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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education


6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

Last update: 2 February 2024

Types of schools

Within the Polish school system, which is based on the 8-year primary school, the stage of lower secondary education is not formally distinguished; the 8-year primary school covers two levels: ISCED 1 (primary education) and ISCED 2 (lower secondary education). Education in the primary school ends with the eighth-grader exam

Upper secondary schools currently include: 

  • 3-year stage I sectoral vocational schools (szkoła branżowa I stopnia), where pupils finishing the school receive a diploma upon passing vocational exams. They can continue education either in a stage II sectoral vocational school training for an occupation which embraces a qualification common to the occupation for which pupils are trained in stage I and stage II schools, or in a general upper secondary school for adults, starting in Grade II. 

  • 4-year general secondary schools (liceum ogólnokształcące), where pupils who have finished the school can take the maturity exam leading to a maturity certificate. 

5-year technical upper secondary schools (technikum), where pupils can obtain a diploma upon passing vocational exams and can also take the maturity exam and obtain a maturity certificate. 

  • 2-year stage II sectoral vocational schools (szkoła branżowa II stopnia), where learners can obtain a Technician diploma upon passing a vocational exam; the diploma confers vocational qualifications for an occupation which embraces a qualification common to the occupation for which pupils / students are trained in stage I and stage II schools. Learners can also obtain a maturity certificate upon passing the maturity exam.

  • 3-year special schools preparing for employment which take pupils with a moderate or severe intellectual disability and pupils with multiple disabilities, and award a diploma confirming preparation for employment (see also Educational Support and Guidance).

Post-secondary schools (providing post-secondary non-tertiary education)

  • Post-secondary schools (szkoła policealna) for learners who have completed upper secondary education in the pre-reform system (or secondary education in the post-reform system), which offer vocational programmes lasting from 1 to 2.5 years and award diplomas to those who have passed vocational exams. 

Art schools

Art schools in Poland form a separate structure in organisational terms. They are supervised by the minister responsible for culture and national heritage. See also the chapter ‘Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures’.

Core curriculum for general education in secondary schools

The core curriculum for general education is one of the key legal instruments for the management of school education in Poland. On 1 September 2019, new types of 4-year general secondary and 5-year technical secondary schools (post-primary schools) were established. New schools were set up or pre-reform upper secondary schools were formally transformed into the corresponding types of new secondary schools. On 1 September 2020, stage II sectoral vocational schools were established as entirely new institutions; they take learners who have finished stage I sectoral vocational schools. 

The core curriculum for general education in the new types of schools is laid down in the following regulations based on the Law on School Education (ustawa – Prawo oświatowe):

The core curriculum for vocational education in various types of schools (sectoral vocational schools, 5-year technical secondary schools and post-secondary schools) is established by the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 16 May 2019 on the core curricula for vocational sector-based education and additional vocational skills for selected occupations identified within vocational sector-based education (rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej z dnia 16 maja 2019 r. w sprawie podstaw programowych kształcenia w zawodach szkolnictwa branżowego oraz dodatkowych umiejętności zawodowych w zakresie wybranych zawodów szkolnictwa branżowego)

In the 2017 core curriculum, the aims of general education in stage I sectoral vocational schools include preparing pupils to acquire vocational qualifications and, as for the other types of schools, for work and life in the contemporary world. General education in a stage I sectoral vocational school initiates the process of lifelong learning. In addition to providing vocational training, a stage I sectoral vocational school should provide pupils with a body of general knowledge which lays the foundation of education, enabling learners further on to acquire various vocational qualifications and continue education in a stage II sectoral vocational school and, subsequently, enhance and adapt knowledge. General education in a stage I sectoral vocational school aims to enable pupils to (1) acquire a body of knowledge covering facts, rules, theories and practices; (2) acquire the ability to use the knowledge gained to carry out tasks and solve problems; (3) develop attitudes which are necessary for efficient and responsible functioning in the contemporary world.

Separate annexes to the Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 30 January 2018 (Rozporządzenie Ministra Edukacji Narodowej z dnia 30 stycznia 2018 r. w sprawie podstawy programowej kształcenia ogólnego dla liceum ogólnokształcącego, technikum oraz branżowej szkoły II stopnia) lay down the core curricula for general education in:

  • 4-year general secondary schools and 5-year technical secondary schools;

  • stage II sectoral vocational schools for learners who have finished pre-reform lower secondary schools;

  • stage II sectoral vocational schools for learners who have finished post-reform 8-year primary schools.

The new core curriculum for the 4-year general secondary school and the 5-year technical secondary school (established by the aforementioned Regulation of 30 January 2018) considers general education in a post-primary school as a coherent whole in curricular terms. It lays foundations for education, enabling pupils to acquire various qualifications for future employment and, subsequently, to upgrade or modify them, and thus initiating the lifelong learning process. General education in a general secondary school and a technical secondary school aims to:

  1. treat structured and systematic knowledge as the basis for skills development;
  2. improve thinking and language skills such as reading comprehension; creative writing; formulating questions and problems; using criteria; substantiating judgements; explaining; classifying; reasoning; defining; using examples, etc.;
  3. develop personal interests and integrate subject-area knowledge gained in various disciplines;
  4. develop skills to formulate independent and considered judgments, and substantiate one’s own and other people’s judgments in the process of dialogue within a community of enquiry;
  5. combine critical and logical thinking skills with imagination and creativity skills;
  6. develop social, moral and aesthetic sensitivity;
  7. develop thinking tools which enable pupils to commune with, and understand, culture;
  8. develop pupils’ respect for knowledge, arouse their passion for exploring the world, and encourage them to apply in practice the knowledge gained.   

The list of skills to be acquired by pupils in the upper secondary schools (referred to as post-primary schools) comprises, for example, ICT skills, including respect for copyrights and safety in cyberspace; skills necessary to independently retrieve, select, combine and judge the value of information, and use sources in a reliable way; and skills for communication in the national language and foreign languages, including both speaking and writing skills.

Based on the arrangements in place since 1 September 2019, external examination boards assess the level of competences to be acquired by the end of an education stage, as set out in the core curriculum, through the maturity exam at the end of education stage III

Reforms of the vocational education and training (VET) system

The vocational education and training and vocational examination system in Poland has been adapted to the needs of modern economy since 2012. The changes introduced aim to improve the quality and effectiveness of vocational education and training (VET).

A set of laws passed on 14 December 2016, including the Law on School Education (Prawo oświatowe) and the Provisions introducing the Law on School Education (Przepisy wprowadzające Prawo oświatowe), diversified learning paths for young people who have finished the 8-year primary school by establishing stage I and stage II sectoral vocational schools (2+3 years of education):

  • Stage I sectoral vocational schools enable pupils to obtain a vocational diploma and complete basic training for a given sector / trade. Pupils finishing the school will be prepared to take up employment.

  • Stage II sectoral vocational school enables interested learners who have finished a stage I school to continue education, obtain a Technician diploma and take the maturity exam. This option was not available to learners who finished a basic vocational school in the pre-reform school system that was in place before 1 September 2017.

The following changes have been introduced since 1 September 2019:

  • Separate implementing regulations on the classification of occupations for VET linked to the core curricula for VET. This makes the structure of regulations based on the Law more readable and helps to avoid the situation where no up-to-date core curricula are in place for new occupations to be established.

  • Closer collaboration between schools and employers and their organisations. Schools and employers can conclude agreements and establish so-called patronage or sponsored classes (klasa patronacka) where pupils are trained for a given occupation or specialism in response to the needs of a specific employer.

  • Official labour-market demand forecasts, and mandatory opinions given by the regional labour-market councils. Local administration bodies are required to assess the needs related to the training of pupils in vocational schools; this is a mandatory element of a feasibility study for the establishment of new programmes for specific occupations and for further delivery of programme in existing schools.

  • Compulsory vocational exams. To finish school, each pupil or learner in a vocational school should pass an exam and acquire qualifications for a given occupation.


The basic legislative act for secondary education is the Act of 14 December 2016 – the Law on School Education (ustawa z dnia 14 grudnia 2016 r. – Prawo oświatowe) (and, during the implementation of the school system reform, the Act of 14 December 2016 – Provisions introducing the Law on School Education (ustawa z dnia 14 grudnia 2016 r. – przepisy wprowadzające Prawo oświatowe). It is supplemented by the provisions of the School Education Act of 7 September 1991 (ustawa z dnia 7 września 1991 r. o systemie oświaty) (as subsequently amended), which are still in force.

8-year primary schools, stage I sectoral vocational schools, schools preparing for employment and post-secondary schools, and new 4-year general secondary schools and 5-year technical secondary schools, which have operated since 1 September 2019, and stage II sectoral vocational schools, which have been in place since 1 September 2020, are governed by the aforementioned Law on School Education and regulations covering specific aspects. These include, for example:

Schools providing vocational education are governed by the following regulations based on the Law on School Education: