Preschool is geared toward kids who are too young to attend primary school. Most kids who attend a preschool program are between three and six years old. But there are plenty of preschools for children 12 months or younger (or even for infants).
Preschool, sometimes called “pre-primary school,” features a so-called zero year (Zerowka), which is meant to help with the transition to primary school. This is compulsory for all children in Poland.
Facts about preschool education in Poland
Preschools in Poland tend to have some common traits. Many private and public preschools have similar guidelines. Below, we describe some of the main ones.
Private and non-public preschools, sometimes called “pre-primary schools,” are meant for children ages 3 to 6. From age 3 to 5, preschool is option. At age 6, the so-called zero year (Zerowka) is compulsory. The zero year (or grade zero) is meant to help kids with the transition from preschool to primary school. This year can be completed in a preschool or primary school.
The school day
Preschools (private and public) are required to provide at least five hours of teaching and care per day. Many, though, are open nine hours a day, with morning and afternoon shifts available.
Children are grouped according to age, with no more than 25 kids per group. If it’s a special education class, or if there are special needs kids in class, there can be no more than 20 children.
Private and non-public preschools are meant to promote a child’s development. They also prepare kids for future schooling. This is achieved by focusing on certain basic skills and traits:
- Understanding oneself
- Understanding one’s surroundings and environment
- Practical skills
- Social skills
- Knowledge of ethical and moral values
- Basic reading and math skills (in grade zero)
According to the Poland International Education Guide (Alberta), both preschool and grade zero follow curricula based on the Ministry of National Education in Poland. The Ministry has no official recommendations for teaching methodology. And there is no formal assessment of preschool kids. The only evaluation done before primary school is an assessment of health and overall development. This helps to screen for students with special needs.
Types of preschool programs
There are many different types of preschool programs and approaches in Poland. This includes academic, play-based, Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, community-based, and faith-based programs.
- Play-based: These programs aim to develop social skills and a love of attending school through minimally structured activities.
- Academic: These programs are the most structured of the different types. They place a strong emphasis on early learning and school readiness.
- Montessori: These programs have a child-centred approach: kids have lots of freedom to choose their own tasks and activities (with teacher guidance). They also focus a lot on concrete learning.
- Waldorf: These programs offer plenty of practical, hands-on activities. They also stress arts and crafts, creativity, and imaginative and play-based learning.
- Language preschools: There are Polish and English preschools (sometimes called “international preschools”). There are also bilingual, English-Polish preschools.
Preschool pros and cons
A private or non-public preschool in Poland can be a great option for many families. It has numerous benefits. It also, though, raises some potential concerns. Note, the pros and cons of preschool will vary depending on the type of program, the approach used, school policies, teachers, and more.
- Early learning: There are many well-known advantages of early childhood education, including inspiring a love of learning.
- Social interaction: Your child will have lots of opportunities to interact with kids of different ages. This can help them learn, grow, and mature.
- Activities: Your child will be exposed to a wide range of activities, including art, music, dance, and sports.
- Structure: A daily routine can help your child thrive.
- Elementary admissions: Preschools can help your child gain admission to primary programs. Many primary schools look favourably on a preschool education.
- Easier transitions: Exposure to a regular routine early on makes for a smoother transition to formal schooling later on.
- Lack of one-on-one time: Although preschools tend to have low teacher-to-student ratios, it isn’t one-to-one. And the importance of one-on-one time for some kids cannot be disputed.
- Learning too early: Some preschools, it’s claimed, force kids to learn too early. This is a special concern with academic preschools. Learning subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, before one’s ready, can lead to frustration and interfere with a love of learning.
- Separation anxiety: Many young children find it difficult to separate from their parents. Some may need more personal attention and may not be ready to attend school.
- Less social opportunities: Some preschools, especially academic ones, have less social activities. These programs also have less play-based learning.
- Too rigid: Many preschools don’t allow children to attend when they’re sick. Some are also closed during the summer and statutory holidays and may not offer before- or after-care programs.
- Ineffectiveness: Some critics argue that preschool programs have little, if any, impact on academic success. Whatever advantages preschool kids have over those without a preschool education, it’s claimed, normally disappear after grade or class 2.
Most preschools or pre-primary (private) schools have similar educational goals. They aim to foster age-appropriate growth and learning, and challenge and stimulate children. They also aim to prepare kids for the school years.
While they vary in their teaching and learning approaches, most preschools cover similar ground. They normally teach a number of core subjects and skills.
Subjects and skills taught (among others):
- Math (at the zero year level)
- Literacy (mostly at the zero year level)
- Social skills
Preschools use a number of different pedagogical approaches. Many preschools use more than one of these approaches, or a combination of several.
- Play-based learning: learning is built around uninterrupted blocks of play time.
- Curriculum-based learning: learning is focused on academic skills.
- Theme-based learning: learning is based on weekly themes (e.g., animals, colours, seasons, etc.).
- Experiential learning: learning is based on practical outcomes both in and outside of class.
Choosing a preschool
Assuming your child is ready for preschool, you’ll want to find the right one. You should look at several preschools and choose one that’s the right fit for you, your family, and your child. Luckily, there are lots of private and non-public preschools across Poland. This includes private preschools in Warsaw, Kraków, Poznán, Wrocław, Łódź, Gdańsk, Szczecin, Bydgoszcz, Lublin, and Rzeszów.
Finding the right preschool involves looking at both general and individual factors. General factors concern a school’s overall suitability, for any child. Individual factors are specific to you, your family, and your child. They relate to your family’s beliefs, values, and needs.
General factors to consider
- Safety: Does it have a safe environment with proper supervision? What policies are in place and precautions used to ensure your child’s well being?
- Discipline: How does it deal with behaviour issues? Are kids disciplined in any ways, and if so, how?
- Class size and teacher-to-student ratio: How large is the class? What is the staff-to-child ratio?
- Hours: What time does the private preschool begin and end? Are before and/or after care offered? Is preschool open during holidays and/or summers?
- Communication: Is there an open line of communication with directors and staff? Who do you go to with your questions or concerns?
Individual factors to consider
- Location: What city is it in? How close to you is it? Is it easily accessible by car and public transportation?
- Cost: How much does it cost? What exactly does this cost include? Are financial aid or subsidies offered?
- Values: What are the main values it aims to promote? How does it aim to promote these values?
- Environment: What type of learning environment is used? Are there different areas or stations of the classroom? What kinds of materials are in the classroom?
- Teaching approach: What is the teaching and learning approach? Does it offer more academic or play-based learning (or an equal combination of both)?
- Specialized learning: Does it offer individualized learning? Does it tailor teaching to specific students, where appropriate? Or is teaching more of a “one-size-fits-all” approach?
- Special needs: Does it offer support for kids with special needs? If so, which special needs, and how does it support these children?