The institutional conditions of adapting to future challenges in the Polish education system

Publication Type: 
Working Paper
CEU Center for Policy Studies
Place of Publication: 
CPS Working Papers
Series Number: 
This paper discusses the Polish education system's reforms since the 1990s and the current challenges facing schools. It provides a brief description of the reforms, mainly the 1999 structural changes and the new curriculum and evaluation system introduced around 2007. It provides evidence on reform outcomes that show a positive impact on student achievement. It also gives insights into how the recent reversal of these reforms was possible and supported by a large share of the population and teachers, despite the evidence. The paper also describes current policy disputes and government attempts to shift attention to ideological discussions about curricula rather than addressing global challenges and the most recent COVID-19 crisis. When discussing global challenges faced by education systems, this paper refers to the concept paper behind this project (Radó, 2020). We argue that only issues related to technological change are addressed in current government proposals. On the other side, Polish schools enjoy considerable autonomy, only partly limited by the recent changes. Thus, the shifts in government policies are mediated by local decisions. The main limitation, however, lies in insufficient resources and poor leadership. School principals have only limited financial resources at their disposal. Instructional leadership in schools does not exist, with individual teachers entirely responsible for their classrooms' pedagogy and organization. In this context, it is not surprising that schools cannot quickly adapt to new challenges. This lack of institutional capacity at the local level is a major obstacle to the further development of the Polish school system.