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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Main types of provision


8.Adult education and training

8.4Main types of provision

Last update: 27 November 2023

Adult education and training (AET) programmes can be provided within both formal and non-formal education systems.

Formal education is provided by public and non-public schools for adults, taking people aged 18 and above who have not completed school education for various reasons, and by other institutions offering education and training courses which lead to certified learning outcomes.

Formal education in schools for adults and some non-school settings (for example, vocational qualification courses; vocational skills courses; general competences courses) is based on the national core curricula for general education and vocational education (referred to as sectoral vocational education). The responsibility for the core curricula lies with the Ministry of Education and Science.

Curricula for general and vocational education in schools and other vocational education and training settings, which are based on the national core curricula, are approved by the head of the school / institution after consultation with its teaching council (composed of the head and all teachers). Financing of public schools and some non-school settings is the responsibility of local governments, whereas non-public schools receive financial support from the state in accordance with specific rules (see Chapter 3 ‘Funding in Education’).

Curricula for non-degree postgraduate programmes should be designed in terms of the learning outcomes (LOs) for partial qualifications, which are based on the second-stage descriptors for Levels 6, 7 and 8 of the Polish Qualifications Framework, as defined in the Act on the Integrated Qualifications System (ustawa o Zintegrowanym Systemie Kwalifikacji). A curriculum should enable students to obtain at least 30 ECTS credits. Curricula for specialist programmes should be designed in terms of the LOs that are based on the universal first-stage descriptors, as defined in the above-mentioned Act. A curriculum for a specialist programme develops students’ practical skills.

The range of programmes offered in non-formal education is much larger than in formal education due to the wide diversity of institutions and adult learners.

A survey carried out in 2021, as part of the Study of Human Capital (Bilans Kapitału Ludzkiego, BKL) (information in Polish only), looked at adult education in a broader perspective, taking into consideration the situation on the labour market, demand for competences, the situation of training companies after the COVID-19 pandemic, and general life and economic growth conditions. It shows that opportunities offered by the training and development sector include, for example, group training (63%); individual training (61%); vocational qualification courses and vocational skills courses (55%); workshops (42%); consultancy and advisory services (37%); certified development programmes (32%); and validation and certification: formal validation of competence levels (20%); schools for adults (12%); and non-degree postgraduate programmes (5%). It is worth noting that over half of the providers in the training and development sector offer vocational education and vocational skills courses (Bilans Kapitału Ludzkiego 2022/2021 – Rozwój kompetencji – uczenie się dorosłych i sektor szkoleniowo-rozwojowy / Study of Human Capital. Competence Development. Adult Learning and the Training and Development Sector; text in Polish only; accessed August 2023).

The Study of Human Capital shows that the work environment can stimulate participation in non-formal education. However, employers do not encourage employees to improve their competences through education or training activities for all, focusing only on selected, better educated and qualified employees. This can be considered as a key factor behind the limited learning activity of adult Poles. Fees for some non-formal education courses are paid by participants themselves. Measures set out in the 2030 Integrated Skills Strategy may help to encourage participation, in particular those which address the development and use of skills at a workplace and collaboration between employers and formal and non-formal education. The results of the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competences (PIAAC) (2013) revealed competence and skill gaps. The PIAAC Survey covered competences in three areas: reading comprehension, mathematical reasoning and use of ICT. The Survey shows that the skill level is strongly correlated with educational attainment of the respondents, and the correlation is stronger in Poland than in other participating countries. Highly qualified employees and employees in the service sector perform very well, achieving results at the average OECD level.

The level of skills for Poles aged 16-65 is lower than the OECD average for the participating countries. Results are 6 points lower than the OECD average for reading comprehension (267 compared to 273 points), and 9 points lower for mathematical reasoning (260 as compared to 269).

ICT skills among those surveyed are also unsatisfactory: only 19% of them have high skills in the field, compared to the OECD average of 34%. The ability to use ICT varies significantly according to the age, educational attainment, place of residence and labour market status. Better results were achieved by people aged 16-24, with a higher education qualification, living in a city and those who were (self-) employed, although working Poles less frequently and to a lesser extent use a computer at the workplace (46% do not use a computer at all, as compared to 30% in the OECD countries).

The best-performing group in PIAAC are people working in the area of ‘modern (knowledge-intensive) services’, such as ICT, finance, insurance, communication, advertising, marketing, real estate, tax advisory and accounting services. The results obtained are comparable to those achieved by people working in the same sectors in the OECD countries. (OECD, PIAAC, accessed August 2023). Results of the ongoing PIAAC Survey will not be available before 2024.

Provision to raise achievement in basic skills

Programmes developing basic skills may be offered within both formal and non-formal education. School curricula at individual education stages (primary and post-primary education; ISCED 1-3) correspond to the aims and requirements of the national core curriculum for general education in a given type of school. Curricula for general competence courses provided by schools and other educational institutions are based on a selected part of the core curriculum for general education. The core curricula are the basis for general education syllabuses for individual subjects and for general competences courses.

General competences courses end with a pass after the assessment conducted by a given institution. Courses provided in public schools are fee-free, whereas learners in non-public schools contribute to the costs. Non-public schools may be subsidised by public funds.

Courses developing general competences may be provided by various entities, not only those which operate under the school education legislation. Providers develop their own curricula, define completion requirements and set fee levels. Basic skills courses include, for example, foreign language, ICT, entrepreneurship and other courses (see the Chapter “Distribution of Responsibilities).

Provision to achieve a recognised qualification during adulthood

Adults may be awarded vocational qualifications upon completion of training courses (for example, vocational qualification or vocational skills courses). Each acquired qualification that is required for a given occupation can be validated separately through a vocational exam; this provides greater flexibility in acquiring and upgrading qualifications outside the formal education system. Qualifications identified within individual occupations are described in the core curriculum for vocational education as a set of intended learning outcomes: knowledge, vocational skills, and personal and social competences. Regulations on AET, and in particular those that refer to the validation of learning outcomes and AET settings, have been aligned. Relevant legislative acts have been amended, including: the Law on School Education (ustawa Prawo oświatowe); the Act introducing the Law on School Education (ustawa Przepisy wprowadzające ustawę Prawo oświatowe); and the Act on the Promotion of Employment and Labour Market Institutions (ustawa o promocji zatrudnienia i instytuacjach rynku pracy).

Programmes for adults which end with certified learning outcomes (LOs) are similar to those offered within formal and non-formal education. In addition to general competences courses), these include vocational qualification courses, vocational skills courses, theoretical training sessions for juvenile workers, and other training courses where learners can acquire certified knowledge, skills and vocational qualifications. Training in non-school settings can be provided on a full-time or part-time basis.

The Study of Human Capital shows that more than half (55%) of the providers in the training and development sector offered vocational qualification courses and vocational skills courses, and one-fifth offered training courses in the formal validation of competence levels.

Vocational qualification courses (VQCs) are based on the core curriculum for vocational education (referred to as sectoral vocational education) and cover one qualification which is specified in the name of the course. Upon completion of a course, learners can take a vocational exam for a given qualification.

Vocational skills courses (VSCs) are based on the core curriculum for vocational education. A course focuses on one part of LOs, identified within a given qualification, and covers the LOs corresponding to additional vocational skills which are defined in the relevant school education legislation.

VQCs and VSCs end with a pass based on the form of assessment determined by the institution offering a given course. However, the institution should inform the relevant Regional Examination Board so that an exam leading to a qualification covered by the course can be prepared.

Curricula for the education stage in a given type of school (stage I and stage II sectoral vocational schools, technical secondary schools, post-secondary schools) correspond to the aims and requirements set in the national core curriculum for vocational education and are implemented in accordance with the legislation in force.

Core curricula for vocational education are laid down by the Minister of Education and Science. They serve as the basis of curricula for vocational education in individual occupations, and for VQCs and VSCs.

Upon finishing a vocational school, learners receive a school leaving certificate. To obtain vocational qualifications (or have the LOs for a given qualification certified), they take vocational exams (one to three exams leading to the qualifications or confirming the achievement of the relevant LOs). Learners who finish a general secondary school obtain a school leaving certificate, which confirms completion of secondary education. They can take the maturity exam and, if it is passed, apply for admission to a higher education institution.

Education in public schools is free-of-charge, whereas learners in non-public schools contribute to the costs. Non-public schools can be subsidised by public grants.

VQCs may also be provided by entities other than schools and non-school institutions.

Provision targeting the transition to the labour market

The Act on the Promotion of Employment and Labour Market Institutions (ustawa o promocji zatrudnienia i instytucjach rynku pracy) provides a number of instruments supporting unemployed people and job seekers. The labour market institutions (information in Polish only), identified in the Act, coordinate and implement measures in this area.

Labour offices, directly supporting unemployed people and job seekers, offer opportunities for the development and acquisition of competences sought by potential employers. They provide, for example, basic training services and other instruments supporting continuing education for the unemployed and job seekers. Based on an arrangement put in place in 2014, the type or form of support for the unemployed can be defined on a case-by-case basis; an individual action plan is developed in line with a given ‘profile’ of support (one of the three available).

Selected forms and instruments supporting the training of unemployed people and job seekers in Poland

Service type

Eligible participants

Programme description

Support provided for the programme

Provision of course-type training

  1. Unemployed people
  2. Job seekers
  3. Working people aged 45 and above

A course for trainees to acquire new or additional, or to improve / upgrade, vocational or general skills or qualifications, as necessary to take up employment or pursue business activity, incl. job seeking skills. Training in line with the profile of a support programme.

Support in line with the legislation in force (Articles 40-41 and 109a)

Financial support for non-degree postgraduate studies

  1. Unemployed people
  2. People seeking a job registered as job seekers
  3. Working people aged 45 years and above

Any non-degree postgraduate programme offered on the market but corresponding to the profile of a support programme.

Support in line with the legislation in force (Article 42a)

Credits / loans for training

Granted at the request of a job seeker

Any kind of training to take up or maintain employment, change the job or establish business activity, but corresponding to the profile of a support programme.

Support in line with the legislation in force (Article 42)

Funding to cover costs of exams and licences

 Granted at the request of an unemployed person or a job seeker

Costs of exams leading to certificates, diplomas, specific professional entitlements or vocational titles, and costs of licenses for practising a given occupation; corresponding to the profile of a support programme.

Support in line with the legislation in force (Article 40, section 3a)

Scholarship for the continuation of education

Unemployed people with no qualifications and people with low income

A programme in any field in a post-primary school for adults or a higher education institution, corresponding to the profile of a support programme

Support in line with the legislation in force (Article 55).

Sources: Act on the Promotion of Employment and Labour Market Institutions (ustawa o promocji zatrudnienia i instytucjach rynku pracy) and Green Line; accessed August 2023.

In addition to the above-mentioned types of support for unemployed people and job seekers, the above-mentioned Act (Articles 69a and 69b) has established a reimbursement system for continuing education of employees and employers. Funding comes from the National Training Fund (NTF) (Krajowy Fundusz Szkoleniowy) which is part of the Labour Fund. In 2023, over 219.7 million PLN were allocated from the NTF, for example, to entities employing foreigners; to support continuing education related to the introduction of new processes, technologies and working tools in companies; and to support continuing education in shortage occupations identified in a given district or province (Krajowy Fundusz Szkoleniowy / National Training Fund; information in Polish only; accessed August 2023). Measures supporting labour market entry, in particular for young adults, are also proposed as part of numerous projects carried out by District Labour Offices (see also the Chapter on the Distribution of Responsibilities).

Provision of popular adult education and other types of publicly subsidised provision for adult learners

General development or personal development programmes for adults, except programmes developing basic skills provided by public and non-public schools and non-school settings, are not funded from the State budget.

General or personal development programmes include:

  • some non-degree postgraduate programmes;

and programmes offered by:

  • third-age universities;
  • open universities;
  • local culture centres;
  • non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

They run both social or cultural development courses and sporting activities. There are no official statistics for these types of programmes (8.4.3). A number of programmes carried out by, among others, NGOs draw on the projects and programmes that they have been involved in (see also the Chapter on the Distribution of Responsibilities).

Since 2017, a project has been underway to establish Local Knowledge and Education Centres (Lokalne Ośrodki Wiedzy i Edukacji, LOWE). The LOWE Network has been established by 5 organisations experienced in community activation, which are, at the same time, beneficiaries of LOWE projects, co-financed by the European Social Fund. A LOWE refers to a new role of school in mobilising adults and local communities for the development of lifelong learning skills. The Centres provide opportunities to continue education at various levels and in various areas. They play the role of centres for organising and animating non-formal and informal learning for adults, and are set up at schools or other school education institutions. In December 2022, there were 129 Centres. (LOWE, information in Polish only; accessed August 2023).

Worthy of note are also government measures (2020-2030 Support Programme for People’s Universities / Program Wspierania Uniwersytetów Ludowych, adopted by the Government in 2020) aimed at the development of people’s / folk universities (uniwersytet ludowy) or adult education centres which have a long tradition and important position in Poland. The Programme places emphasis not only on the revitalisation of their concept of education, but also on the establishment of new centres which are expected to focus on personal development and social engagement of adults, in particular. The following five priorities are identified in the Programme: support for the development of infrastructure; establishment of new centres; creation of a network of centres and promotion of education based on the Grundtvig model; development of civic education and preservation of the heritage of local communities; and technical support.