Types of institutions
Post-secondary non-tertiary education is considered part of secondary (post-primary) education in the Polish classification, but it is classified at Level 4 in ISCED and in the Polish Qualifications Framework (Article 8 of the Act of 22 December 2015 on the Integrated Qualifications System / ustawa dnia 22 grudnia 205 r. o Zintegrowanym Systemie Kwalifikacji).
Post-secondary schools, in both the pre- and post-reform school systems, enable pupils who have completed general (upper) secondary education to obtain a diploma conferring vocational qualifications / a vocational diploma upon passing exams confirming vocational qualifications / vocational exams. Post-secondary schools are administered by central government bodies, local government units, non-governmental and civic organisations, religious organisations, associations and natural persons.
Post-secondary schools offer programmes of up to 2.5 years.
Most post-secondary schools are non-public.
The broadly defined post-secondary non-tertiary education sector also includes colleges of social work. Currently, there are only 4 colleges; thus, they actually have a negligible role in the education system. Programmes in colleges are of a 3 years’ duration.
Post-secondary schools, which take adult learners, are, by definition, distributed unevenly across the country. To improve accessibility, some schools offer boarding services. Where this is possible, some schools have also introduced distance learning in some areas of study.
In the school year 2020/2021, the number of post-secondary schools decreased by around 10.4% as compared to the previous year. In the reference period, there were 1,468 post-secondary schools (some of them offering in parallel programmes in several modes of study: full-time day and evening programmes and part-time (extramural) programmes), with around 204,700 learners (an increase by 8.7% compared to the previous year). Most post-secondary schools (around 82%) are administered by private-sector entities. As a rule, programmes are offered in a part-time (extramural) education system (over 80%).
For years female learners (around 71% of the population) have vastly outnumbered male learners in post-secondary schools.
Admission requirements and choice of school
Post-secondary schools take mainly graduates of general secondary schools. Most of them require only a secondary school leaving certificate, rather than a maturity certificate. However, colleges of social work (classified within the school education system by the national legislation) take only holders of a maturity certificate. Admission rules for public schools are established by the School Education Act (ustawa o systemie oświaty) and related regulations. Non-public schools lay down rules for the admission process in their statutes.
Age levels and grouping of pupils/students
Post-secondary schools take general secondary school graduates and those finishing other post-primary schools. Thus, learners in the first semester are usually aged at least 19-20/21 years. However, due to the temporary changes in the starting age for primary education, some cohorts include learners aged 18-19/20.
A class (also referred to as ‘division’ in the national legislation) is the basic organisational unit in a post-secondary school. It groups learners at the same level of education who jointly follow the same curriculum under the supervision of teachers. The legislation does not predefine the number of learners in a class; exceptions concern primarily learners with a disability.
For some subjects (for example, Foreign language) and for vocational education classes, learners may be divided into groups or classes may be organised in a different way, as defined in the statutes of a given school.
Organization of the school year
Classes in the school year are divided into two semesters:
- the first semester lasting from the first day of classes (the first working day of September) till the last Saturday preceding the winter holidays;
- the second one from the Monday directly after the winter holidays till the last day of classes (the last Friday in June).
However, the regulations on the organisation of the school year provide for different optional start and end dates of classes. Classes in stage I sectoral vocational schools, stage II sectoral vocational schools and post-secondary schools and in all types of schools for adults can begin on the first working day of February and end on the last Friday of January.
The dates of the winter break vary among the provinces. The winter holidays are scheduled between mid-January and the end of February and last for two weeks. The Head of the Regional Education Authorities determines the exact timing of the winter break in agreement with the governor of a given province. Schools also have Christmas and Easter breaks.
Detailed information on the organisation of the school year (start and end dates of the school year, summer holidays and winter breaks with geographical variations, and public/religious holidays) is available in the annually updated Eurydice publication “Organisation of the school time in Europe. Primary and Secondary General Education, 2021/2022”.
Organization of the school day and week
In accordance with the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 3 April 2019 on the outline timetables for public schools (rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej z dnia 3 kwietnia 2019 r. w sprawie ramowych planów nauczania dla publicznych szkół), the weekly number of teaching / class hours for compulsory classes in post-secondary schools is:
- 28 hours per school year (in total, 56 hours in the 2-year education cycle) for schools providing programmes as so-called day classes;
- 19 hours per school year (in total, 38 hours in the 2-year education cycle) for schools providing programmes as so-called full-time classes.
The total number of teaching / class hours for all compulsory classes provided as part of part-time extramural programmes is 175 per semester (700 hours in the entire 2-year education cycle).
For a 1-year, 1.5-year or 2.5-year education cycle, the number of hours is proportionally lower or higher.