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Types of schools in Poland

What is the education system in Poland like?

The Polish education system is divided into the following stages:

  • - kindergarten (for children aged 3– 6);
  • - primary school (8 classes; for children aged 7– 15);
  • - secondary schools:

- 5-year technical secondary school

- 4-year general secondary school

- 3-year industry first-cycle school

- 2-year second-cycle industry school

- 3-year special school preparing for work

- Post-secondary school

At each stage, there are public (run by public institutions and largely funded) and private (private owner run and wholly non-public) institutions. The third form includes the so-called community schools, run by foundations or parents' associations and maintained by them.

Education in public schools is free, in private and community schools it is paid (except for students covered by scholarship programs, run by some private or social institutions). The stay of a child in a public kindergarten is partially financed by local government authorities. Exceptions include pre-school classes run in primary schools only for the oldest children who will start school from the following school year (zero kindergarten level). The child's stay in kindergartens is free - more information on this is available below

Institutions for children aged 0-3 years

  • - nurseries
  • - children's clubs

 Attending a nursery is optional. Nurseries can be private (paid) and public (free). The number of places in public nurseries is limited.



Public kindergartens are intended for children aged 3 to 5 (in exceptional cases, they can also accept children aged 2.5 years). They perform caring and pedagogical functions. T0hey provide care for children while their parents are at work, but also promote social development (contacts with peers in their age group) and intellectual development (educational activities). For foreign children, they are also a great opportunity to learn the Polish language.

Public kindergartens are open Monday through Friday, and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Local self-government authorities determine how many hours of a child's daily stay in kindergarten is free (minimum 5 hours a day), and how many hours of stay must be additionally paid by parents if the child is there longer than the minimum. The local government also sets the hourly rates for paid stay in a kindergarten for a given calendar year - the rates vary between cities. As a rule, parents also pay for food for a child in a kindergarten. Parents also pay to the parent committee (several zlotys), sometimes they are asked to buy stationery or pay money for it). In addition to curricular educational activities conducted by kindergarten employees, most institutions also offer various paid additional classes adapted to the age of children (e.g. dancing, art, learning English).  The total cost in a public kindergarten is approximately PLN 300-400 per month.

A stay in kindergarten is compulsory for 6-year-old children, as the last period of stay in kindergarten serves to prepare the child for school.

Children enrolment in public kindergartens usually starts in March (for the school year beginning on September 1). Priority is always given to children residing in a given commune (city, district). Local governments may establish additional criteria for admitting to their kindergartens children residing in the territory of another local government. Every child who turns 3 in a given year must be admitted to a kindergarten. It may turn out, however, that it will not be the kindergarten indicated by parents, but a kindergarten with vacancies (sometimes far from the place of residence).

An electronic system for enrolling children in kindergartens has been introduced in many large cities. Thanks to it, it is possible to create a list of institutions where parents would like to enrol their children. (Parents give their preferences in this regard, i.e. the first-choice kindergarten - where they would like to enrol their child the most, and others that they would choose if there were no vacancies in the most desirable one).

Later joining the group is possible only if there are vacancies, which are often missing.

Foreign children are admitted to public kindergartens on the same terms as Polish children. Parents interested in enrolling a child in kindergarten should refer to the admission criteria set by the local authority. For this purpose, they can contact the selected kindergarten or the appropriate department in the commune or city office competent for the place where they want to live during their stay in Poland.

If it is not possible to find a vacancy in a public kindergarten, you can use a private kindergarten, where the fees are much higher (more information is available here), or entrust the care of a child to a family member or a hired guardian.



Foreign children are admitted to kindergarten, the first grade of primary or art school on the same terms and in the same manner as Polish children. The basic document is an application for admission to a kindergarten or school, filled in on a special form or electronically (in some cities there is an electronic system for enrolling children in kindergarten or the first grade of primary school - detailed information is provided by schools or education departments of local governments, commune, city or town or district offices - in the place of residence chosen by the foreigner for the duration of their stay in Poland).

Admission of a child to older grades of primary school, secondary school or upper secondary school is based on:

  • - a certificate or other document confirming the completion of a school or another stage of education abroad, recognized - in accordance with separate regulations - as equivalent to the Polish certificate of completion of the relevant school or a secondary school-leaving certificate;
  • - a certificate, statement or other document issued by a school abroad confirming the foreigner's attendance at a school abroad and indicating the grade or stage of education that the foreigner completed at a school abroad, and a document confirming the total of the foreigner's school years. 

If, on the basis of the presented documents, it is not possible to clearly determine the total years of school education, the parents or guardians of the foreign child or the adult student himself / herself shall submit a written declaration on this matter.

If a foreigner cannot submit the above-mentioned documents, they are admitted and qualified for the appropriate class or semester on the basis of an interview. The interview is conducted by the school principal. If the child does not know Polish or does not know it sufficiently to conduct such an interview, the principal must conduct it in the language that the child is fluent in. In order to translate, they should ensure the presence of a person who is fluent in both the foreign language and Polish (unless the principal himself / herself is fluent enough in the foreign language known to the child and they do not need the translation).

To sum up, the principle cannot oblige a foreigner to obtain a certificate confirming the recognition of the child's school certificate. If a foreigner does not have a recognized foreign certificate, a certificate, statement or other document issued by the school abroad and a document confirming total school years, and in the absence of such documents - an interview is the basis for admission to a Polish public school. However, the principle may request the parents to provide a sworn translation of documents issued by the foreign school.

If, on the other hand, a foreign child applies for admission to a school where additional admission criteria apply to Polish citizens (e.g. a test of artistic, language skills, sports skills, medical certificates for practising sports, etc.), the foreign child must also meet the criteria.


Zero level classes

Zero level classes, also known as zero classes, are intended for children who will start their education in the first year of primary school in the next school year. Children must start school at the age of 7. As for six-year-old children, parents decide for themselves whether their child will go to the first grade, where they will learn the same as seven-year-olds, or to the first grade. The choice of one of the two forms is compulsory (i.e. a six-year-old must go to either grade 0 or first grade).

Kindergartens, i.e. classes that prepare children to start school, in particular to learn to write, read and count, can be organized in kindergartens or primary schools.

The rules for financing a child's stay in a kindergarten depend on the type of institution in which it is organized - in kindergartens the stay is partially paid, at school - free of charge. In both types of institutions, parents pay for the costs of feeding a child attending a grade.

Both types of institutions provide care for children until late afternoon hours.


Primary school

Public primary schools are subject to zoning, it means that a given school must accept every child residing in its area, i.e. in a given area (in the case of small towns, the perimeter of the school may be an entire town or even several, in large cities, the region is designated by several streets). A child may also be admitted to a school other than the regional school (also known as the district school) at the parents' request - then the decision to accept the child rests with the school principal.

Primary school education lasts six years and is divided into two stages. In grades 1-3, children have the so-called pre-primary education. There is no clear division into subjects such as Polish, mathematics, science, etc. One teacher teaches most of the subjects, they are also class teachers. Only specialized subjects (foreign languages, physical education - the so-called PE, i.e. sports activities - and arts subjects) may be taught by another teacher or teachers. From the first grade, the program also includes learning a foreign language - usually English

The school provides free care for children from grades 1-3, usually from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm. During this time, there are free and paid extracurricular activities, and in many schools children can also do their homework under the supervision of one of day care teachers.

In grades IV-VIII, there is already a division into subjects taught by different teachers, one of whom is also the class teacher, it means that they are especially responsible for educational matters. In some schools, a second foreign language is added to the curriculum - it differs depending on the school.

Children from older grades may use the common care room only in exceptional circumstances.

All students of the school can enjoy lunches in the school canteen, for which parents pay monthly in advance (parents can collect money for the child's absence, provided that it is reported to the school administration).

During primary school education, children take a nationwide test at the end of grade VIII. It usually takes place in April, on the same day and at the same time throughout Poland.


Eighth grade exam

The exam is compulsory - students must take it in order to graduate. There is no minimum score specified (they cannot fail this exam).

It is a written exam covering the following subjects: Polish language, mathematics, a foreign language. Since 2022, an exam in one of the subjects: biology, geography, history, physics or chemistry.

Laureates of provincial or national competitions in this subject are entitled to exemptions from the obligation to take an exam in the given subject. The rest of the students may be exempted only for health or random reasons. The school principal applies to the director of the district examination commission (OKE) for such an exemption. According to some experts, insufficient knowledge of the Polish language by a newcomer to Poland is such a random factor, while others disagree with this interpretation. In each specific case, the decision rests with the district examination committee.

Foreign children take the exam on conditions and in forms adapted to their needs. Detailed information on the adjustments is announced by the Central Examination Commission.

Detailed information on the eighth grade exam is available on the website of the Central Examination Commission.


Secondary schools

Secondary schools in Poland are schools that a student starts after graduating from a primary school. There are several types of them:

  • - 4-year general secondary school (LO) completed with the matura examination;
  • - 5-year technical secondary school completed with a vocational diploma and the matura examination;
  • - 3-year 1st degree industry school completed with a diploma confirming professional qualifications in selected professions;
  • - 2-year second-level industry school completed with a diploma confirming professional qualifications; students will have the opportunity to take the matura examination

For graduates of high schools and technical schools, further education is available in post-secondary schools or - after passing the matriculation examination - at universities.

People who do not graduate from high school, technical college or industry school have the option of continuing their education in a high school for adults - such a high school can also be completed with the matura examination.

Secondary schools themselves determine the criteria for admitting candidates. In order to find out about the rules of admission to a given school, you need to contact them directly (this information can most often also be found on the website of the selected school).



Matriculation examination

The matura examination is a national, nationwide exam for high school and technical secondary school graduates, held in all schools in Poland at the same time, usually in May. It is not obligatory. Passing this exam is a condition for continuing education at universities.

The matura examination consists of an oral part (2 examinations: Polish and a foreign language) and a written part (4 examinations:  Polish language, mathematics, foreign language, selected additional subject).

A student may take examinations in no more than five subjects

The condition for passing the exam is to obtain 30% of the possible points in each subject taken in the compulsory part.

Detailed information on the matura examination is available on the website of the Central Examination Commission  only in Polish.


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