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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of private education


2.Organisation and governance

2.4Organisation of private education

Last update: 21 June 2024

Non-public education in the school education system

Non-public (non-state) education developed, practically, after 1989 (it was marginal earlier on). 

In general, schools and other educational institutions may have the public or non-public school status:

1. Public schools are administered by government administration (the competent minister) or a local government unit, or established on the basis of a special permit issued at the request of a natural or legal person. A public school develops and implements school curricula and complies with the rules for pupil assessment as established by the minister responsible for school education. It provides tuition-free education covering classes which are included in an outline timetable laid down by the minister. School admissions are governed by the rules laid down in the national legislation.

2. Non-public schools are institutions established and administered by legal or natural persons upon entry into the register of non-public schools and other educational institutions kept by the relevant local government unit. A non-public school implements the national core curriculum for general education and conducts compulsory classes in accordance with the same rules as public schools. It also applies the rules for the assessment and promotion of pupils and employs teachers who hold required qualifications as laid down by the minister responsible for school education. It may charge tuition fees and enrols pupils in accordance with the rules independently laid down in its statutes.

The right to establish and operate non-public schools is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (Konstytucja Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) (Article 70, section 3). Both public and non-public schools are supervised by the State with regard to the quality of education and the compliance of their activities with national legislation, although supervision is more extensive in the case of public schools than non-public schools (supervision measures for non-public schools are slightly more limited than for public schools). Consequently, public and non-public schools differ mainly in that the former provide tuition-free education and ensure open access, in particular, in the case of primary schools. The State guarantees that the outcomes of the education process are recognised across the country and pupils can automatically move on to other public schools or non-public schools with similar status. 

Preschool education

In the school year 2021/2022, around 1.5 million children participated in preschool education in various settings (an increase of around 48,000, that is 3.4%, compared to the previous year). Slightly more than 1.1 million children attended 13,500 nursery schools (przedszkole), including around 40% of children in non-public nursery schools, administered, as a rule, by natural persons and legal persons, including religious organisations and various associations. In total, 247,500 children attended 7,500 preschool classes in primary schools. Around 27,200 children were enrolled in 1,500 other settings (preschool education units and centres); most of them (over 60%) were enrolled in non-public settings. The rate of participation in preschool education for children aged 3 to 6 years was 90.4%. 

Institutions providing care to children below the age of 3 in Poland include crèches, kids’ clubs and day-care providers. Currently, the main legislative act regulating activities of various childcare settings for this age group is the Act of 4 February 2011 on the Care for Children Aged up to 3 Years (ustawa z dnia 4 lutego 2011 r. o opiece nad dziećmi do lat 3). The responsibility for childcare rests with the Minister of Family and Social Policy. At the end of 2022, there were around 5,300 crèches and kids’ clubs, including 4,400 crèches (92%). Most of these institutions (66.2%) are privately owned by natural persons. For further details, see Chapter 4: Early Childhood Education and Care.

Primary education

In the school year 2021/2022, there were 14,144 primary schools (szkoła podstawowa), including special schools, for children and young people. In total, there were 14,205 primary schools, including schools for adults, with over 3.1 million pupils and learners. The overwhelming majority of schools (11,941, representing 84.4%) were administered by local government units (that is, communes (gmina), the lowest-level local government unit, for which this is a statutory responsibility); these are public schools. 54 public schools (less than 0.4%) were administered by central government bodies. Other primary schools (mainly but not only non-public ones) were administered by natural persons and legal persons operating on the basis of private law. The non-public sector represented around 15.6% of all institutions and around 7.1% of all pupils in this sub-sector of the school education system, with an upward trend in this regard recorded in recent years. 

Starting on 1 September 2017, all (public and non-public) primary schools were transformed from 6-year into 8-year schools on a mandatory basis. Where their administering bodies failed to comply with the requirement, schools were closed down on 31 August 2018.

Non-public primary schools are, in practice, equal to public schools in terms of their legal status. The requirements for non-public schools are laid down in detail in Article 14 (3) of the Law on School Education (ustawa – Prawo oświatowe), whereby they should align standards for their educational activity, including the number of compulsory classes and the assessment system, with those set for public schools. Non-public schools are closed for failure to fulfil these requirements.

Non-public schools are eligible to receive public funding either from the budgets of local government units (LGUs) (the commune / gmina or the district / powiat) or directly from the State budget in the case of art schools. A grant is equal to at least 100% of the grant per pupil that LGUs receive from the State budget to subsidise public schools; the grant is much higher for pupils with a disability. Detailed arrangements for the public funding of public and non-public schools are laid down in the Act of 27 October 2017 on the Financing of School Education Tasks (ustawa z dnia 27 października 2017 r. o finansowaniu zadań oświatowych).

Secondary education for young people and post-secondary non-tertiary education

Lower secondary schools, which existed in the pre-reform school system, were replaced by grades VII and VIII of primary schools on 1 September 2019. 

In parallel to the phasing-out of lower secondary schools, the reform extended the duration of education cycles in pre-reform upper secondary schools, currently referred to as post-primary schools. In the school year 2021/2022, they had around 1.5 million pupils. The overwhelming majority of post-primary schools for young people are administered by local government units (LGUs) (mainly, districts); the proportion of public schools in this sub-sector ranges from 80 to 85%. In the reporting period, there were 3,166 general secondary schools (including 2,331 schools for young people), 1,854 technical secondary schools, 1,674 stage I sectoral vocational schools, 136 stage II sectoral vocational schools and 557 schools preparing for employment.

Post-primary schools also include post-secondary schools. In the school year 2021/2022, there were 1,357 post-secondary schools (a decrease of 7.6% compared to the previous year). Most of them (1,144, 81.3%) were administered by private sector entities.

Like non-public primary schools, non-public secondary and post-secondary schools are subsidised either by LGU budgets (the district level) or directly by the State budget in the case of art schools.

Detailed statistics on secondary schools in Poland are available in Chapter ‘Secondary and Post-Secondary Education’. See also the publication of the Central Statistical Office “Education in the 2021/2022 school year” (with key data in a bilingual, Polish and English, version).

Higher Education – non-public higher education institutions

The legal basis for the establishment of non-public higher education institutions (HEIs) was provided by the Higher Education Act of 12 September 1990 (ustawa o szkolnictwie wyższym). As from the late 1990s, non-public higher vocational education schools (wyższa szkoła zawodowa), authorised to provide only first-cycle (Bachelor's degree) programmes, could also be established on the basis of the Act on Schools of Higher Vocational Education) of 26 June 1997 (ustawa o wyższych szkołach zawodowych). First non-public HEIs, except for several previously existing HEIs administered by churches and other religious organisations, were registered in 1991. From the early 1990s, the non-public sector expanded rapidly to include 330 HEIs in the academic year 2009/2010. 

Since then, due to the demographic decline, the number of non-public HEIs has been slowly decreasing. In 2021/2022, there were 281 non-public HEIs, and students enrolled in non-public HEIs represented 32.5% of the total student population in the higher education sector. The number of students enrolled varies considerably between non-public HEIs. Some of them have several hundred students, while others train several thousand students.

Non-public HEIs are governed by the same legislation as public HEIs. Most of the 278 currently existing non-public HEIs are non-university institutions. Only 10 non-public institutions are university-type HEIs and member institutions of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (CRASP) (Konferencja Rektorów Akademickich Szkół Polskich, KRASP) (which brings together the rectors of university-type HEIs). The first non-public university-type HEI acquired the status of university in 2015.

A non-public HEI is established by its founder – a natural person or a legal person other than a local government unit or a corporate body (legal person) administered by national or local authorities. A non-public HEI may also be established by a merger of two non-public HEIs. The establishment of a non-public institution requires a permit from the minister responsible for higher education.

Non-public university-type HEIs are eligible to receive state-budget funding for their research activity (including capital investment projects in this area) but do not receive such funding for the maintenance and development of their teaching capacity or capital investment projects related to teaching. Non-public non-university HEIs are provided with state-budget funding for student financial support and support for people with disabilities. Like the other types of HEIs, they can also apply for grants available under programmes and projects managed by the minister responsible for higher education, and for projects funded by international sources.

Non-public HEIs are required to comply with the same requirements as for public HEIs to provide first, second- and long-cycle programmes and doctoral training as public HEIs. They also award degrees in accordance with the same arrangements (described above) as those for public HEIs. However, unlike public institutions, non-public HEIs charge tuition fees for both full-time and part-time programmes. The levels of tuition fees vary greatly, depending on the institution, type of a programme (full-time or part-time), field of study and even on the year of study (no fee for the first semester, lower fees for the first year and higher for the subsequent years)

As regards fields of study, the overwhelming majority of non-public HEIs offer degree programmes in economics and administration, social sciences and related areas.

Adult education and training – private forms of continuing education

Continuing education in non-public schools which do not have the public-school status or in other non-public institutions is essentially private. The costs of tuition are covered by learners or can be covered by the employer in case an employee undergoes training at the request of the employer. Based on the data in the Register of Training Institutions (Rejestr Instytucji Szkoleniowych) (available in Polish only), there are currently 13,114 providers, including 6,502 registered after 2019. In total, 3,806 registered institutions provide training funded by the European Social Fund; in the previous year, 2,893 institutions provided training courses commissioned by public employment offices, and 3,497 provided support to unemployed persons after the end of a training course; 2,663 hold an accreditation certificate or a quality label.