Basic principles of the assessment system in Poland
The assessment system makes a distinction between two strands: internal and external assessment. The legislative framework for assessment is currently provided by the provisions of the School Education Act (ustawa o systemie oświaty) that have remained in force, supplemented with several Regulations of the minister responsible for school education.
Internal assessment is carried out by schoolteachers against the requirements which they define on the basis of school curricula. This type of assessment covers pupils' learning achievements and aims to support their development. It is primarily formative assessment.
External assessment (summative assessment) is carried out by state institutions which are external to the school: the Central Examination Board and Regional Examination Boards.
Internal assessment of learning achievements involves assessing the level of pupils' knowledge and skills and the progress made in relation to the requirements based on the curricula. Internal assessment covers the pupil’s learning achievements and behaviour.
Internal assessment aims at:
- informing pupils on the level of their learning achievements and behaviour, and their progress in this respect;
- supporting pupils in learning by providing feedback to them on where they have performed well and how they should continue to learn;
- supporting pupils in the individual planning of their development;
- motivating pupils to make further progress in learning and behaviour;
- providing parents (legal guardians) and teachers with information on pupils' progress or learning difficulties, behaviour and special talents;
- enabling teachers to improve organisational approaches and methods used in their educational activities.
Internal assessment includes:
- defining educational requirements to obtain individual end-of-semester (mid-year) and end-of-year marks for compulsory and additional classes;
- setting criteria for the assessment of behaviour;
- conducting assessment on an on-going basis, and giving end-of-semester and end-of-year marks for compulsory and additional classes and for behaviour according to the scale and in forms approved in a given school;
- conducting so-called qualifying exams which provide the basis for marks (e.g. in the case of pupils who did not attend classes in a given semester);
- defining conditions and procedures for pupils who wish to improve their expected end-of-semester and end-of-year marks for compulsory and additional classes and semester and end-of-year marks for behaviour;
- defining conditions and procedures for pupils who wish to improve their expected end-of-year and (in post-secondary schools) end-of-semester marks for classes and end-of-semester and end-of-year marks for behaviour;
- defining conditions and procedures for providing parents (legal guardians) with information on pupils' progress or learning difficulties.
Pupils are assessed separately in each subject. Assessment is conducted by the teacher of a given subject, though it may not be arbitrary considering the pre-defined assessment criteria. Results of the assessment carried out during a school year are taken into account in the end-of-year assessment.
Assessment is based on single, mid-year (end-of-semester) and end-of-year marks. Mid-year and end-of-year marks are based on an assessment which sums up achievements of the pupil in a given semester or school year respectively. In grades IV to VIII, the pupil who has received a positive mark at the end of the school year is promoted to the next grade (see below).
Pupils in grades I to III of the primary school receive one end-of-year mark for educational activities and one end-of-year mark for behaviour. Marking is descriptive.
Starting in grade IV of the primary school, the teacher uses the following marking scale to assess pupils' learning achievements: 6: excellent, 5: very good, 4: good, 3: satisfactory, 2: acceptable, 1: unsatisfactory. Teachers can also use descriptive assessment of pupils’ achievements in compulsory or optional subjects, if this is provided for in the school statutes.
When giving marks for physical education, technology, technical classes, visual art, music and art classes, teachers should take into account, in particular, the efforts made by the pupil to fulfil the specific requirements of a given subject.
School marks and the marking criteria should be made available to pupils and their parents. The statutes of a given school lay down detailed requirements and marking procedures as part of internal assessment; aside from annual information for parents on the requirements set, this is the key element ensuring fairness in assessment in Polish schools.
Pupils also receive marks for behaviour (conduct) according to the following scale: excellent, very good, good, acceptable, unacceptable, inadmissible. The mark for behaviour should not influence subject marks, the promotion to the next grade or completion of primary / single-structure education. However, in specific cases, the teaching council of the school may decide that the pupil cannot be promoted to the next grade or complete education in the primary school due to his/her inadmissible behaviour.
Pupils can take a so-called qualifying examination if the end-of-semester or end-of-year mark given by the teacher is too low in their (or their parents’) opinion. Pupils also take the exam in case their achievements cannot be assessed for various reasons such as an individualised study programme, learning outside school (for example, at home) or the pupil's illness.
In the school years 2021/2022 and 2022/2023, pupils of Ukrainian nationality in Polish schools, including primary schools, can be exempt from end-of-year assessment on the condition that they attend preparatory classes and the teaching council of the school establishes that: (1) the pupil has no or insufficient knowledge of the Polish language to follow regular classes; or (2) the range of classes taught in a preparatory unit does not make it possible to conduct an end-of-year assessment. In the school year 2022/2023, Ukrainian pupils in preparatory units are not subject to mid-year assessment either.
The reform of the Polish school education system initiated in 1999 aimed primarily at establishing external examinations upon completion of education in a school. The first one was a compulsory test for all pupils conducted at the end of primary education (after grade VI). Pupils were required to take the test as one of the conditions to finish the 6-year primary school in the pre-reform school system in place until 31 August 2017.
The external test at the end of the pre-reform primary education cycle was abolished by the above-mentioned Act of 2016. Instead, all pupils finishing grade VIII of the post-reform primary school, in place since 1 September 2017, take the compulsory eighth-grader exam. It is a written exam that aims at assessing the extent to which a primary school pupil (learner) meets the requirements set in the core curriculum for general education in the primary school. Based on the legislation currently in force, the exam covers the following compulsory subjects:
- Polish language
- Modern foreign language
- one subject to be chosen from among Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography or History.
Results of the eighth-grader exam have no impact on completion of primary / single-structure education; neither do they have impact on the promotion to the next grade in the case of art schools providing general education at the primary education level where the grade corresponding to grade VIII of the primary school is not the final grade in the education cycle. However, they are of major importance as one of the criteria in the process of admission to post-primary schools.
As the reform of the school system has been gradually introduced, the eighth-grader exam was conducted for the first time in the school year 2018/2019.
The rules for the eighth-grader exam are laid down in the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 1 August 2017 on the detailed requirements and procedure for conducting the eighth-grader examination (Rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej z dnia 1 sierpnia 2017 r. w sprawie szczegółowych warunków i sposobu przeprowadzania egzaminu ósmoklasisty), based on Article 44zzza of the School Education Act (ustawa o systemie oświaty).
Progression of pupils
Pupils in grades I to III are promoted (allowed to continue education) on the basis of a descriptive yearly assessment of their performance in classes. The assessment takes into consideration the pupil's level of knowledge and skills in relation to the requirements in the core curriculum for general education at the first stage of education. It also shows the pupil’s developmental and educational needs that would need to be addressed to overcome learning difficulties or develop talents. Repeating the year at this stage of education is an exception and should be justified by psychologists and accepted by parents.
Pupils in grades IV to VIII are promoted to a higher grade if they have received end-of-year marks higher than ‘unsatisfactory’ for all compulsory subjects. In the case of one ‘unsatisfactory’ mark, they can take a repeat/ resit exam. Pupils who have not passed the exam are not promoted to the higher grade. However, the teaching council of the primary school may decide to promote conditionally a pupil who has received mark 1 (‘unsatisfactory’) in one subject only. If a pupil has not attended more than 50% of compulsory classes and there is no basis for his/her assessment, he/she can take a so-called qualifying exam on the date agreed with him/her and his/her parents.
Pupils complete a school year or the entire cycle of primary / single-structure education with 'distinction' if their average end-of-year mark for all compulsory classes is 4.75 or above and their behaviour mark is at least very good.
All public primary schools and non-public schools (which should meet the requirements set for public schools) award standardised certificates which are official documents. The relevant regulations of the minister responsible for school education define the layout of the documents and the rules for filling them (for example, certificates with distinction have a vertical red-and-white stripe and are marked "with distinction").
Certificates confirming the completion of each grade are necessary when children change school (place of residence), and the final primary school leaving certificate is required for admission to a post-primary school.
In the post-reform school system, a pupil finishing the 8-year primary school receives a certificate with results of the eighth-grader exam, issued by the Regional Examination Board, together with the final primary school leaving certificate.