THE REPORT OF PUBLIC MONITOR OF EDUCATION
‘EDUCATION – DIFFICULT YEARS. MAY 2006 – SEPTEMBER 2007’
SUMMARY

1. The structure and recommendations

Part 1: Public Monitoring of Education – description of activities

Part 2: The report

Part 3: Recommendations

1. Socio-political conditions of reforms’ success in education

Minimising the politicising of education
We are aware that fully apolitical education is unachievable. Each political party which gains power appoints their own people for ministers, including the Minister of Education, to implement their program. However the last year has shown that it is exceptionally dangerous to entrust education to a party’s chief, especially a party of radical views. It is impossible to introduce a formal ban in that matter. Nevertheless, citizens and public opinion, among others expressed by the media, must fulminate against such actions as may be harmful to education.

Introducing changes in education resulting from a reliable and objective diagnosis
Education lacks results of independent research. Many political decisions are based on unsupported beliefs, stereotypes and myths. There is a need for constant and multi-thread analyses of chosen problems and monitoring of changes which are being implemented. It should be done by universities or research institutes. Their conclusions and recommendations must constitute the basis for decisions of the Ministry of Education.

Carrying out reliable public consultations
In recent years education has often been subject to surprise decisions, whose origins are unclear, and where the existence and nature of prior consultation is uncertain. It is not known, for example, how the canon of literature was chosen, which team worked on changing the curriculum base or who was accepting changes in the examining system. When it comes to such decisions, which are fundamental for education, there must be a public course of consultations, which must be respected by authorities. In case of exceptionally important decisions of strategic significance, public debates should be carried out, with the participation of a wide range of experts. Parliament may widely use the procedure of public hearings. Activating participating parties will be beneficial for the process of taking decisions and will also result in bigger engagement of the interested in the implementation of enacted changes.

Introduce a statutory office for equality
Counteracting discrimination, the source of many problems in education, and elsewhere in society, should be one of the priorities of public authorities. Presently there is no such office which could act as an authority for counteracting discrimination in Poland.

2. Urgent matters

Freedom in choosing curricula and textbooks
A small change to the education system act will restore the freedom of choosing curricula and textbooks to teachers.

Uniforms in the hands of parents and pupils
Education system act requires urgent change. Schools, parents and teachers should themselves take decisions concerning school uniforms after considering pupils’ opinions.

Exams in the act
The experience of the lyceum final exams amnesty shows that the Minister may change regulations concerning exams too easily, even during or after they are finished. Therefore general regulations concerning exams should be written into the education system act. They could be altered only with appropriate prior notice. The system of external exams must undergo constant monitoring, both as far as required standards and clear procedures.

Safety in schools
Decisions concerning ways of ensuring safety should be taken in schools, the decisive vote belongs to pedagogic council and parents’ council. Prevalence of cameras is not conducive to good education. More important is training for educators and teachers, training for pupils, along with stimulating extra-curricular activities.

Educational centres
It is advisable to abolish the idea of Centres for Educational Support (Ośrodek Wsparcia Wychowawczego). The basis for their operation is illegal (youths being sent there without the prior consent of the courts). Instead support should be given to the pre-existing Youth Educational Centres (Młodzieżowy Ośrodek Wychowawczy) and Youth Sociotherapy Centres (Młodzieżowy Ośrodek Socjoterapii), which are of important preventive significance.

Sexual education
Implementing learning of the subject is, as public opinion polls show, expected by pupils and parents. It may be done in relatively short period of time.

Education Superintendent
Previous regulations concerning competition for the post of Education Superintendent, which has been changed by the parliament in the last year, should be restored. It will make it possible to make the post apolitical. Additionally a regulation obliging the voivod to appoint the winner by open competition (unless the minister, within 14 days, lodges justified objections to the candidacy) should be included in the education system act.

Restoring good relations with European organisation
In order to return to ‘the European educational community’ the following actions should be performed urgently:
- Addressing the issue of signing the Istanbul Declaration and signing it. It addresses the long-standing cooperation of member states within the frameworks of program concerning civil education and human rights.
- Restoring the distribution of the guide ‘Compass’ (‘Kompas’).
- Addressing the issue of re-appointing the director of CODN.
- Issuing a statement concerning civil education and human rights in Poland.
- Establishing a working group for civil education and human rights in co-operation with the Education Minister. The group will be made up of representatives of non-governmental and state sectors. The group should deal with implementation of guidelines of European Council resulting from documents from Istanbul.

Mark from religion classes included in the total mark
In this case Constitution Tribunal is to give judgement. An objection has been also filed with the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

3. Long-term actions

Changes in education need time, and their results are noticeable only after several parliamentary terms. Therefore fundamental points should be the subject of all-party agreement, which will make it possible to implement them systematically, regardless of the political situation. It is necessary to identify some basic directions of changes required in education and accepting for them a specific pact accepted by the most important political forces. It will prevent constant reversals and the withdrawing of previously taken decisions, as well as wasting time, money and human resources. Among such strategic activities there are:

Expenditures for education, including means for pay rises for teachers.
Education is a field which absorbs significant funds from the state budget. However the expenditures are still low compared to the needs. The issue of teachers’ salaries is of pressing concern, requiring restructuring. It is not possible to increase salaries in education in a year. Therefore, at the very least, a 5-year strategy should be worked out connected with the increase of expenditures for education. It would also prevent, to a certain degree, giving unreal election promises, which are never realised.

Training of teachers.
In the near future significant changes should be implemented in training of teachers towards practical preparation for the profession. The European Union documents, Goal 1.1. of Lisbon Strategy states: Improving the quality of education and training for teachers and trainers. Presently it is believed that a teacher must have:
- interpersonal competency,
- pedagogic competency,
- subject knowledge and methodology,
- organisational competency,
- competency in co-operating with fellow teachers,
- competency in interacting with local environment,
- ability for self-assessment and development.
Changes in Polish education will not be possible without teachers mastering these competencies.

Popularising pre-school education
Pre-school education is of basic significance for a child’s development. Nursery schools are a necessity, not a luxury. It is a step to ensure common education. However the percentage of children going to nursery schools in Poland is presently the lowest in Europe. The reasons for this are known, still we need a project of activities, in result of which in 4-5 years approx. 85% of 4-year olds will be in pre-school education. The project should provide the possibility of financial support for local communities which cannot afford to run nursery schools (also with support from EU structural funds). Alternative forms of pre-school education, which prove very useful in villages and are cheaper than traditional nursery schools, should be developed.

Lowering the age of compulsory schooling
Education in school should start at the age of 6. Such a solution requires however many preparations: organizational, curriculum changes, etc. Admittance of 6-year olds into the school system should be phased in gradually, over a period of 2 or 3 years. The project of lowering school entry age requires additional financial resources assigned for adjusting the school base, increasing educational funding and preparing teachers for integrated education. Simultaneously there is a need to introduce the right for a 1-year preparation for 5-year olds. After lowering the school entry age, the education system would cover children between the ages of 6 and 18.

Curriculum reform
Several governments, including the last one which is described in the report, made less or more accidental changes in curriculum base of the common education. However the document is still incoherent, which influences further educational establishments. For example, lycea realise a 4-year curriculum from before the reform, being now limited to 3 years of teaching. A coherent curriculum base is essential. As previous experience shows work on such things usually takes a long time, and subsequent incumbents of Ministry of National Education do not build upon the work of their predecessors. Therefore it is necessary to establish, once again, an independent team of experts and finally, for the first time, submit its recommendations to wide consultation, culminating in acceptance of a commonly agreed version. Essential significance in curriculum works should be put on mathematical and scientific subjects, in order to prepare pupils well for a compulsory final maths exam, and simultaneously increase percentage of higher education students following mathematical, scientific and technical specializations.

Vocational education
Vocational education, by way of modern, modular curricula, will face many changes, in order to better connect with the labour market. An urgent decision is needed concerning profiled lycea, which neither prepare for work nor for final exams, nor higher education. However, their intended phasing out must be supplemented with new options for those young people presently choosing such schools. According to Prof. Łukasz Turski, it is important to become familiar with solutions applied in other countries.

Autonomy of schools, widening rights of parents and teachers
A constitutional subsidiarity principle is in force in Poland. In accordance to it decisions should be made on the lowest possible level. It is not allowed to deprive directors and teachers of the right to decide in many organisational, educational and custodial matters. Freedom and responsibility of every school is the guarantee for adapting education to the needs of children and expectations of parents. Schools should decide by themselves about discipline, uniforms, or even curricula and qualifications of teachers, within the frameworks of general legal regulations.

Teaching foreign languages
Knowledge of three languages, including two foreign languages, has been recognised by the European Union as a priority in education. A clear strategy for implementing the target is needed. It is necessary to establish from what age teaching languages should be introduced and assure organisational, personnel and financial conditions for a chosen solution. It should be remembered that knowledge of languages has become a mean of differentiating children from various backgrounds. In order such a situation rural schools and pupils of families of low financial status should receive additional support. Summer language schools, foreign exchange of children and teenagers, specialised computer programs supporting learning languages, are examples of possible ways of acting.

Computerisation in schools
Computerisation, equipping and updating electronic devices, access to Internet, are activities that will constantly accompany education. Every subsequent team leading MEN must continue focussing upon these tasks.

Pedagogical standards – conditions conducive to good upbringing
It is important to define basic pedagogical standards, which would guarantee conditions for the good running of schools, especially conditions conducive to good upbringing, while giving wide autonomy to schools and other educational institutions. Limited size of schools, number of pupils in a class (not more than ...), availability of psychological and pedagogical help, etc. may be numbered among such standards. Such parameters cannot be implemented quickly, they require long-term activities supported by financial resources from the state budget.

Equality of chance in access to education
There are still barriers for children coming from different backgrounds in the Polish education system. A long-lasting strategy of equality of chance, which would cover both scholarship systems in schools and adapting all schools and institutions to teaching children with special educational needs, is necessary. A new problem in Poland is to guarantee conditions for the education of children of foreigners, including refugees.

Credits

The report was prepared by the team composed of:
Alicja Bukowska-Maciejczuk
Elżbieta Czyż
Anna Dzierzgowska
Irena Dzierzgowska
Joanna Gospodarczyk
Katarzyna Koszewska
Maria Kotowska
Zofia Kuklińska
Barbara Murawska
Hanna Ochinowska
Andrzej Pery
Izabela Podsiadło-Dacewicz
Elżbieta Putkiewicz
Anna Rękawek
Jolanta Szymańczak
Ludwik Trammer
Katarzyna Zakroczymska
Janina Zawadowska

Editorial of ‘Education Monitor’ (’Monitor Edukacji’) wants to express their thanks to Prof. Łukasz Turski for his comments and corrections to the chapter ‘Recommendations’.

2. Social Education Monitoring: how it was established and what it is

It started from the collection of signatures under an open letter to the Prime Minister with the appeal to remove Roman Giertych from the post of Minister of Education. In May and June 2006 the letter was signed on the Internet by almost 140 thousand people.

The letter was put on the Internet (www.bezgiertycha.rp4.pl) on the 12th May 2006. In three days it was signed by almost 60 thousand people. On the 15th May the campaign for collecting signatures was suspended and the letter with signatures was submitted to the Chancellery of the Prime Minister.

In the following days the organisers of the campaign were inundated with emails and telephone calls with requests to continue the campaign. The letter was reopened for signatures. On the 8th June 2006 (when the letter with signatures was again submitted to the Prime Minister’s Chancellery) it had been signed by over 137 800 people.

Neither Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, nor his successor Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński replied to the open letter. Organisers of the campaign wrote to the Prime Minister twice more (on the 21st January and 24th June), to remind him that almost 140 thousand people awaited his reply. On the 20th July, over 400 days after submitting the open letter to the Prime Minister’s Chancellery, a letter was received from the Chancellery, which stated: ‘The department confirms receipt of the letter of 24.06.2007 and explains that Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński has been informed of the content of your appeal.’

Meanwhile already on the 2nd June 2006 the organisers of the campaign for collecting signatures started on the Internet, at the address www.monitor.edu.pl, the Public Monitoring of Education (Społeczny Monitoring Edukacji) site.

The project Public Monitoring of Education is a civil monitoring of educational authorities. Its goal is to gather information, publicise it and react to the actions of authorities, which may result in violating the rules of democratic state of law, in limitation of freedom and autonomy of schools, teachers, parents and pupils, violating human rights and reducing the quality of education.

For over a year the team of the Monitor has been gathering information and publishing comments, concerning activities of education authorities. Since January 2007 the Monitor has benefited from the support of Stefan Batory Foundation. Presently a report ‘Education – difficult years. May 2006 – September 2007’ has been prepared within the frameworks of Public Monitor of Education. The report, prepared by a team of experts in education, sums up the results of monitoring carried for 15 months and contains recommendations, concerning desirable directions of changes in education.

In order to get a report in a printed or electronic version, please contact Monitor Edukacji editorial: [email protected]


Społeczny Monitoring Edukacji 2007