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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Adult education and training


8.Adult education and training

Last update: 19 March 2024

Many concepts and terms related to the adult education policy in Poland may be understood differently, depending on the setting and context where they are used. This refers, in particular, to adult education and training discussed in this chapter. The understanding of the term ‘adult education’ has evolved in the recent decades. Research and policy discourse have used a wide range of terms: adult education, permanent education, lifelong education, continuing education, and learning in adulthood to emphasise responsibility and motivation and individualised learning approaches.

Since 2013, efforts have been made to embed in the field of education terms which are convergent with definitions of lifelong learning (UNESCO, OECD and EU documents), including adult education and training. At that time, the Government adopted new strategic documents, ‘The Lifelong Learning Perspective’ (Perspektywa uczenia się przez całe życie) and ‘The Human Capital Development Strategy’ (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Ludzkiego), which defined basic policy terms for lifelong learning.

The key factors in making lifelong learning a reality are skills and conditions and opportunities for skills development as these are necessary for social capital enhancement, economic growth and high quality of life. As a major achievement in devising an integrated skills strategy, which covers the entire education and training system, Poland adopted the ‘Integrated Skills Strategy 2030’ (ISS 2023), Warsaw, 2020, Ministry of National Education (documents in English: general part and detailed part). The document was developed in close cooperation with all relevant government bodies and stakeholders. This approach was based on the assumption that the relevance of the ISS would largely depend on the involvement a wide range of stakeholders. Consultations on the ISS 2030 were held at each stage of the development process and involved representatives of several dozen institutions.

Two other documents relevant to adult education in the context of adult skills are: the OECD Skills Strategy Poland: Assessment and Recommendations, OECD Skills Studies (OECD Publishing, Paris, 2019) (accessed August 2023) presented in December 2019; and the Integrated Skills Strategy (detailed part) adopted as a public policy by the Government in December 2020. The ISS sets a policy for skills development in line with the idea of lifelong learning, thus referring to the OECD document (accessed August 2023). The skills development policy is implemented in line with the idea of lifelong learning, which refers to the OECD document (accessed August 2023). The ISS is also in line with the national development management system, integrating national strategic documents (with regard to skills), namely: the Strategy for Responsible Development to 2020 (with a 2030 perspective) (Strategia na rzecz Odpowiedzialnego Rozwoju), the Lifelong Learning Perspective (2013), and integrated and supra-regional strategies.

Policy documents adopted in Poland and the EU and the national legislation for school education use the following terms relating to adult education and training:

  1. Continuing education (CE) (kształcenie ustawiczne), defined in the Law on School Education (ustawa Prawo oświatowe) (Article 4, section 30). CE is understood as education / training in schools for adults, stage II sectoral vocational schools and post-secondary schools, and as acquisition of new and supplementary knowledge, skills and vocational / professional qualifications in non-school settings by individuals who have completed full-time compulsory education. Education and training in Poland are aimed at the adult population (over the age of 18) of 37.9 million, with the working age population (aged 25 to 64 years) representing 59.1% (2022). The European reference group for adult education and training are adults aged 25-64 years who participated in education or training in the four weeks preceding the survey.
  2. Adult education (AE) (edukacja dorosłych) is used as an equivalent for adult education and training (AET) (kształcenie i szkolenia dorosłych). The scope of AET extends far beyond the fields of school education and higher education and traditional training courses leading to qualifications. AET is also provided as on-the-job practical training or as organised activities of citizens’ groups or communities. There is no comprehensive definition of AET in Poland. This may result, on the one hand, from a vast area it covers, and on the other hand, from difficulties in assigning the responsibility for this type of education and training provision to a single administrative structure.
  3. Adult learning is understood as learning at the adult life stage, a stage of lifelong learning in various forms and settings (formal, non-formal and informal). In this context, adult learning is part of a sequence of learning activities accompanying the entire life from early years to advanced old age. Skills that individuals possess, develop and acquire play a key role in adult learning understood in this way. In the strategic documents, and in particular the 2030 Integrated Skills Strategy, development of skills (basic, transversal, vocational or professional) is closely linked to lifelong learning in its various (personal, family, social and professional) contexts.


According to EUROSTAT, the AET participation rates for adult Poles have remained below the EU average for many years (see the table below).

Adult participation in lifelong learning
Year European Union (27 countries)* Poland
2012 8.2 4.5
2013 9.9 4.3
2014 10.1 4.0
2015 10.1 3.5
2016 10.3 3.7
2017 10.4 4.0
2018 10.6 5.7
2019 10.8 4.8
2020 9.1 3.7
2021 10.8 5.4
2022 11.9 7.6

Source: Eurostat (SDG_04_60; data for 27.08.2022), * EU-28 between 2013 and 2019; EU-27 since 2020.

The proportion of adult Poles aged 25-64 years who participated in AET in 2022 was 7.6%, which indicates a marked increase as compared to the previous years. (See findings from the Adult Education Surveys conducted by the Central Statistical Office every 6 years; most recent publication: 2018 (text in Polish with key data in English)


In this context, the publication “Determinants of learning in adulthood. Report on the Study „Adult Learning in Poland” (M. Petelewicz et al., Uwarunkowania uczenia się w dorosłości. Raport z badania „Uczenie się dorosłych Polaków”, Warsaw, Educational Research Institute, 2023, accessed August 2023) is worthy of notice. Its findings show that during the 12 months preceding the survey, 2/3 of adult Poles intentionally participated in at least one activity as part of formal or non-formal learning, or workplace learning (excluding compulsory training in health and safety at work). Participation in such forms of learning is higher the lower is the level of its formalisation. Levels of participation in learning in adulthood vary depending on the age, educational attainment, labour market participation and the occupation or profession. Young and better educated people and those in professions requiring specialised skills are more likely to participate in learning. These findings are also corroborated by the results of “The 2022/2021 Study of Human Capital: Report on Employers Survey. Return to reality? The second year of the pandemic in the eyes of Polish companies” (Bilans Kapitału Ludzkiego 2022/2021 – Raport z badania pracodawców. Powrót do rzeczywistości? Drugi rok pandemii oczami polskich firm), and „Competence Development: Adult Learning and the Training and Development Sector” (Rozwój kompetencji – uczenie się dorosłych i sektor szkoleniowo-rozwojowy) (accessed August 2023).

AET is the most diversified area of education and training in Poland. This is due not only to the diversity of the target groups, their age and social and professional status, forms of education and training, methods for the validation of learning outcomes achieved, in particular, in non-formal and informal learning, but also to the wide range of providers. In identifying AET, all sectors of socio-economic activity (public administration, business entities and non-governmental organisations) should be taken into consideration as, unlike in school education, the State does not have a dominating position in AET. With regard to its objectives and organisational form, AET may be divided into formal and non-formal education / learning, which is illustrated by the diagram below.

AET divided into formal and non-formal education

Source: Author’s own elaboration.

The diagram does not include informal learning as it is not considered as part of the institutionalised adult education and training network. Informal learning remains ‘outside’ the network presented in the diagram, although some of its learning outcomes may be validated and, consequently, become certified learning outcomes which are increasingly important in adult education. This learning sector forms a whole together with the other sectors of education and training, and learners may attain each qualification level through both formal education and other learning paths.

As part of the National Recovery Plan, Sectoral Skills Centres (Branżowe Centra Umiejętności) are being established in Poland. They will conduct 4 types of activities: education and training; support for cooperation between schools, higher education institutions and other educational institutions, and employers; innovation and development; and consultancy or advisory services. As part of their education and training activities, Centres will, for example, develop new sectoral qualifications for adults who are interested in acquiring or changing their qualifications (see Chapter 8.5, Validation of non-formal and informal learning outcomes). 


Adult education and training in Poland

The main sources of data on AET (or, rather, some of its segments) are:

  • The EU Labour Force Survey (LFS), supplemented by the Adult Education Survey (AES) (most recent publication in Polish, with key data in English) and the Continuing Vocational Training in Enterprises (CVTE) Survey conducted every 5 years by the Central Statistical Office (Główny Urząd Statystyczny) (the most recent one published in 2022). CVTE Surveys are comparative studies carried out in most EU countries. 
  • The Study of Human Capital (Badanie Bilans Kapitału Ludzkiego, BKL) (accessed August 2023) conducted periodically since 2010 by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (Polska Agencja Rozwoju Przedsiębiorczości, PARP) and the Jagiellonian University in Cracow.
  • The Study on Adult Learning in Poland (Uczenie się dorosłych Polaków) conducted by the Educational Research Institute (2023).

Furthermore, there are Sectoral Studies of Human Capital, which currently cover the IT and financial sectors (publication under preparation).  Data on adult competences is also collected as part of the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC). An extended version of the survey has been conducted in Poland as the Post-PIAAC Programme (text in Polish) (accessed August 2023).