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 (vocational education / training for individual occupations / sectoral vocational education / training). 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, 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 which 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 2013, 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, and general life and economic growth conditions. The survey confirmed low participation in AET among the Poles and indicated that those involved were well-educated, practising professions which require specialist and technical / engineering expertise, employed in large companies and living in big cities. Employers’ expenditure on human capital was aimed at staff who already had high competences, while those with a lower level of competences were rarely selected for training. Findings from the survey also show that differences between educationally active and inactive adults are larger than it is normally the case in other EU countries.
Public funding allocated to encourage participation in AET has not produced a desired effect. Support for the human capital provided from the European Social Fund (ESF) has not triggered any change either.
The above-mentioned Study of Human Capital shows that the work environment can stimulate participation in non-formal education. However, employers do not encourage their employees to improve 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 educational 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 in a workplace and collaboration between employers and formal and non-formal education. The results of PIAAC (Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competences) (2013) identified competence and skill gaps. It covered competences in three areas: reading comprehension, mathematical reasoning and ICT skills. The PIAAC study demonstrates that the skill level is strongly correlated with educational attainment of the respondents and the correlation is stronger in Poland than in other countries participating in the survey. Highly qualified staff and staff employed in the service sector perform at the average level for the OECD countries. The level of skills for Poles aged 16-65 is lower than the OECD average. 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%. ICT skills vary 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 in 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 services’ or so-called ‘knowledge-intensive services’, such as ICT, financing, 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.
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 secondary 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 Table 3).
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 of the acquired qualifications that are 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 which 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.
Vocational qualification courses (VQCs) are based on the core curriculum for vocational education (vocational education / training for specific occupations or sectoral vocational education / training) 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 notify 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, are responsible for the coordination and implementation of 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).
Support provided for the programme
Provision of course-type training
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
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 28 August 2021.
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 2021, over 259.4 million PLN were allocated from the NTF for, among other things, an analysis of shortage and surplus occupations, the promotion of the NTF, advisory and guidance services for employers, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the support provided. 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 section 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 offer 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 which they have been involved in (see also the section on the Distribution of Responsibilities).
Between 2017 and October 2019, a pilot project was carried out to establish Local Knowledge and Education Centres (Lokalne Ośrodki Wiedzy i Edukacji, LOWE), where schools took on, on a voluntary basis, an additional mission or function to engage their local communities in skills development activities for adults. Since schools have a well-established position in their local communities and know well their local environment, this ensures that activities targeted at adults within the framework of the Centres will respond to specific needs of adults. This is particularly important in smaller and more remote communities and neglected districts of big cities. As a result of activities, which were well received by local communities, 50 Centres were created in 13 provinces. As the project was welcome by stakeholders, the Ministry of National Education (currently,the Ministry of Education and Science) decided to extend its duration and establish 100 Centres in 2020.
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.