Poland, highly ranked in Europe in terms of share of population with at least lower secondary education in the 20-24 age group, is also very successful in reducing early school-leaving (ESL). Currently, the ESL rate in Poland, oscillating at a level of 5%, is among the lowest in Europe. The national 2020 strategy assumes it will be further reduced to 4.5%.

Poland has a long tradition of pursuing measures which prevent early school-leaving. For several decades the Voluntary Labour Corps (Ochotnicze Hufce Prace - OHPs), a nationwide, State organisation, has supported the general vocational education system. The overriding goal of OHP operations is to create conditions which foster healthy social and vocational development of young people, particularly measures addressed to young people from disadvantaged groups, lacking the natural family nourishment in developing a career. The OHPs also support various measures to help people moving out of poverty, unemployment and social pathologies.

OHP’s activities are mainly addressed to young people in the 15-25 age group. The main target group includes neglected youth, with fewer life and career opportunities, coming from socially maladjusted communities, with problems at school. Each year, some 32 000 youth are recruited into over 200 organisational educational units, where they will be assisted in learning an occupation and ultimately in finding a job which will help them stabilise their life situation and allow them to break with the pathological environment.

None the less, a low ELS rate cannot lead to self-satisfaction or rely on successes achieved so far. The decisive factors which encourage young people to continue learning and acquire vocational qualifications include attractiveness of the skills and education level attained and successful adaptation to needs of the economy and changing market demands.

Having all this in mind, a new reform introduces several important changes to achieve the above-mentioned goals.

These include, in particular:

  • easing access to VET and making the VET system more flexible;
  • creating opportunities for acquiring qualifications needed in various occupations;
  • changes in the organisational system of education. Ineffective forms will be eliminated, and replaced by more flexible educational pathways (vocational courses for adults enabling them to acquire qualifications);
  • change of the core curricula;
  • changes in organisation of exams to ease the acquisition of new qualifications and learning new occupations. Exams confirming specific qualifications will be held at different levels of the education system, not only following completion of vocational school. The obtained qualifications will be confirmed with a certificate (students will receive a diploma when all the qualifications required in a given occupation have been confirmed);
  • new opportunities for vocational training have been opened outside schools, in the form of vocational courses whose participants will be able to take exams confirming their vocational qualifications.

These changes came into force on 1 September 2012, at the beginning of the new school year.