At the beginning of March 2020, the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in Poland. A significant number of measures to prevent and combat Covid-19 were introduced in different policy areas including education. The provision of education was changed, and new forms of teaching and learning were introduced.
On 11 March 2020 the Minister for National Education issued a regulation on the temporary suspension of the functioning of education institutes, lasting from 12 till 25 March 2020. During this period, public and non-public kindergartens and schools were closed and no didactic or education activities were conducted.
According to the new regulation issued by the Minister for National Education on 20 March 2020, distance education could be conducted from 25 March to 24 May during the so-called period of the temporary suspension of the functioning of schools and educational institutions. Regulations for assessment in distance learning were adapted and specified. School directors had to determine, in consultation with teachers, new forms of monitoring and assessing learners’ knowledge and progress. Exams after the eighth grade of primary school were postponed from April to June, the Matura exam from May to June, and the oral part of the exam was cancelled.
On 6 May 2020, kindergartens reopened initially for children whose parents did not have the opportunity to combine work and home care. For safety reasons, the education and health ministries and the chief sanitary inspectorate prepared organisational and hygienic guidelines for kindergarten directors, teachers and parents.
Distance learning in VET
The regulation issued by the Minister for National Education on 20 March 2020 also addressed VET. Distance learning in VET was conducted primarily in the theoretical subjects; practical training took place only when the curriculum enabled the achievement of selected learning outcomes through distance learning or another type of education. Teachers were advised to modify VET curricula to teach parts which could not be implemented through distance learning in subsequent years. In contrast, it was suggested that, when possible, classes planned for subsequent years should be implemented remotely this school year. Proposals of materials for VET school students could be found online.
Apprenticeships and juvenile workers
The regulation of the Minister for National Education of 10 April 2020 enabled the implementation of apprenticeships in VET schools until the end of the 2019/20 school year or during holidays, or during classes in the next school year. According to the regulation, apprenticeships could continue provided that the employer could ensure safe conditions. Learners who had relevant professional or volunteer experience, or internship in EU programmes, were not obliged to complete their apprenticeship programmes. In special cases, when learners had implemented projects in cooperation with the employer, they could count for apprenticeship time. In some professions, including IT, apprenticeships were conducted remotely.
Students of the last year of first stage sectoral programmes who were juvenile workers and were not able to continue their apprenticeship for reasons related to the employer, will receive a final school leaving certification describing the actual period of studying the profession.
For the 2019/20 school year, the director of the Central Examination Board was authorised to change the schedule of external VET exams. The new dates should be announced no later than 21 days before the first day of holding the exam. Preparing VET exams continued as normal because it is carried out through an online system. Exams scheduled to be taken by students in the pre-2018 reform VET programmes will take place without change from 22 June to 9 July. Exams under the reformed programme are postponed to 17-28 August.
Distance learning in general education
Distance learning could be conducted using the materials recommended by the Ministry of National Education and the central and regional examination boards; at the initiative of the ministry, public television and radio were broadcasting special educational programmes. Proposals for general education materials were available online. Materials shared on the platforms were developed by different national and ESF projects or shared by different institutions, publishers and organisations free-of-charge, after fulfilling the criteria of the Ministry of National Education.
Proposals for learning materials, including for learners with special educational needs, were available online. These included textbooks from the first to the third grade of primary school adapted to the needs of learners with disabilities and learning and/or communication difficulties.
The materials available on the educational platform of the Ministry of National Education were:
- in accordance with the core curriculum for primary and secondary schools;
- shared under creative commons licence;
- available on various devices (computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone);
- adapted to the needs of learners with various special learning needs.
On the platform, teachers and students have at their disposal:
- e-textbooks and e-materials for most general subjects at all stages of education;
- additional teaching resources for individual subjects, including educational films, audiobooks;
- sample curricula and lesson scenarios.
The Ministry of National Education also published a Distance learning guide for school directors, teachers, learners and their parents. The guide focuses primarily on forms and methods of distance learning. Distinct sections were devoted to pre-school and early school education, preparation for exams, supporting learners with special educational needs, vocational training and issues regarding the safe use of computers and the internet. The last part of the guide includes information about e-tools and e-materials that can be used in distance learning.
As of 1 April 2020, the Ministry of National Education and the Digital Poland project centre are cooperating in offering local governments funding to buy equipment for students and teachers for distance learning (computers, laptops or tablets). They can also buy the relevant software, hardware insurance, mobile internet access or other accessories needed for distance learning. More than EUR 9 million (PLN 41 million) was allocated for this initiative.