Poland is the largest of the East European countries which joined the EU in May 2004. Poland is comparable in size to Italy or Germany (in USA larger than New Mexico) and with a population of approximately 39 million (e.g. more than California) it ranks among the most influential and remarkable countries in central and Eastern Europe. Poland is a stable democracy with a truly fascinating history, great cultural heritage and several areas of outstanding natural beauty.
The Polish education system is based on three-tired principle (primary, secondary and higher education). Compulsory schooling in Poland begins when children are 7-year old, although pre-school nurseries and kindergartens are available for children to enter the schooling system at an earlier stage. Compulsory schooling ends when children reach the age of 17.
Secondary schools include: four-year grammar schools preparing for higher education and professional careers, four and five-year technical schools preparing for professional careers and university education, four-year general technical secondary schools and secondary vocational schools training qualified workers of secondary education, three-year elementary vocational schools training qualified workers. Pupils are admitted to secondary schools on the basis of entrance examinations. Schools implement the syllabus approved by the Minister of National Education. The school year (ten months) is divided into two semesters.
The first four types provide pupils with an education which can lead to the “matura” certificate required for admission to the higher education institutions. Pupils can transfer from Type 5 to the other types of secondary schools (technical or vocational) to gain this qualification. Secondary education ends when pupils are between 19 and 21 years of age, depending on which stream they have taken.