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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Developments and current policy priorities


8.Adult education and training

8.2Developments and current policy priorities

Last update: 19 March 2024

Brief history

Adult education (adult education and training, AET; adult learning) has rich tradition in Poland, particularly important in the difficult period of partitions between the end of the 18th century and 1918 when Poland regained its sovereignty. It was the cornerstone of the Polish language, culture, history and tradition.

The last century saw both periods of intensive expansion of adult education and its growing importance and achievements, and periods of stagnation, in particular in the 1980s.

In the first years after World War II, adult education had compensatory functions and was aimed mainly at eliminating illiteracy. In the communist period, with its high degree of politicisation and centralisation in all areas of public life, adult education was associated with ‘proletariat schooling’ or ‘working-class education’; non-working people could not, in principle (at least during a certain period), receive education in a school for working adults. The establishment of non-school educational institutions providing various training courses was subject to ‘rationing’ and strict control by the state.

After 1989, adult education and training was left largely outside the key reforms taking place in school education and higher education. In 1995, the 1991 School Education Act (ustawa o systemie oświaty) was amended to include a definition of continuing education (still in use and referred to in this chapter where it quotes the provision in force that defines this type of education), its functions and provision options, and the tasks of the ministers responsible for school education, and labour and social policy in this area.

As one of the main achievements after 1989, a legal basis was created for the establishment of non-public institutions for AET. The sector flourished rapidly in the next decades. On the one hand, this was a major achievement in the process of democratisation of education. On the other hand, despite the efforts made, expected reforms were not introduced to ensure that adult education and training (in various forms and settings, of a varying scope, and for a wide range of learners) becomes as an integral part of professional, personal and social activity of people at various stages of life, in line with the idea of lifelong learning.

Formal and non-formal AET is a very broad category (see the introductory section to Chapter 8) which covers various forms of organised learning, including those provided as part of other activities (for example, delivery of services, societal engagement activities). These issues fall within the remit of many sectoral ministries, which helps to understand specific problems of a given sector and propose adequate measures, but does not always help to design a uniform policy in this area. Currently, many measures are taken within the proposed strategies, which will support the integration of this area of education and training.



Current measures and policy priorities

Measures taken in adult education and training aim to implement the principles of the Copenhagen Declaration (we still have low outcomes in adult learning), the Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of a European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET), and cooperation in higher education (Bologna Process) and in the adult learning sector as separated from VET and TE, that is, the European Agenda for Adult Learning. The European Social Fund provides funding for the Operational Programme Knowledge Education Development (Program Operacyjny Wiedza Edukacja Rozwój, PO WER) (accessed August 2023). Lifelong learning issues are addressed in national and other documents.

The strong and well-established position of education within the school system (leading to diplomas and certificates) and other, both historical and political, factors discussed above are arguably contributing to low rates of adult participation in education and training (as measured in Eurostat’s Adult Education Surveys). Better cooperation among many ministries in this area can be expected as a result of measures taken to promote participation in lifelong learning and to develop systems for the validation of learning outcomes through the strategic programmes mentioned below.

A strategic document for the management of the national development policy is the Government’s Strategy for Responsible Development (SRD) for the period up to 2020 (with a 2030 perspective) (Strategia na rzecz Odpowiedzialnego Rozwoju do roku 2020 (z perspektywą do 2030)) (summary in English) (accessed August 2023). It aims primarily to create conditions for income growth for Polish citizens, while enhancing social, economic, environmental and territorial cohesion. This goal is linked to measures aimed at improving the quality of human and social capital and has impact on measures related to education and social policies. The following development strategies provide instruments for the implementation of the SRD:

(Accessed August 2023)

However, the 2030 Integrated Skills Strategy (ISS) (detailed part) is particularly relevant in the context of adult education and training. It is consistent with the primary goal of the SRD to create conditions for increasing income of Polish citizens and simultaneously improve cohesion in social, economic, environmental and territorial terms. The ISS also fits well with the aims of the European lifelong learning policy and all of the specific objectives of the SRD:

  1. Sustainable economic growth increasingly based on knowledge, evidence and organisational excellence
  2. Socially sensitive and territorially balanced development
  3. Effective state and institutions for growth and social and economic inclusion.

The Inter-Sectoral Task Force for LLL and the Integrated Qualifications System (IQS) (Międzyresortowy Zespół do spraw uczenia się przez całe życie (MZ) i Zintegrowanego Systemu Kwalifikacji (ZSK)) gives opinions on reports on the monitoring of the 2030 ISS and monitors the work in the area of lifelong learning, including the European Qualifications Framework, in the EU and OECD countries. The Task Force is composed of ministers or their representatives. Measures taken by the ministries that are involved in the implementation of the ISS, the Task Force and the IQS are aimed at developing skills and retraining of working-age adults to support their adaptation to changes on the labour market (digitalisation, technological changes, new working methods). Elements ensuring the sustainability of the IQS include, for example, Sector Competence Councils (Accessed August 2023). All these measures provide a solid basis for building an LLL policy.

Further efforts are needed to design effective funding mechanisms for adult learning in some non-school settings. In recent years, a number of measures have been taken to initiate changes in this area, and in particular in vocational education and training (VET). The Law on School Education (ustawa Prawo oświatowe) provides opportunities for various entities to support VET; these include employers and their organisations, self-governance bodies of the business sector, business organisations, Sector Competence Councils and the Programme Council for Competences. Public administration bodies should collaborate with such entities in performing their tasks in the field of education.

The changes introduced as part of the ongoing reform of school education aim, in particular, at promoting close collaboration between vocational schools and employers; this will have impact on AET through links with schools and other educational institutions. Measures encouraging adults to participate in learning include:

  • implementation of the 2030 ISS;
  • implementation of the IQS;
  • activities of the National Training Fund (Krajowy Fundusz Szkoleniowy);
  • development of the database of training services (baza usług rozwowjowych, BUR) (accessed August 2023);
  • collaboration between the Ministry of National Education, the institutions conducting the Study of Human Capital (Bilans Kapitału Ludzkiego) and the Central Statistical Office to improve identification of non-formal learning activities undertaken by adults;
  • support for the idea of lifelong learning provided by the Polish Chamber of Training Companies (Polska Izba Firm Szkoleniowych)  (accessed August 2023)

The implementation of the SRD as the national development strategy is linked to many operational programmes which include measures supporting lifelong learning. Examples of such programmes are given below.

Examples of programmes supporting lifelong learning
No. Name of the Programme Primary objectives and selected measures
1.  „Active+” („Aktywni +”), 2021-2025

Increasing participation of seniors in all areas of social life. Supporting engagement of seniors, development of their competences and interests.

Priority areas will include digital inclusion (use of modern technologies).

The Programme is aimed at non-governmental organisations. It is an extension of the ASOS Programme. 

2. New edition of the “Senior+” (“Senior+”) Programme for 2021-2025

Establishing or equipping support centres and maintaining activities of existing centres.

Centres aim to support all forms of civic, social and cultural engagement, sport participation and religious engagement of seniors; and to conduct activities related to health promotion, prevention in health and social care for seniors, and ageing education. 

The Programme is aimed at local government units.

3. National Programme for the Development of Social Economy (Krajowy Program Rozwoju Ekonomii Społecznej (KPRES)) (until 2030)

Social and solidarity economy as an instrument for active social policy, and support for social and local development.

Building solidarity-based local community and labour market; increasing the competitiveness of solidarity and social economy entities; building solidarity-based society.

4. Chance: new opportunities for adults (Szansa – nowe możliwości dla dorosłych)


Developing and testing models of support for adults with low levels of basic skills at all stages of adulthood. The project included competence assessments on an individual basis and measures adapted to individual needs, and validation of learning outcomes (implemented until 31 Dec. 2022)

5. Accessiblity Plus (Dostępność plus), 2018-2025

The Programme is aimed at people who are faced with limitations in daily life due to various factors. Access problems can be permanent or temporary, which requires different approaches. Programme measures address the areas of architecture, transport, education, healthcare, digitalisation and services.

The Programme is open to all entities designing and conducting social activities. This is a Government programme.

6. Projects implemented under the Operational Programme Knowledge-Education-Development (Program Operacyjny Wiedza-Edukacja-Rozwój) Ongoing projects aim at enhancing employability of young adults (below 30 years of age) in some districts.

Source: Based on the documents available (in Polish) on the websites of the Active+ (Aktywni+) and Senior+ (Senior+) Programmes.


The National Training Fund (NTF) (Krajowy Fundusz Szkoleniowy; information in Polish only), established in May 2014 as part of the Labour Fund (LF) (around 2% of the LF), supports continuing education of employers and employees where this is taken up on the initiative or with the consent of the employer. In 2021, the LF funds were allocated primarily to support: continuing education courses for people employed in companies which had to limit their activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic; healthcare and social services staff, psychologists, therapists and staff in social welfare homes; continuing education courses in shortage occupations identified in a given district or province; continuing education courses for 45+ people; continuing education courses on the use of new technologies and digital tools in companies. (National Training Fund (information in Polish); accessed August 2023).