General themes

Summary of main elements ( 1 )

Vocational education and training (VET) has three governance levels: national (ministries), regional (school superintendents, mainly in pedagogical supervision) and county (governing schools). The Ministry of Education and Science is in charge of secondary and higher VET, supported by other ministries responsible for particular occupations. Social partners advise policy-makers on necessary changes in VET. The ministry is supported by the consultative body, the Vocational School Directors Council, established in 2018.

Since September 2017, the Polish education system has been undergoing substantial restructuring, to be finalised in the 2022/23 school year. VET is provided mainly in school-based upper secondary and post-secondary programmes. Upper secondary programmes combine general and vocational education. Learners can acquire vocational qualifications in:

  • 3-year first stage sectoral programmes (branżowe szkoły I stopnia, ISCED 353) leading to a vocational qualification diploma for a single-qualification occupation (after passing State vocational examinations). Graduates can enrol in the second year of general upper secondary programmes for adults or in a second stage sectoral programme;
  • 2-year second stage sectoral programmes (branżowe szkoły II stopnia, ISCED 354), launched in the 2020/21 school year. These further develop the vocational qualifications attained in first stage sectoral programmes. General education is provided in full-time day or evening classes, or extramurally. Graduates can acquire an upper secondary school leaving certificate (matura) providing access to tertiary education;
  • 5-year vocational upper secondary programmes (technika, ISCED 354) leading to a vocational qualification diploma for occupations consisting of two qualifications after passing State vocational examinations. Graduates can acquire an upper secondary school leaving certificate (matura) giving access to tertiary education;
  • 3-year special job training programmes (szkoły specjalne przysposabiające do pracy, ISCED 243) for special education needs (SEN) learners leading to a job training certificate;
  • work preparation classes for SEN learners aged 15 and above already in primary school (oddziały przysposabiające do pracy).

At the post-secondary non-tertiary level, vocational qualifications are acquired in 1- to 2.5- year school-based programmes (szkoły policealne, ISCED 453).

College programmes of social work (kolegium pracowników służb społecznych, ISCED 554) are part of tertiary education. They combine school-based learning and in-company training leading to a diploma at EQF level 5. Learners should hold a matura certificate.

Work-based learning (WBL) is compulsory for all VET-oriented programmes. It takes place in school workshops, continuing education centres, vocational training centres or can be organised partially or fully by an employer, including apprenticeships. A distinctive form is on-the-job-training (traineeship) lasting 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the occupation; this is compulsory for vocational upper secondary, post-secondary and second stage sectoral programmes.

Adult learning, continuing and out-of-school VET are available in continuing education centres, practical training centres, further training and professional development centres, and initial VET schools, offering:

  • vocational qualification courses based on curricula for a qualification in a given occupation; learners can take the State vocational examination and obtain a vocational qualification certificate;
  • vocational skills courses based on the VET core curriculum, including learning outcomes for a qualification or common learning outcomes for all occupations;
  • minimum 30-hour general skills courses based on the general education curriculum;
  • theoretical courses for juvenile employees;
  • as of 2016, curriculum-based qualifications attained in courses offered by training companies and other non-formal education institutions can be included in the Integrated qualifications register.

Distinctive features ( 2 )

The key features of Polish VET are:

  • flexibility, allowing changing pathways at any point;
  • classification of occupations updated by various stakeholders in line with labour market needs. Each occupation consists of one to two qualifications that can be attained through IVET and CVET programmes, and is linked to a core curriculum. A VET qualification diploma can be issued only when all qualifications required for an occupation are obtained (via State vocational examinations) together with a school leaving certificate;
  • autonomy of VET schools in developing core curriculum-based programmes, easily modified for labour market needs;
  • uniform, centrally organised external vocational examinations;
  • vocational qualification courses allowing adults to attain qualifications;
  • validation of non-formal and informal learning via extramural examinations.

The main challenges for VET are:

  • raising the attractiveness of VET in society;
  • increasing employer engagement in practical training, identifying and forecasting labour market needs for skills and qualifications, reviewing VET curricula;
  • improving VET teachers' qualifications and competences;
  • encouraging lifelong learning among adult learners;
  • encouraging sustainable cooperation between VET schools and higher education institutions to transfer good practices in teaching, training and developing teachers' competences;
  • ensuring high quality guidance and counselling for all age groups;
  • providing high quality infrastructure for VET schools to ensure teaching and training in line with labour market needs;
  • further developing training programmes;
  • ensuring high quality psychological and pedagogical support for learners in response to post-pandemic challenges.

Measures introduced in 2018, continue strengthening mechanisms involving employers in VET and systematically adapting VET to labour market needs, particularly in such areas as:

  • practical training and teacher professional development in enterprises via 40-hour workplace training cycles;
  • expanding work-based learning in VET;
  • annual forecasts of the demand for employees in VET occupations;
  • directing more funds to high-demand occupations;
  • strengthening quality assurance;
  • improving the accreditation system for CVET providers;
  • organising shorter forms of vocational courses for adult learners;
  • introducing the student apprenticeship (staż uczniowski) for learners in vocational upper secondary and first stage sectoral programmes who are not juvenile workers;
  • building a monitoring system to track the educational and professional trajectory of graduates.

Several other education ministry initiatives address the main challenges for VET:

  • enabling non-statutory CVET qualifications to be included in the Integrated qualifications register;
  • strengthening school guidance and counselling;
  • introducing new VET core curricula developed by the public sector, the Centre for Education Development (ORE), employers and stakeholders;
  • setting up new sector skills councils giving a voice to stakeholders regarding competence demands;
  • launching the national Integrated skills strategy, developed and adopted in 2019 covering all education levels and providing coherent policies on skills development;
  • identifying VET professions having particular significance for national culture and heritage ( 3 ).
Demographics

Population in 2020: 37 958 138 ( 4 )

It decreased since 2015 by 0.1% due to negative natural growth ( 5 ).

As in many other EU countries, the population is ageing. The old-age-dependency ratio is expected to increase from 29 in 2021 to 63 in 2070 ( 6 ).

 

Population forecast by age group and old-age-dependency ratio

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Source: Eurostat, proj_19ndbi [extracted 7.5.2021].

 

Demographic trends have a direct impact on education enrolment.

Since 2005, the overall number of enrolments in VET programmes at upper secondary and post-secondary levels decreased by over 390 000 learners (by 30.2% in 2018/19).

 

Number of vocational education learners in relation to population 15-29 year-olds ( 7 )

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Source: ReferNet Poland calculations based on data from the Local Data Bank, Statistics Poland: Education Data System (2013-2018) and Statistics Poland – Education in the 2019/20, Education in the 2018/19 [extracted 20.7.2021].

 

Decline in VET learners is also related to the reduced interest in VET among young people. Over the last three decades, the share of learners in VET has fallen from 78% to almost 60% and remained unchanged for several years. Since the mid-2010s, a small increase in the share of VET learners has been observed and in 2019/20, an increase of over 150 000 learners was observed.

Poland is a rather homogeneous country in terms of nationality and language. According to the 2011 National population and housing census ( 8 ) 97.09% of people declared their nationality as Polish and 98.2% declared that they use the Polish language at home. However, due to increased migration to Poland in recent years, changes in these percentages may be expected.

The Act on national and ethnic minorities ( 9 ) distinguishes nine official national minorities and four national ethnic minorities in the country. The constitution guarantees these groups the freedom to preserve their own language, customs and traditions, and develop their own culture. There are special forms of support provided to learners from national and ethnic minorities:

  • inclusion of the national and ethnic minority language and the regional language in education activities, the additional course of one's own history and culture at the request of the learner's parent/legal representative ( 10 );
  • the learning of a minority language and a regional language can be conducted in schools in various ways; the number of teaching hours depends on the way it is taught;
  • external examination regulations are adapted for learners of the language of the national minority, ethnic minority and the regional language.

According to the Education Data System (SIO), 774 learners in 27 VET schools ( 11 ) were learning national, ethnic minority or regional languages in the 2020/21 school year:

 

2019*

2020*

2021*

Number of schools

Number of learners

Number of schools

Number of learners

Number of schools

Number of learners

Vocational upper secondary schools

15

480

14

453

13

425

First stage sectoral schools

14

292

13

321

11

299

Total

29

772

27

774

24

724

* data as of 30 September.

Source: data from the Education Data System (SIO, 2019-2021) [extracted 30.9.2021].

The following forms of support are available to non-nationals subject to compulsory education:

  • education and care in all types of public schools and pre-schools provided up to the age of 18 or age of graduating from school at the secondary and post-secondary level on the same terms applicable to Polish citizens ( 12 );
  • admission to schools on the basis of diplomas which do not have to be formally recognised;
  • free-of-charge Polish language classes, additional compensatory classes in a given subject, preparatory classes (oddziały przygotowawcze) provided at schools;
  • additional classes of the language and culture of the country of origin, organised at schools by the diplomatic/consular mission or a cultural/educational association;
  • assistance to the learner provided by a person who speaks the language of the country of origin, employed as a teacher's assistant; different ways of facilitating external examinations taken by foreign learners.

Certain groups of foreign adults, such as EU nationals, persons with different types of permits granted in Poland, and selected scholarship holders can benefit from education in public schools for adults, public post-secondary schools, public art schools, public colleges of social work and different forms of vocational courses, under the same conditions as Polish citizens.

Economics

The enterprise sector in Poland is dominated by microenterprises; 96.2% of enterprises are microenterprises ( 13 ). They produce 31% of GDP and significantly affect the labour market – they generate 40% of the jobs in the enterprise sector. The number of micro-enterprises has increased in recent years.

Small-sized companies account for 2.8% of the Polish enterprise sector, produce 8% of GDP and generate 12% of the jobs in the sector.

Medium-sized companies account for 0.8% of the Polish enterprise sector, produce 11% of GDP and generate 17% of the jobs in the sector.

Large-sized enterprises in Poland account for only 0.2% of the enterprise sector, produce 24% of GDP and generate 31% of the jobs in the sector.

The main economic sectors in Poland are wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food service activities, industry (except construction) and manufacturing.

Share of economic sectors in gross value added and income in 2019 (%)

Sector

2019

Wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food service activities

25.9

Industry (except construction)

24.4

Manufacturing

18.8

Public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities

14.5

Professional, scientific and technical activities; administrative and support service activities

8.8

Construction

7.4

Real estate activities

5.6

Financial and insurance activities

4.1

Information and communication

4.3

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

2.6

Arts, entertainment and recreation; other service activities; activities of household and extra-territorial organisations and bodies

2.3

NB: NACE_R2/TIME.

Source: Eurostat [nama_10_a10] [extracted 4.5.2019].

The following sectors have the largest share of Polish exports ( 14 ):

  • machinery and transport equipment (34.8%);
  • manufactured goods (17.7%);
  • chemicals and related products (14.5%) ( 15 ).

The employment structure in Poland has not undergone any significant changes over the past few years. The share of services in total employment increases slightly each year and in 2020 reached over 58%, which is still far below the EU-28 average of around 74%. The employment share in industry is stable in Poland at around 30-32% and the share in agriculture decreased from 13.1% in 2010 to 9.5% in 2020.

Employment share by economic sector in Poland (%)

 

2020

Industry

31.5

Females

17.1

Males

43.1

Agriculture

9.5

Females

8.2

Males

10.6

Services

58.4

Females

74.1

Males

45.6

Source: The Local Data Bank of Statistics Poland ( 16 ), [extracted15.9.2021].

Most employed women are in services (74%), while the share of employment in services and industry of men is very similar, 46% and 43% respectively.

Labour market

The labour market tends to be deregulated in Poland. However, in some cases access to and the practice of some occupations/professions are confined to having a specific professional qualification. The EC Regulated professions database ( 17 ) lists 361 regulated professions in Poland. The rules of access to professions are determined by the ministers responsible for specific fields.

The regulated occupations in Poland are divided into two groups:

  • sectoral system occupations, which are automatically recognised in all EU member states, such as attorney, physician, pharmacist, nurse, architect);
  • general system occupations – more numerous – in the case of which additional requirements for a given profession in a given country must be met, such as teacher, sworn translator, tourist guide, customs agent.

Total unemployment ( 18 ) (2020): 2.6% (6.2% in EU-27); it has decreased by 2.6 percentage points since 2016 ( 19 ).

 

Unemployment rate (aged 15-24 and 25-64) by education attainment level in 2010-20

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Poland - 2021 - 3

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series; low reliability for ISCED 0-2 and 5-8, age 15-24.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_urgaed [extracted 6.5.2021].

 

Unemployment is distributed unevenly between persons with low- and high-level qualifications. The gap has increased during the crisis as unskilled workers are more vulnerable to unemployment. In 2018, the unemployment rate of those with medium-level qualifications, including most VET graduates (ISCED levels 3 and 4) was lower than in the pre-crisis years. In the past 5 years, there was an overall fall in unemployment in all age groups and by all types of education level.

The employment rate of recent VET graduates aged 20 to 34 increased from 76.4% in 2016 to 79.1% in 2020 but remains below the EU-27 level.

 

Employment rate of VET graduates (20 to 34 years old, ISCED levels 3 and 4)

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NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted 6.5.2021].

 

The increase in employment of VET graduates aged 20 to 34 in 2016-20 was 2.7 pp higher compared to the increase in employment of all graduates aged 20 to 34; this was from 78.1% to 80.4% ( 20 ).

For more information about the external drivers influencing VET developments in Poland, please see the case study from Cedefop's changing nature and role of VET in Europe project ( 21 ).

Share of high, medium and low level qualifications

Participation in tertiary education in Poland has significantly increased over the last three decades, connected to an increase in the perceived value of education and higher educational aspirations. From 2009 to 2020, the share of the population with tertiary education increased from 21.2% to 32.9% but remains slightly below the EU-27 average (34%).

For the past several years, the share of the population with an upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary level of education, for both men and women, has been slowly decreasing, from 66.8% in 2009 to 60.4% in 2020, but is still much higher than the EU-27 average (44.5%).

Poland has the third lowest share of people with no or low attained education level (6.8% in 2020). This indicator has been gradually decreasing in the past few years (12% in 2009).

 

Population (aged 25 to 64) by highest attained education level in 2020

Image

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; low reliability for 'No response' in Czechia and Latvia.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_pgaed [extracted 6.5.2021].

 

VET learners by level

Share of learners in VET by level in 2019

lower secondary

upper secondary

post-secondary

Not applicable

52.5%

100%

Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs01, educ_uoe_enrs04 and educ_uoe_enrs07 [extracted 6.5.2021].

Share of learners in VET at the upper secondary level increased by two percentage points from 50.5% in 2015 to 52.5% in 2019.

 

Share of initial VET learners among total learners at upper-secondary level (ISCED level 3), 2019

Image

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011.
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs04 [extracted 6.5.2021].

 

Female share

In 2019/20, females constituted 43.8% of all learners in VET programmes (46 % in 2017/18). The share differs depending on the type of programme: in post-secondary programmes, females are the majority (70.9%); in programmes at the upper secondary level, there are more males than females, with the lowest share of females in first stage sectoral programmes (30.7%).

Share of female learners in VET programmes in 2019/20, (%)

Type of programme

Female learners

Vocational upper secondary programmes

40.1

First stage sectoral programmes

30.7

Post-secondary programmes

70.9

Special job-training programmes

40

Total

43.8

Source: ReferNet Poland calculation based on Statistics Poland – Education in the 2019/20 school year.

Female learners prefer the following fields of study:

  • in post-secondary programmes: hygiene and work safety, personal services, business and administration, medical study;
  • in first stage sectoral programmes: personal services, business and administration and manufacturing and processing;
  • in vocational upper secondary programmes: personal services, business and administration, social and behavioural science.
Early leavers from education and training

The share of early leavers from education and training in 2020 was 5.4%, which is much lower than the EU-27 average of 10.1%. The share is slightly lower than in 2011 (5.6%). Despite high attainment rates, it is still slightly above the national target for 2020 of not more than 4.5%.

 

Early leavers from education and training in 2011-20

Image

NB: Share of the population aged 18 to 24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_14 [extracted 6.5.2021] and European Commission: [extracted 6.7.2021].

Participation in lifelong learning

 

Participation in lifelong learning in 2009-20

Image

NB: Share of adult population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training, break in series.
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfse_01 [extracted 6.5.2021].

 

Participation in lifelong learning in Poland remained at a very low level (4.0%) until 2017; in 2018 it reached 5.7% and then decreased to 3.7% in 2020. It remains 7.1 percentage points below the EU-27 average.

Education level, age and labour market activity are the factors differentiating the rate of participation in training; persons who are unemployed and have a low level of education often do not participate in educational activities. Age is also a strong determinant of participation in education; people in older age groups not only participate in training less often, but also study less on their own (informal learning).

The education and training system comprises:

  • preschool education (ISCED 0);
  • 8-year primary education (szkoła podstawowa); a programme divided into two 4-year parts (basic and lower secondary level) (ISCED 1 and 2);
  • upper secondary education (ISCED 3);
  • post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED 4);
  • tertiary education including colleges of social work (ISCED 5 to 8).

The education system in Poland is currently undergoing structural transformation. In December 2016, the education ministry introduced reforms aiming to prolong the time children spend within one educational programme and to develop a vocational education system that is responsive to the needs of a modern economy. Key elements of the reform included:

  • phasing out lower secondary school (gimnazjum);
  • restructuring 6-year primary education (szkoła podstawowa) into an 8-year programme divided into two 4-year parts (basic and lower secondary level);
  • extending the general upper secondary programme (liceum ogólnokształcące) to 4 years instead of 3, and the vocational upper secondary programme (technika) to 5 years instead of 4;
  • introducing two-stage sectoral programmes (dwustopniowa szkoła branżowa); the first stage sectoral school has replaced the basic vocational school (zasadnicza szkoła zawodowa) as of 2017/18, while the second stage sectoral schools will begin to operate in 2020/21.

Changes in the school structure are accompanied by the gradual development of new core curricula. The school system will be transitioning until 2022/23. During this period, some previous programmes will be functioning alongside the new ones until they are completely phased out.

Education is compulsory up to 18 years of age, while full-time school education is compulsory up to age 15. Full-time compulsory education lasts 9 years (the last year of pre-school education and 8 years of primary school education). Compulsory education for 15-18 year-olds can take place as part-time education, both in and out of school, e.g. in the form of short qualifications courses or vocational training for juvenile workers.

Pre-school education is provided in pre-schools (przedszkole) for 2.5 to 6 year-old learners.

Primary and lower secondary education is provided in primary schools (szkoła policealna) and lasts typically 8 years from age 7 to 15. Work preparation classes for special education needs (SEN) learners are available in the last 2 years of primary school. A 3-year special job-training programme for SEN learners is available for primary school graduates.

Upper secondary education can be provided by different types of schools in the form of a general upper secondary 4-year programme (licea ogólnokształcące), a vocational upper secondary 5-year programme (technika) or a 3-year first stage sectoral programme (branżowa szkoła pierwszego stopnia), which can be followed by a 2-year second stage sectoral programme. Upper secondary education is typically available to primary school graduates (usually 15-year-olds), apart from the second stage sectoral programme, which will be available to graduates of the first stage programmes (18-year-olds).

Post-secondary non-tertiary programmes are provided by post-secondary schools (szkoła policealna) and can be attained in 1 to 2.5 years. They are available to graduates of general and vocational upper secondary programmes and, those from second stage sectoral programmes (usually 19-20 year-olds).

A special form of education is provided by colleges of social work (kolegium pracowników służb społecznych), offering programmes at ISCED level 5. These colleges provide 3-year programmes for the occupation of social worker.

Completing any type of VET programme and obtaining a school leaving certificate is not the same as attaining a vocational qualification. Learners in the formal VET system can be awarded two types of document confirming attained learning outcomes:

  • vocational certificates (certificate of a vocational qualification in an occupation);
  • vocational diplomas (vocational qualification diploma).

Learners can obtain a vocational diploma only by obtaining all the qualifications distinguished in an occupation (vocational certificate/s) and a school leaving certificate. A vocational qualification can only be attained by passing an external State vocational examination.

Each qualification includes specific sets of learning outcomes defined in the core curricula for vocational education. Learning outcomes are grouped in units, which typically contain from several to over a dozen learning outcomes and reflect specific professional tasks. The core curriculum for general education determines the learning outcomes for the general education component and key competences provided by VET programmes ( 22 ).

Adults aged 18 and older can be awarded a vocational certificate after passing the State vocational examination extramurally. By taking extramural exams, adults may also acquire certificates of completion of general education programmes.

Formal VET leads to four qualification levels (2 to 5) that are the same as in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

The VET system comprises initial and continuing education. It can be offered as:

  • school-based programmes with obligatory work-based learning (WBL differing in scope and form, also including dual training/alternate training);
  • juvenile employment (apprenticeship scheme, with practical training with an employer and theoretical training in school or in out-of-school forms, based on a contract between the learner and the employer) ( 23 );
  • out-of-school forms: different types of courses based on the core curricula.

There are several apprenticeship schemes at the secondary and post-secondary levels:

Juvenile employment for the purpose of vocational training (przygotowanie zawodowe młodocianych pracowników)

Dedicated to young people (15-18 year-olds) with lower secondary education or 8-year primary education. It is based on a work contract between the learner and employer. Where theoretical education takes place in school, arrangements between the school and employer regarding scope and organisation of training provided by both parties form an annex to the contract. Juvenile worker has a status of an employee and, when theoretical training takes place in school, also of a learner. During the training period, a juvenile worker is entitled to a salary (f4 – 6% of the national average salary, depending on the subsequent year of training), social security benefits and holiday leave. Juvenile workers usually undertake apprenticeship in SMEs, mainly in the craft sector. Juvenile employment can take the following forms:

  • training for a profession (nauka zawodu): apprenticeship with the theoretical education taking place at school (first stage sectoral programme) or in an out-of-school form (e.g. courses) and the practical training organised by the employer. Training for a profession lasts up to 36 months and is finalised with a State vocational examination or Journeyman's examination (egzamin czeladniczy). In the 2017/18 school year, juvenile workers constituted about half of all the learners in the first stage sectoral schools;
  • training for a specific job (przyuczenie do wykonywania określonej pracy): a rare form limited to a small group of young people, this prepares a learner to perform specific tasks in a profession. It lasts from 3 to 6 months and is finalised with a verifying examination.

Student apprenticeship (staż uczniowski)

New form of apprenticeship available since September 2019. It is open to learners in vocational upper secondary programmes and first-stage sectoral programmes, who are not juvenile workers. Student apprenticeship is based on the work contract between the learner and employer, with arrangements between the school and employer in the annex to this contract. Student apprenticeship covers all elements of the teaching programme and chosen elements or elements connected with a given occupation but not included in the programme. Students are entitled to a salary unless the contract says otherwise.

Dual training as a form of practical training.

Apart from above-mentioned schemes apprenticeship might be arranged by school in cooperation with employers as one of the ways of organisation of practical training. In general, practical training (obligatory for all VET programmes) can be organised in different forms and venues – including also apprenticeship – alternate training/dual training with structured alternation of learning in an education and training setting with learning and working at a workplace. This form of organisation of practical training could be considered an apprenticeship however it is based on the contract between the school and employer not between employer and learner.

Apprenticeships for adult learners are also available. This is a form of support provided by Labour Offices and financed from the Labour Fund dedicated to the unemployed and job seekers. Apprenticeships for adults are conducted on the basis of a contract between a Labour Office, an employer and an institution responsible for conducting exams. Apprenticeships are provided in the form of occupational training and training aimed at preparing a person to perform a specific job. In 2016-19 (first half), apprenticeships for adult learners attracted over 525 500 participants ( 24 ).

Learn more about apprenticeships in the national context from the European database on apprenticeship schemes by Cedefop ( 25 ).

VET has three governance levels: national (ministries), regional (school superintendents, mainly in pedagogical supervision) and county (powiat – managing schools). The Ministry of Education and Science consolidates tasks relating to education, higher education, and science within one institution. It is also in charge of VET policies at all levels, supported by other ministries responsible for particular occupations. Social partners advise policy makers on necessary changes in VET.

The ministry is supported by the Vocational School Directors Council (Rada Dyrektorów Szkół Zawodowych) established as a consultative body in 2018. It consists of 42 school directors from vocational schools representing all regions of the country and different sectors ( 26 ).

In each region, education authorities appointed coordinators – in total 31 coordinators – for vocational education and training, responsible for supporting cooperation between schools and employers, as well as promoting activities to develop vocational guidance and counselling in the education system.

Most public education institutions in Poland are managed by local government units. Counties (powiaty) are responsible for upper secondary schools, including vocational schools, and schools for children with special needs; the regions (województwa) are responsible for schools of regional and trans-regional significance, such as groups of schools or vocational schools important for the regional economy.

Central government units (usually ministries) often manage vocational and fine arts schools. All types of schools can be established and managed by non-public institutions, such as religious and social associations. The share of non-public institutions is increasing as the level of education is higher. The chart below presents the structure of vocational schools by type and management institution in the 2019/20 school year.

 

The structure of VET schools by type and managing institution in 2019/20

Image
The structure of VET schools by type and managing institution in 2019/20

Source: ReferNet Poland calculation based on data from Statistics Poland – Education in the 2019/20 school year

 

There were 5 733 VET schools in Poland in 2019/20. The majority were post-secondary vocational schools (28%), followed by vocational upper secondary schools (34%), the first stage sectoral schools (29%) and 9% special job-training schools ( 27 ).The decision to provide education for a particular occupation listed in the classification of occupations for vocational education is made at local level by the school principal in agreement with local authorities (county level) and after asking the regional labour market councils (advisory bodies) for their opinion concerning compliance with labour market needs. Teaching programmes can be developed individually by schools. The school principal is responsible for incorporating the learning outcomes in the teaching programme and providing the organisational requirements as defined in the core curricula.

The main resources for educational expenditures are:

  • the education part of the State budget general subsidy for local government units;
  • central government targeted grants;
  • the local government unit's own income;
  • foreign funds (mainly EU funds).

The general subsidy from the State budget is the major source of funding for the education system in Poland. The amount of the education part of the general subsidy for local government is defined annually in the Budget Act, and then the education ministry prepares an algorithm to distribute the education funds among the local government units, based on the responsibilities ascribed to the different levels of local government (basically the number of learners in each type of school) ( 28 ). Since January 2018, the coefficients for vocational secondary schools have differed for four sets of categories of occupations; the distinction is based on the cost of the vocational part of the education. Additional coefficients were added for learners of post-secondary programmes who obtained a vocational qualification diploma and for participants of vocational qualification courses who passed the State vocational examination ( 29 ).

The increased State subsidies for learners of special demand occupations in VET schools, indicated by the forecast of the demand for employees in vocational education occupations, and increased subsidies for employers involved in training juvenile employees in those occupations, were introduced in 2020.

 

Public expenditures on education and the subsidy for local government ( 30 )

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Source: Statistics Poland – Education in the 2019/20 school year

 

Local governments have the power to decide on how to allocate the funds to respective schools and how to use them for other than education purposes. As the chart below illustrates, municipalities and regions spend more on education than they receive as subsidy, but counties, which are mainly responsible for vocational schools, do not use the entire amount on education expenditures. The visible increase in expenditures in 2017 and 2018 on all local government levels may be due to the structural reforms of the education system. In 2019 and 2020 a fall is observed.

 

The ratio between educational expenditures and the State general subsidy for education by type of local government in 2006-20

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The higher the ratio, the greater the share of local spending. Value over 100 means that the local government spends more than it receives from the central government.
Source: ReferNet Poland calculation based on Local Data Bank, Statistics Poland ( 31 )[extracted 29.11.2021].

 

 

The structure of education expenditures of counties in 2020 by school type

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Source: ReferNet Poland calculation based on Local Data Bank, Statistics Poland ( 32 )[extracted 5.12.2021].

 

In addition to the subsidy, local government units can apply for targeted grants to implement specific public tasks, which usually require joint funding by the unit.

Non-public schools with a status of public school are entitled to public funding equal to public schools.

In 2019, public (local and central government) expenditures for education reached around EUR 18.3 billion ( 33 ), of which 10.4% was spent on vocational schools. Public spending on education as a share of GDP was 3.7%, which is slightly higher than in previous year. The education part of the general subsidy transferred to schools through local government units amounted to EUR 9.96 billion ( 34 ).

VET teacher types

In VET there are:

  • general subject teachers;
  • theoretical vocational subject teachers;
  • practical vocational training teachers;
  • teachers/pedagogues providing educational support to learners;
  • teachers/psychologists providing psychological support to learners, teachers and parents;
  • teachers/methodological advisers providing support to teachers;
  • teachers/consultants who develop teaching materials, design and deliver in-service training courses for teachers and education managers, etc.;
  • in-company trainers (nationally referred to as practical vocational training instructors);
  • specialist in-company trainers (various groups of practitioners providing training as their primary or additional activity).

Teachers in public schools and pre-schools comprise 87% ( 35 ) of all teachers and are employed on the basis of the Teacher's Charter ( 36 ), which specifies working conditions, duties, rights, professional development requirements, and teachers' salaries. In non-public schools, teachers are employed only on the basis of labour and civil law regulations.

General subject teachers should have at least a master degree.

Theoretical vocational subject teachers are required to have at least a master or bachelor degree, including pedagogical training.

Practical vocational training teachers are required to:

  • have the same qualifications as required for teachers of vocational theoretical subjects or the title of master in a craft or a pedagogical technical college (currently non-existing) diploma or a matura examination together with a vocational qualifications certificate and 2 years of work experience;
  • have a pedagogical qualification.

In-company trainers – practical vocational training instructors – can be employers or employees who are not teachers; they are required to have both the regulation-defined combination of formal qualifications and years of work experience in a given occupation as well as an appropriate pedagogical qualification ( 37 ).

Continuing professional development of teachers/trainers

As regulated by the Teacher's Charter, teachers have the right to participate in all forms of continuing professional development (CPD) and must follow CPD in line with the school's needs. CPD is required from teachers on the path to higher advancement levels.

As of September 2019, VET teachers are obligated to participate in professional training at a company active in the field of the taught occupation. This new form of continuing professional development comprises 40-hour training cycles (over 3 years). This is required of both staff teaching theoretical vocational education subjects and practical vocational training. Teachers who are employed or operate companies in the field taught are exempt from this requirement.

Teacher CPD is funded by local/regional budgets. School heads are responsible for assessing teacher CPD needs and preparing school professional development plans.

There are different public teacher training institutions at the national, regional and local levels, as well as numerous non-public teacher training institutions. The Centre for Education Development teacher training institution operates at the national level and covers both general and VET teacher CPD. In general, the main tasks of these institutions consist of developing teacher CPD programmes and educational materials, indicating CPD priorities, and implementing CPD programmes. Teacher training is also provided by higher education institutions.

Another form of CPD is offered by teachers/methodological advisers, who provide direct subject-oriented and methods assistance; support teachers in their professional development; organise conferences, seminars and workshops; and identify teachers' needs for counselling and vocational training. CPD is also provided at the school level via internal systems of professional development, including, self-development teachers' council meetings, lessons, observations, study visits and others. Other forms of CPD include internships in enterprises for VET teachers. As of September 2019, all VET teachers must participate in professional training in companies relating to the occupation they teach. Numerous educational resources (open bases) and CPD opportunities are available through ESF joint-funded initiatives.

The Teacher's Charter specifies four categories of job positions in the teaching profession:

  • trainee teacher – first stage in a teacher's career;
  • contractual teacher – awarded after 1 year and 9 months of internship and passing an examination given by an examination commission;
  • appointed teacher – awarded after 2 years and 9 months of internship and after passing an examination given by an examination commission;
  • chartered teacher – awarded after 2 years and 9 months of internship, after having their professional achievement accepted by a qualification commission, and an interview.

These categories have a direct impact on a teacher's basic salary level. Teachers with outstanding performance may also be awarded the title of honorary school education professor.

In 2019/20, 56% of teachers were chartered teachers. For first stage sectoral schools and vocational upper secondary schools, the share of chartered teachers was higher than 60%; however, in post-secondary schools, it was only 26% ( 38 ).

Practical training institutions are involved in improving the competence of in-company trainers by offering a broad range of thematic training. The most common training refers to the methodology of vocational education and the use of standards for examination requirements. To standardise the requirement of pedagogical training of the instructors, as of 2019, the framework curricula for the pedagogical training for instructors was introduced in the regulation on practical vocational training. The framework specifies the learning content and the number of hours and the learning outcomes for each specific subject ( 39 ).

Anticipating skill needs

System of sector skills councils

The system of sector skills councils, launched in 2016, consists of three components:

  • the programme Council on competences (Rada Programowa ds. Kompetencji, RPK) consists of representatives of ministries, training institutions, social partners, universities, non-governmental agencies, as well as labour market stakeholders. The RPK mainly focuses on building cooperation between the education community and entrepreneurs; it also encourages the development of sector councils and implements recommendations in the areas of science and education;
  • the sector skills councils are the central part of the system. Currently, there are 17 active councils in the following sectors: health and social care; construction; finances; tourism; motorisation and electromobility; fashion and innovative textiles; ICT; secondary raw materials recovery; high quality foods; modern business services; marketing communication; remediation and water and sewage management; chemistry; aviation and space industries; trade; development services; telecommunications and cyber-safety ( 40 ). Their main aims are:
    • to collect information from various labour market stakeholders and recommend systemic solutions and changes in the area of education;
    • to stimulate cooperation between education providers and employers;
    • to provide support in identifying and anticipating competence needs in a given sector.
  • the human capital study aims to increase knowledge about current needs in various sectors and enable the demand for competences and qualifications to be anticipated. The information collected in the study provides, among others, deeper insight about the skills gaps in the economy.

Integrated skills strategy

In 2017, the education ministry initiated the development of a national skills strategy. The Educational Research Institute (IBE) has supported the Minister's work with its expertise. The strategy covers the whole area of education and training: general education, vocational education, higher education and adult learning. It takes into account both the demand side (demand for specific competences and qualifications) and supply (availability of qualifications and competences in society). The general part of the strategy was adopted by the government in January 2019 ( 41 ). The detailed part of the strategy ( 42 ), adopted by the government in December 2020, indicates areas of impact and also themes and directions of actions together with a list of responsible institutions. The document was widely consulted and encompasses the recommendations of the OECD report Skills Strategy Poland. Assessment and Recommendations and the European Skills Agenda ( 43 ).

Deficit and surplus occupation monitoring: 'Occupational barometer'

Since 2005, the Deficit and surplus occupation monitoring survey (MZDiN) has been conducted by county and regional labour offices as well as the labour ministry. In 2015, a new methodology was applied. The survey is based mainly on the IT systems data of employment offices, studies of online job offers, information obtained from employers in a questionnaire study, data from the Statistics Poland and the Education data system. Since 2015, the 'Occupational barometer', previously implemented in the Małopolska region, was extended to the whole country, conducted by the regional labour offices. It is a qualitative short-term (annual) forecast providing information on deficit and surplus occupations ( 44 ). On the account of their complementarity, the two surveys have been joined and since 2020 carried out under the name Occupational barometer.

Forecast demand for employees

The forecast of demand for employees in vocational education occupations was introduced in 2018 as a new tool to help shape the vocational education and training offer. Starting with 2019, this forecast is developed annually and published in the form of an announcement by the Ministry of National Education. The announcement presents the forecast's results in the form of two lists of occupations from the classification of occupation for VET, one on the country level and the other regional ( 45 ).

The forecast is based on analyses conducted by the Educational Research Institute (IBE) using various data sources. The forecast impacts VET financing.

The list of occupations of special meaning for culture and national heritage

As of 2020, the occupations listed as having special meaning for culture and national heritage will receive increased financial support. The list of such occupations was established by the Minister for Education in consultation with the Minister for Culture and National Heritage and includes 21 occupations such as blacksmith, beekeeper, watchmaker or yacht and boat assembler ( 46 ). See also Cedefop's skills forecast ( 47 ).

Designing qualifications

The VET programmes available at the national level are developed on the basis of three regulations of the education ministry:

  • the classification of occupations for vocational education ( 48 );
  • the core curricula for vocational education ( 49 );
  • the core curriculum for general education ( 50 ).

The classification includes the list of occupations for which VET programmes can be provided. Qualifications ( 51 ) are distinguished within occupations; each occupation can be made up of either one or two qualifications. Currently, there are over 200 vocational education occupations, including so-called ancillary occupations for people with minor intellectual disabilities.

Developing occupations within the classification of occupations

The introduction of new occupations to the classification is regulated by the Education Law. The classification of occupations is determined by the education minister in cooperation with the relevant ministers responsible for a given sector of the economy, who can submit their requests to include particular occupations in the classification. To anticipate labour market needs, representatives of employers and employees are consulted during the development stage of the classification.

Professional associations, organisations of employers, sector skills councils, social partners and other stakeholder organisations can submit their proposals to the relevant minister to establish a new occupation; in this way they shape the educational offer of the formal VET system. After the proposal has been approved, the education minister includes the occupation in the classification and appoints a working group to design the core curriculum for vocational education for that occupation.

Designing the core curriculum for vocational education

The working group contacts the institution which submitted the proposal for the new occupation to determine the learning outcomes; it then undertakes consultations with other experts in the field. At this stage, occupational standards, which are developed by the labour ministry, are considered.

The decision on the occupations offered by a given VET school is made by the school principal in agreement with local authorities (at the county level of government) and after asking the regional labour market councils (advisory bodies) for their opinion concerning compliance with labour market needs. Regional labour market councils take into account the forecast of the demand for employees in vocational education occupations. In December 2018, a new regulation obligated initial VET schools to have formalised cooperation with employers when including a new occupation in the school's offer.

Modernising VET curricula

In order to improve the labour market relevance of VET education, the education ministry, together with the Education Development Centre (ORE), has implemented an ESF jointly -funded project Partnership for VET, focusing on developing partnerships in vocational education and training in cooperation with employers and other social partners. Sectoral teams of social partners and experts introduced changes in existing curricula or developed new vocational curricula for 60 occupations. The project's products also include numerous teaching plans and programmes, career development paths together with diplomas and qualification supplements in Polish and English.

ORE has also implemented a project aimed at increasing the non-formal education offer for adults that includes the development of over 200 model teaching programmes of vocational qualification courses (KKZ) and e-resources for vocational guidance ( 52 ).

All VET schools are included in external and internal quality assurance systems. External quality assurance is provided through pedagogical supervision; it is conducted by Regional Education Authorities (kurator oświaty) overseen by the education ministry. Pedagogical supervision covers four aspects: evaluation, an audit of legal compliance ( 53 ), monitoring and support.

The external evaluation of schools is conducted in accordance with certain uniform procedures and requirements set in the legislation concerning:

  • the organisation of education processes;
  • learners acquiring the skills and knowledge defined in the national core curriculum;
  • active participation of learners;
  • shaping social attitudes, and respect for social norms;
  • support to learners' development, taking into account their individual circumstances;
  • cooperation with parents;
  • cooperation with local community;
  • including of findings from analyses of external exam results as well as external and internal evaluations;
  • school management.

It includes various research techniques, such as interviews, surveys, observation, document analysis, and takes into account the opinions of different stakeholders.

Reports from the external evaluations performed in schools are available to all the stakeholders: school principals, teachers and parents. Summaries of these reports are publicly available on a dedicated website ( 54 ).

The head of the Regional Education Authority prepares an annual report on the results of the educational supervision conducted and presents it to the minister for education.

School directors are obligated by law to design and implement an internal quality assurance system. They should do this in cooperation with their teachers. School directors are relatively free in how they design and implement these systems, but must include the specified four aspects of pedagogical supervision. Internal evaluation is conducted annually and needs to include issues important for each particular school. Its results are taken into consideration in the external evaluation. In order to help school directors developing and implementing internal quality assurance procedures, Quality standards for VET were prepared ( 55 ). They cover ten thematic areas ( 56 ) relating to quality assurance in VET, which are in line with the 2009 EQARF/EQAVET recommendation.

In the case of market qualifications included in the Integrated qualifications register (IQR) ( 57 ), quality assurance is provided by external quality assurance entities (Podmioty Zewnętrznego Zapewniania Jakości, PZZJ). The external quality assurance entity for a qualification is assigned by the relevant minister from the list of institutions selected for a given area of qualifications. There are also internal quality assurance mechanisms for institutions awarding qualifications; they are required to perform internal evaluations.

The system of external examinations

The system of external examinations is a key element for ensuring and improving the quality of education and qualifications attained in schools. The central examination board ( 58 ) and eight regional examination boards are responsible for organising external examinations. The external examination system is supervised by the education ministry. In the external examination system, all examinees solve the same tasks and assignments to verify whether they have achieved the learning outcomes defined in the core curriculum. Trained examiners registered at the regional examination boards assess examination results. The central examination board analyses aggregate test and examination results and initiates research in assessment. The results of external examinations are taken into consideration in both external and internal quality assurance as part of pedagogical supervision.

As of 2019, all learners will be required to take a State vocational examination or a journeyman's examination as a condition for school graduation. This was done to strengthen the role of the external examination as a quality assurance mechanism.

Education data system

The collection and dissemination of information on the formal general and vocational education system by the Education data system (System Informacji Oświatowej, SIO) is an important element in ensuring the quality of qualifications. The system is maintained in electronic form and uses the internet to provide the information that is collected. Every school and education institution has to submit data on such as learners, teachers, facilities and expenses. Schools submit data through a web application. Information is collected regionally and then exported by regional education authorities to the education ministry. Some of this information is available to the public. The system was set up in 2004 but has been continuously modernised.

The VET system allows learners to attain qualifications (vocational certificates) through the validation of non-formal education and informal learning ( 59 ). Individuals can take extramural State vocational examinations conducted by regional examination boards if they are over 18 years old, have completed a lower secondary programme or an 8-year primary programme and have at least 2 years of learning or work in an occupation relating to the targeted qualification ( 60 ). Completion of a vocational qualification course also entitles learners to take the State vocational examination.

After passing the State vocational examination, learners obtain the same vocational certificate as regular VET learners. The fee paid by the applicant for the extramural examination is low: in 2021 the fee was approximately EUR 49.

For more information about arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning please visit Cedefop's European database ( 61 ).

In initial VET (IVET), incentives include:

  • Social support for IVET learners

All learners, including VET learners, can receive social support when their family income is below the threshold for receiving social support benefits combined with social problems that the family is facing; this also applies to temporary material difficult caused by a sudden event, e.g. a parent's death. Around 9% of VET learners received social support in the 2019/20 school year.

  • Scholarships for IVET learners

Scholarships for good grades can be granted to VET learners by schools. The Prime Minister, the minister responsible for culture and national heritage and the Minister for Education also fund scholarships for school learners, including IVET learners. Around 1% of all VET learners receive scholarships for good scholastic performance each year. Apart from the country level, there are also regional initiatives aiming to promote participation in VET. Some regional scholarships have been financed as part of EU-funded projects.

  • The Good start programme

A benefit granted once a year per child in learning at a school until 20 years of age. Disabled children in learning at a school receive the benefit until 24 years of age. This is a single support payment of EUR 66 for all learners starting the school year. Families receive the benefit irrespective of income. Each year 4.6 million learners benefit from this scheme ( 62 ).

  • The Family 500+ programme

A benefit of EUR 110 per month for every child up to 18 years of age, irrespective of the income generated by the family. A total of 6.8 million children receive this financial support each year ( 63 ).

  • Salary for juvenile workers

Juvenile workers are entitled to a salary. The amount of their salary ranges from EUR 63 to EUR 88 per month and cannot be less than 5% (in the first year of training) 6% (in the 2nd year of training) and 7% (in the third year of training) of the average monthly salary in the previous quarter ( 64 ). Employers also pay mandatory social insurance on the basis of the salary paid to the juvenile worker.

  • Vocational training and support by the Voluntary Labour Corps

The Voluntary Labour Corps ( 65 ) (Ochotnicze Hufce Pracy − OHP) is an organisation specialised in supporting young people at risk of social exclusion and the unemployed under age 25, overseen by the labour ministry. The organisation offers young people aged over 15 without lower secondary education, the possibility to attain vocational qualifications and/or to supplement their education. It has over 500 units in 2020, providing young people with the opportunity to complete their education and acquire professional qualifications before entering adult life. The Voluntary Labour Corps provide training in 60 professions, both in their own workshops or as on-the-job training with an employer. All learners with low/no income receive free meals and accommodation during the education period. Learners also receive guidance and pedagogical support. Each year, young people receive various forms of help from Corps agencies, including individual psychological support, group workshops for active job-seeking, vocational courses, vocational courses offering certified qualifications, language courses, entrepreneurship courses, assistance in finding jobs and organising traineeships, as well as traineeships offered by employers.

  • The Labour Fund (Fundusz Pracy)

In the area of continuing VET (CVET), support is organised mainly through the employment services and financed from the Labour Fund ( 66 ), as well as from the European Social Fund (ESF). This support includes:

  • vocational training;
  • apprenticeships;
  • loans for financing the cost of training;
  • training vouchers;
  • vocational practice vouchers;
  • scholarships for the continuation of education;
  • financial support for examination fees and vocational licence fees;
  • financing postgraduate studies;
  • statutory training leave for employees.

The Labour Fund plays an important role in delivering State support for VET. It promotes participation by granting resources for vocational training initiatives. The training is mainly offered to unemployed people, but it can also be provided to other job seekers, such as, for example, people with disabilities. The participants of group training have the right to receive a monthly training grant that amounts to 120% of the unemployment benefit if the number of training hours per month is at least 150 hours. The cost of individual training cannot exceed 300% of the national average monthly salary. In 2019, more than 34 000 unemployed and other eligible individuals participated in various forms of training. The most popular form of training (more than 9 000 participants) was driving licence courses. The number of participants has declined, mainly due to lower unemployment.

Labour offices support the organisation of vocational training at the initiative of employers having a special training fund. Up to 50% of the costs of the training can be refunded from the Labour Fund, but not more than the amount of the average monthly salary per participant. For the person over 45 years old, the limit of the refund is 80% of the training costs, but not exceeding 300% of the average salary.

Labour Offices also fund apprenticeships organised in companies. Apprenticeships are available to all unemployed. In 2019, over 102 000 people participated in an apprenticeship scheme. The most popular field of apprenticeships was office and secretarial work.

 

Participants in various forms of training support offered by employment services in 2019 (number of participants)

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Source: Ministry of Economic Development, Labour and Technology. Employment services support to the human resources development with the Labour Fund resources. [Wspieranie przez urzędy pracy rozwoju zasobów ludzkich środkami funduszu pracy]. Warsaw 2020 ( 67 ) [extracted 1.7.2021].

 

The Labour Code gives employees the right to a training leave of 6 to 21 days with full remuneration. This leave can be used to prepare for and take an examination or defend a thesis. Training leave can be paid (to cover lost income) to an employee, if an employer requires or agrees to the need for the training before it starts.

Employers who provide VET training in vocational programmes can receive the following support:

  • refund of trainers' salaries;
  • refund of the extra salary paid to instructors;
  • refund of the cost of work clothes and necessary protective measures;
  • training allowance for work placement supervisors;
  • refund of the bonus for work placement supervisors;
  • subsidy for the salary and social security contribution for the juvenile worker for the period of vocational training from the Labour Fund. The financial limits on the refund are set each year. As of 2020, employers training juvenile employees in the professions indicated by the forecast of the demand for employees in vocational education occupations will receive increased subsidies.

Since 2014, employers have been able to use the National Training Fund (Krajowy Fundusz Szkoleniowy), part of the Labour Fund (Fundusz Pracy), to finance their employees' training. It mainly finances: courses and post-graduate studies attended by employees at the request of the employer; examinations enabling the attainment of vocational qualifications; medical and psychological examinations required for a job position; and personal accident insurance. In the case of microenterprises, the funding can cover 100% of the costs of continuing education, whereas in other types of enterprises, the employer covers 20% of the training cost. The training cost per employee cannot exceed 300% of the average salary in a given year. In 2019, over 23 000 employers received support from the National training fund, resulting in training or other forms of assistance for over 108 000 employees. The majority (56%) of applications for support from the fund come from microenterprises ( 68 ).

As of September 2018, occupational guidance is implemented in a planned and systematic way in all types of schools, including VET schools. The goals as well as the terms and manner of implementing and organising guidance/counselling, including possible forms and detailed programme content, which vary depending on the school level, are defined in the regulation of the Minister for Education ( 69 ).

The basic goal of guidance is to support learners in the process of making independent and responsible decisions concerning their educational and professional life, based on learning about their own resources, the education system and the labour market.

Vocational guidance is available at all school levels, including:

  • pre-schools (ISCED 0): vocational pre-orientation;
  • primary school classes 1-6 grade (ISCED 1): vocational orientation;
  • seventh and eighth grades of primary school (ISCED 2) and secondary schools (ISCED 3): vocational guidance activities.

Schools are required to develop their own programme to implement the intra-school guidance system for each new school year. This programme should include:

  • activities to implement occupational guidance (including the content of the activities, methods and forms of implementation, timeframe of implementation, persons responsible for implementation);
  • entities with which the school cooperates in this field.

Please see also:

  • guidance and outreach Poland national report ( 70 );

Cedefop's labour market intelligence toolkit ( 71 ).

Vocational education and training system chart

Programme Types

ECVET or other credits

Not applicable

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

Classes combine general education and work preparation – both adapted to the individual learner's needs and capabilities.

Main providers

Primary schools

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Not specified by the regulations.

The programme is developed and adjusted to the specific needs of a learner by the lead teacher.

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

Different forms of practical training available:

  • practical training in school;
  • practical training in VET schools (school workshops), continuing education centres ( 73 ) and vocational training centres ( 74 ); 
  • in-company training.
Main target groups

For learners over 15 years old with special education needs (SEN), at risk of early school leaving.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

For learners over 15 years old at risk of not completing primary school in the usual mode, who:

  • received promotion to grade VII;
  • or did not receive promotion to grade VIII.

Enrolment requires confirmation from a psycho-social support institution on the need for this form of education.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Primary school leaving certificate is issued to those who completed the programme (with a special note with information on the completion of work preparation classes).

Diplomas/certificates provided

School leaving certificate

Examples of qualifications

Not applicable

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Those who complete work preparation classes for SEN learners can enter the labour market or continue their education at the next EQF level.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

Yes

Key competences

Yes

Application of learning outcomes approach

Yes

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

1% ( 75 )

ECVET or other credits

Not applicable

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

The curriculum for upper secondary vocational programmes combines general and vocational education. The vocational parts consist of theoretical and practical aspects. Vocational schools have a relatively high level of independence regarding the organisation of practical training. The school director decides on the share of work-based learning, but it cannot be less than 50% of the hours foreseen for vocational education (which combines both practical and theoretical training).

Main providers

Upper secondary vocational schools:

  • public schools (vast majority of schools) operated by local (county) and regional authorities;
  • non-public schools with public school accreditation operated by different providers (associations, companies – commercial law companies, natural persons).
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

≥16.4% ( 77 )

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

The practical part of vocational education can be offered in:

  • school workshops;
  • continuing education centres ( 78 ) and vocational training centres ( 79 );
  • with an employer (can be organised in different ways, partially or fully at an employers' premises, including also dual training/alternate training).

A distinctive form of practical training – on-the-job training – is mandatory for learners of vocational upper secondary programmes and lasts from 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the type of occupation.

New form of WBL – the student apprenticeship – is available for learners as of September 2019.

Main target groups

This programme is available to primary school graduates.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Learners should hold a primary school leaving certificate. Primary school graduates are usually 15 years old.

Assessment of learning outcomes

The following forms of assessment of learning outcomes are foreseen for learners:

  • school leaving certificate: confirms that a learner completed the programme. It contains a list of subjects covered and the final grades achieved. No external exam is required to obtain a school leaving certificate. Final grades are based on internal continuous assessments of learners; the certificate comprises annual classification grades determined in the highest-level class and annual classification grades achieved in the completed lower classes;
  • State vocational examination (taking exam is obligatory for school graduation as of September 2019), confirms obtaining vocational qualification. The examination has two parts: written and practical. The candidate has to pass both in order to receive a vocational certificate/diploma. The exam is centrally organised and based on uniform requirements, the same examination tasks, assessed according to the same criteria and organised in the same way regardless of where the examination is held;
  • school leaving examination (matura), a state, uniform secondary school leaving examination based on the core curriculum for general education and providing access to tertiary education. As of September 2019, the vocational diploma in an occupation on the level of 'technician' allows learners to skip one additional subject in the matura exam (only for learners who study in accordance with the 2019 sectoral core curriculum). The matura exam consists of two parts: the oral part (internal and assessed at school) and the written part, external, set by the Central Examination Board (Centralna Komisja Egzaminacyjna) and assessed by examiners included in the registers of the regional examination boards (Okręgowa Komisja Egzaminacyjna).
Diplomas/certificates provided

This programme leads to:

  • a school leaving certificate giving learners a secondary education;
  • vocational qualifications (vocational certificates) after passing the State vocational examination;
  • a vocational qualifications diploma for occupations consisting of two qualifications (issued when a learner obtained both qualifications distinguished in an occupation and a school leaving certificate).
Examples of qualifications

The programme provides two-qualification occupations, for example: electrical technician (technik elektryk), automation technician (technik automatyk), multimedia and photography technician (technik fotografii i multimediów), construction technician (technik budownictwa), accountancy technician (technik rachunkowości), salesman technician (technik handlowiec).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Graduates of these programmes, after passing the secondary school leaving examination (matura), are eligible to continue to tertiary education.

Destination of graduates

According to the Labour force survey (LFS), in the fourth quarter of 2020, the employment rate of recent vocational upper secondary programme and post-secondary school-based programme graduates (1 year after completing education) was 58.7% ( 80 ).

Awards through validation of prior learning

Yes

A vocational certificate can be awarded after passing the State vocational examination extramurally. Individuals can take extramural State vocational examinations, conducted by the regional examination boards, if they are over 18 years old, have completed a lower secondary programme or an 8-year primary programme and have at least two years of learning or work in an occupation relating to the targeted qualification ( 81 ). If they do not have two years of learning or work experience, they can enrol in a vocational qualifications course (KKZ).

By taking extramural exams, adults can also acquire a certificate of completion of the general education programme.

General education subjects

Yes

The vocational upper secondary programme combines general and vocational education.

Key competences

Yes

The core curriculum for general education determines the learning outcomes relating to the general education component and key competences provided by VET programmes.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Yes

Each qualification includes specific sets of learning outcomes defined in the core curriculum for vocational education. Learning outcomes are grouped in units, which typically contain from several to over a dozen learning outcomes and reflect specific professional tasks. The core curriculum for general education determines the learning outcomes relating to the general education component and key competences provided by VET programmes.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

62% ( 82 ).

ECVET or other credits

Not applicable

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

The curriculum for the first stage sectoral programme combines general and vocational education. The vocational parts consist of theoretical and practical aspects. Schools have a relatively high level of independence regarding the organisation of practical training. The school director decides on the share of work-based learning, but it cannot be less than 60% of the hours foreseen for vocational education (which combines both theoretical and practical training).

Main providers

First stage sectoral schools:

  • public schools (vast majority of schools) operated by local (county) authorities and associations;
  • non-public schools with public school accreditation operated by different providers (associations, companies – commercial law companies, natural persons).
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

≥ 33.7% of the programme for graduates of the phased-out lower secondary school (gimnazjum)

≥ 31.8% of the programme for graduates of the 8-year primary school ( 84 )

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

The practical part of vocational education can be offered in:

  • school workshops;
  • continuing education centres ( 85 ) and vocational training centres ( 86 );
  • with an employer (can be organised in different ways, partially or fully at an employers' premises, including also dual training/alternate training);
  • juvenile employment.

A special type of work-based learning is provided through juvenile employment for the purpose of vocational training (przygotowanie zawodowe młodocianych pracowników) for young people (15-18 year-olds) with a lower secondary education or primary education. In the 2017/18 school year, juvenile workers constituted about half of all learners in the first stage sectoral schools. Juvenile employment is based on a contract between the learner and employer. Juvenile employment for the purpose of vocational training most often takes the form of training for a profession (nauka zawodu): this is an apprenticeship with the theoretical education taking place at a first stage sectoral school (or in out-of-school forms) and the practical training organised by the employer on the basis of a work contract. It lasts a maximum of 36 months and is finalised with a State vocational examination. Practical training can also be organised by an employer in the craft trades on the basis of a work contract. It also lasts a maximum of 36 months and is finalised with a journeyman's examination (egzamin czeladniczy).

An additional new form of WBL – the student apprenticeship – is available for learners as of September 2019.

Main target groups

Primary school graduates.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Learners should hold a primary school leaving certificate; primary school graduates are usually 15 years old.

Assessment of learning outcomes

The following forms of assessment of learning outcomes are foreseen for learners:

  • School leaving certificate, confirms that a learner completed the programme. It contains a list of subjects covered and the final grades achieved. It gives a learner a basic sectoral education. No external exam is required to obtain a school leaving certificate. Final grades are based on internal continuous assessments of learners; the certificate comprises an annual classification of grades determined in the highest-level class and an annual classification of grades achieved in the completed lower classes.
  • State vocational examination, confirms obtaining vocational qualification. The examination has two parts: written and practical. The candidate has to pass both in order to receive a vocational certificate/diploma. The exam is centrally organised and based on uniform requirements: the same examination tasks, assessed according to the same criteria and organised in the same way regardless of where the examination is held.
  • Journeyman's examination (egzamin czeladniczy), exam for learners participating in juvenile employment organised by an employer in the craft trades. It has two parts: practical and theoretical. The practical part consists of tasks individually performed by a candidate. The theoretical part is both written and oral. Tasks are based on common examination requirements and the curriculum of the occupation.

As of September 2019, taking the State vocational examination or journeyman's examination is required for all learners as a condition for school graduation.

Diplomas/certificates provided

This programme leads to:

  • a school leaving certificate giving learners a basic sectoral education;
  • a vocational qualification (vocational certificate) after passing the State vocational examination;
  • a vocational qualifications diploma for a single-qualification occupation (after passing the State vocational examination and obtaining a school leaving certificate).

Learners participating in juvenile employment organised by an employer in the craft trades obtain a Journeyman's certificate.

Examples of qualifications

The programme provides single-qualification occupations, for example: electromechanical worker (elektromechanik), locksmith (ślusarz), car tinsmith (blacharz samochodowy), gardener (ogrodnik), tailor (krawiec).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Completion of this programme provides access to further education: at the second year of general upper secondary programmes for adults or in the 2-year second stage sectoral programme.

Destination of graduates

According to the Labour force survey (LFS), in the fourth quarter of 2020, the employment rate (1 year after completing education) was 66.7% ( 87 ).

Awards through validation of prior learning

Yes

A vocational certificate can be awarded after passing the State vocational examination extramurally. Persons can take extramural State vocational examinations conducted by regional examination boards if they are over 18 years old, have completed a lower secondary programme or an 8-year primary programme and have at least 2 years of learning or work in an occupation relating to the targeted qualification ( 88 ). If they do not have 2 years of learning or work experience, they can enrol in a vocational qualifications course (KKZ). By taking extramural exams, adults can also acquire a certificate of completion of the general education programme.

General education subjects

Yes

The first stage sectoral programme combines general and vocational education.

Key competences

Yes

The core curriculum for general education determines the learning outcomes relating to the general education component and key competences provided by VET programmes.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Yes

Each qualification includes specific sets of learning outcomes defined in the core curriculum for vocational education. Learning outcomes are grouped in units, which typically contain from several to over a dozen learning outcomes and reflect specific professional tasks. The core curriculum for general education determines the learning outcomes relating to the general education component and key competences provided by VET programmes.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

19% ( 89 )

ECVET or other credits

Not applicable

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

This programme began operating as of the 2020/21 school year. The curriculum of the second stage sectoral programme combines general and vocational education. The vocational parts consist of theoretical and practical aspects.

General education in this programme is planned to be limited, with the main focus placed on vocational training to be conducted in the form of vocational qualification courses. Schools have a relatively high level of independence regarding the organisation of practical training. The school director decides on the share of work-based learning, but it cannot be less than 50% of the hours foreseen for vocational education (which combines both theoretical and practical training).

Main providers

This programme began operating as of the 2020/21 school year.

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

>=50% ( 91 )

The per centages of WBL for the second stage sectoral programme vary depending on the following criteria: form of teaching; type of profession; type of learner, i.e. phased out lower secondary school (gimnazjum) graduate or primary school graduate. Number of hours for vocational education (both theoretical and practical) is provided in the Core curriculum for education in a profession of sectoral education (Podstawa programowa kształcenia w zawodzie szkolnictwa branżowego;) and according to the Teaching programme totals not less than 50% of the total number of hours for a given form of teaching.

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

The practical part of vocational education can be offered in:

  • school workshops;
  • continuing education centres ( 92 ), vocational training centres ( 93 ) and with an employer (can be organised in different ways, partially or fully at an employers' premises, including also dual training/alternate training).

A distinctive form of practical training is on-the-job training, which will be mandatory for learners of second stage sectoral programmes and lasts from 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the type of occupation.

Main target groups

This second stage sectoral programme aims to develop further the vocational qualifications attained in the first stage sectoral programme. The programme is available to graduates of the first stage sectoral programmes who obtained a qualification that constitutes part of an occupation taught in the second stage sectoral school. This programme is open to adult learners who want to expand their qualifications.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Learners should have a first stage sectoral school leaving certificate and a vocational certificate of a qualification constituting part of an occupation taught in the second stage sectoral programme.

First stage sectoral programme graduates are usually 18 years old.

Assessment of learning outcomes

The following forms of assessment of learning outcomes are foreseen for learners.

  • School leaving certificate: confirms that a learner completed the programme. It contains a list of subjects covered and the final grades achieved. It gives a learner a secondary sectoral education, though this is not the same as attaining a vocational qualification. No external exam is required to obtain a school leaving certificate. Final grades are based on internal continuous assessments of learners; the certificates comprise an annual classification of grades determined in the highest-level class and an annual classification of grades achieved in the completed lower classes.
  • State vocational examination (taking this is obligatory for school graduation as of September 2019): confirms obtaining vocational qualification. The examination has two parts: written and practical. The candidate has to pass both in order to receive a vocational certificate/diploma. The exam is centrally organised and based on uniform requirements: the same examination tasks, assessed according to the same criteria and organised in the same way regardless of where the examination is held.
  • School leaving examination (matura): a state, uniform secondary school leaving examination based on the core curriculum for general education and providing access to tertiary education. As of September 2019, the vocational diploma in an occupation taught on the level of 'technician' allows learners to skip one additional subject in the matura exam (only for learners who study according to the 2019 VET core curriculum). The matura exam consists of two parts: an oral part (internal and assessed at school) and a written part, external, set by the Central Examination Board (Centralna Komisja Egzaminacyjna) and assessed by examiners included in the registers of the regional examination boards (Okręgowa Komisja Egzaminacyjna).
Diplomas/certificates provided

This programme leads to:

  • a school leaving certificate giving learners a secondary sectoral education;
  • a vocational qualification (vocational certificate) after passing the State vocational examination;
  • a vocational qualifications diploma for occupations consisting of two qualifications (issued when a learner obtained both qualifications distinguished in an occupation and a school leaving certificate).
Examples of qualifications

Chemical technology technician (technik technologii chemicznej), hospitality technician (technik hotelarstwa), telecommunications technician (technik telekomunikacji).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Second stage sectoral programme graduates will be eligible to continue to tertiary education after passing the secondary school leaving examination (matura).

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Yes

A vocational certificate can be awarded after passing the State vocational examination extramurally.

Persons can take extramural State vocational examinations conducted by regional examination boards if they are over 18 years old, have completed a lower secondary programme or an 8-year primary programme and have at least 2 years of learning or work in an occupation relating to the targeted qualification ( 94 ). If they do not have 2 years of learning or work experience, they can enrol in a vocational qualifications course (KKZ). By taking extramural exams, adults can also acquire a certificate of completion of the general education programme.

General education subjects

Yes

The second stage sectoral programme combines general and vocational education.

Key competences

Yes

The core curriculum for general education determines the learning outcomes relating to the general education component and key competences provided by VET programmes.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Yes

Each qualification includes specific sets of learning outcomes defined in the core curriculum for vocational education. Learning outcomes are grouped in units, which typically contain from several to over a dozen learning outcomes and reflect specific professional tasks. The core curriculum for general education determines the learning outcomes relating to the general education component and key competences provided by VET programmes.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

<1% ( 95 )

ECVET or other credits

Not applicable

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

It provides educational activities (personal and social functioning classes, communication skills development classes, creativity development classes, physical education and job training classes), revalidation activities, and job training classes.

Main providers

Special job-training schools:

  • public schools (vast majority of schools) operated by local (county) authorities;
  • non-public schools with public school accreditation operated by different providers (associations, foundations).
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Share of work-based learning is not specified by the regulations. Job training classes constitute over half of the hours foreseen for the educational activities. The programme is developed and adjusted to the specific needs of the learner by a lead teacher.

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

Mainly practical training at school, including school workshops.

Main target groups

This programme is intended for young learners with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities or multiple disabilities.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Learners should have a primary school leaving certificate; primary school graduates are usually 15 years old. Additional enrolment requires confirmation from a psychological and social support institution on the need for this form of education (certificate recommending special education or rehabilitation-and-education classes).

Assessment of learning outcomes

Learners do not take any external exams.

Descriptive assessment is used on the school-leaving certificate.

This programme leads to a job-readiness certificate (based on the teacher's assessment) to perform specific tasks and not to a vocational qualification.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Learners receive a school leaving certificate and a job-readiness certificate.

Examples of qualifications

Not applicable

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Those who complete this programme can perform some tasks in certain labour market occupations.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

No

General education subjects

Yes

It combines vocational and general education.

Key competences

Yes

It provides educational activities (personal and social functioning classes, communication skills development classes, creativity development classes and physical education).

Application of learning outcomes approach

No

The core curriculum for this programme presents the aims of training, school assignments, forms of classes and detailed teaching content.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

1% ( 97 )

ECVET or other credits

Not applicable

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

These programmes are strictly vocational and do not include general education. The vocational parts consist of theoretical and practical aspects. They are mostly school-based. Schools have a relatively high level of independence regarding the organisation of practical training. The school director decides on the share of work-based learning, but it cannot be less than 50% of the hours foreseen for vocational education.

Main providers

Post-secondary schools:

  • public schools operated by local and regional authorities, associations, national companies;
  • non-public schools with public school accreditation operated by different providers (associations, foundations, companies, HEIs);
  • non-public schools without public school accreditation operated by different providers (companies – natural persons, commercial-law companies).
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

≥ 44.6% for programme in the day form

≥ 48.5% for programme in the stationary or extramural form ( 98 )

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

The practical part of vocational education can be offered in:

  • school workshops;
  • continuing education centres ( 99 ) and vocational training centres ( 100 );
  • with an employer (can be organised in different ways, partially or fully at an employers' premises, including also dual training/alternate training).

On-the-job training, a distinctive form of practical training, is mandatory for learners of post-secondary programmes and lasts from 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the type of occupation.

Main target groups

They are available to graduates of any kind of secondary programme.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Learners should have a completed a general or vocational upper secondary programme (graduates of general and vocational upper secondary programmes and second stage sectoral programmes).

Assessment of learning outcomes

The following forms of assessment of learning outcomes are foreseen:

  • school leaving certificate: confirms that a learner completed the programme. It contains a list of subjects covered and the final grades achieved. No external exam is required to obtain a school leaving certificate. Final grades are based on internal continuous assessments of learners; the certificate comprises the annual classification of grades determined in the highest-level class and the annual classification of grades achieved in the completed lower classes.
  • State vocational examination (taking the exam is obligatory for school graduation as of September 2019): confirms the attainment of a vocational qualification. The examination has two parts: written and practical. The candidate has to pass both in order to receive a vocational certificate/diploma. The exam is centrally organised and based on uniform requirements: the same examination tasks, assessed according to the same criteria and organised in the same way regardless of where the examination is held.
Diplomas/certificates provided

This programme leads to:

  • a school leaving certificate;
  • a vocational qualification (vocational certificate) after passing the State vocational examination;
  • a vocational qualifications diploma (issued when a learner has obtained all qualifications distinguished in an occupation and a school leaving certificate).
Examples of qualifications

Administration technician (technik administracji), cosmetics services technician (technik usług kosmetycznych), optician technician (technik optyk), numerous medical qualifications including dental hygienist (higienistka stomatologiczna), pharmaceutical technician (technik farmaceutyczny), electrocardiograph technician (technik elektroradiolog ).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Post-secondary programme graduates can enter the labour market. Those who have passed the matura exam are eligible to continue on to tertiary education, however, the programme does not provide such direct access.

Destination of graduates

According to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), in the fourth quarter of 2020, the employment rate of recent vocational upper secondary programme and post-secondary school-based programmes graduates (1 year after completing education) was 58.7% ( 101 ).

Awards through validation of prior learning

Yes

A vocational certificate can be awarded after passing the State vocational examination extramurally.

Persons can take extramural State vocational examinations conducted by regional examination boards if they are over 18 years old, have completed a lower secondary programme or an 8-year primary programme and have at least 2 years of learning or work in an occupation relating to the targeted qualification ( 102 ). If they do not have 2 years of learning or work experience, they can enrol in a vocational qualifications course (KKZ).

By taking extramural exams adults can also acquire a certificate of completion of the general education programme.

General education subjects

No

These programmes are strictly vocational and do not include general education.

Key competences

Yes

Application of learning outcomes approach

Yes

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

18% ( 103 )