Education in Poland is funded primarily from public sources. It is estimated that public funds represent 87% of funding in school education and 79% in higher education and early childhood education and care (OECD, 2020). Comparable data for adult education is not available.
The main sources of public funding for education in Poland include:
- the school education part of the general subsidy from the State budget provided to local government units (LGUs);
- State-budget grants for specific purposes (targeted grants) provided to LGUs (for example, for preschool education; purchase of textbooks and educational resources; maintenance grants as part of financial support for learners);
- State-budget grants for specific purposes and institutions (targeted grants) and State-budget subsidies allocated to higher education institutions (for example, for the maintenance and development of the teaching and research capacities; financial benefits for students; co-funding for capital investment projects; measures taken to provide conditions for full participation of people with disabilities in the learning process);
- LGUs’ own resources (for example, from charges and taxes);
- EU funds;
- other public funds (for example, the Labour Fund; the National Fund for the Rehabilitation of Disabled People; budgets of central government agencies allocated for the training of specific occupational groups).
Public funding is allocated not only to public educational institutions. Grants are also awarded to non-public childcare institutions, nursery schools, schools and higher education institutions if they fulfil requirements laid down in national legislation.
The share of public funding shows the areas where the non-public sector plays an important role but also reflects varying levels of fees for services offered by public educational institutions. Fees are important, in particular, in public institutions providing care to children aged up to 3 years, nursery schools and higher education institutions. Thus, in 2020, the Government established a programme supporting care for children aged up to 3 years, where funding is provided directly to a childcare institution. Financial support per child can amount up to PLN 400 (EUR 85).
Families of learners may, however, benefit from various types of support offered within the family support system (family allowances and supplementary allowances), the tax system (a so-called family tax benefit), the healthcare system (free healthcare), as well as by schools themselves (for example, free transport). A child-raising allowance, amounting to PLN 500 (EUR 109.9) has been granted since 2016. Furthermore, support is available under dedicated government programmes: ‘The government programme supporting pupils with disabilities: grants for the purchase of textbooks, educational resources and school exercise materials, 2020-2022’ (Rządowy program pomocy uczniom niepełnosprawnym w formie dofinansowania zakupu podręczników, materiałów edukacyjnych i materiałów ćwiczeniowych w latach 2020–2022), ‘Good Start’ (Dobry start) and ‘Meals at school and at home’ (Posiłek w szkole i w domu). A system of benefits for large families (the so-called Large Family Card) has been in place since 2014. Families of pupils and students with disabilities are entitled to receive various additional types of support.
Support is also provided to pupils and students. Pupils in the school system receive maintenance- and incentive-type grants as part of the financial support system. Students enrolled on first-, second- and long-cycle programmes in all types of higher education institutions may apply for various types of State-budget financial support, including a maintenance grant; a grant for disabled persons; the Rector’s scholarship / grant (awarded by the Rector of a given institution); and an aid payment. They may also receive the Minister’s scholarship. Additionally, students may be granted a student credit.
Adult learners may receive financial support depending on the type of training attended and provided that they fulfil certain additional requirements. The support offered includes, for example, maintenance- and incentive-type grants during a period of learning within the school education system; a grant from the Labour Fund during a period of training attended as an unemployed person; and training leave if an adult attends school or participates in further training as an employee at the request of their employer.
In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the financing system for education in Poland did not change significantly as compared to the previous years. However, some detailed regulations were amended, and such changes are taken into consideration in this chapter, although they are usually in force for a limited period of time or are even of one-off nature.