.2 percent more than in the previous year. The most popular majors were business and administration, engineering, and health.
The number of university graduates from the 2020/21 academic year amounted to 297.4 thousand, 1.3 percent more than the previous year.
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