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The first annual non-public school fair in Poland

The Our Kids school expo in Warsaw showcased private and non-public schools across Poland

March 10th, 2019 was a celebration of non-public education in Poland. On that day, at the University of Warsaw library, Our Kids Polska held its first annual non-public school expo. The first, but definitely not the last.

Twenty five top non-public schools exhibited, including three prominent international schools. And, over 1000 parents participated in the Our Kids non-public/private school expo in Warsaw. There were also three panel discussions held—run by educators, education experts, and Our Kids representatives—addressing some of the most important issues facing parents with school-aged children.  continue reading...

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There were also tons of enlightening conversations between educators, parents, and others at the expo, in Polish, but also in English, French, and other languages. Answers to questions and important information were provided by school and kindergarten officials to concerned parents looking for the best educational options for their kids (many kids were also in attendance).

Great attendance at the expo

“The attendance exceeded our expectations. We were busy all the time, approached by parents with children who asked us about many issues. It’s clear that they’re hungry for information,” said Sylwia Wlodarczyk, a board member of Jan Guttenberg elementary school, No. 20, with bilingual classes.

“I was surprised by the number of people who visited the expo. We’re now conducting our registration, because we accept students throughout the year. So this is definitely going to be important, and have an impact on the next stage of our registration process,” said Aleksandra Parafiniuk, representing the International American School of Warsaw.

“This fair is extremely successful. The interest far exceeded our expectations,” said Katarzyna Goryluk- Gierszewska, Principal of Academy International Warszawa.

“This is the first time we have attended this kind of event. There are so many parents who ask interesting questions. We are gaining useful experience because as of September 1st we’ll be an elementary and a high school. And, we’re still open for registration,” said Anna Strubińska, principal of a social elementary school, No. 2 STO i, and social middle school, No. 333 STO in Białołęka.

Meetings and discussions at the expo

The expo was a great place for parents and their children to meet with representatives of schools offering education for kids at every age, from preschool to high school. Parents could not only ask questions and look through brochures, but most importantly, talk to school officials about programs, curricula, and how to choose an educational path for their children. They also learned about many development opportunities schools offer.

“At the fair, parents have an opportunity to ask school representatives about everything they would like to know, and find information they could not get on school websites, to compare various institutions. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for the schools to present themselves,” said Marta Jaworska, from Meridian International Schools.

“The idea of the fair is fantastic because parents have an opportunity to quickly learn about and compare the educational programs of many different institutions. It’s great that they can approach us and ask questions, especially because many parents don’t even know what Montessori is. We have a kindergarten, an elementary school, and this year we also opened a high school. In a face-to-face conversation, we can give parents basic information—tell them what sort of program we offer, what makes us different, and why the Montessori system works,” explains Natalia Kłos, office manager of Warsaw Montessori school.

As part of the expo, there were three informative discussion panels. In these panels, parents could learn how to choose the best school, what criteria to use, and how to understand the differences between various curricula and teaching methods. They could also learn what support programs there are. But most importantly, they could ask questions, discuss issues, and get the information they wanted. And they did ask many questions!

The panels were very well attended, which many panelists and exhibiting schools pointed out.

“The idea of organizing the expo was fantastic, and the panel discussions were excellent. Parents were extremely interested in all the topics we discussed and participated enthusiastically. The questions they asked were never trivial. When I see how many people attended, I’m sure this event must be continued. This expo increases the awareness of parents, as well as students, because students also came and asked us questions,” says Żaneta Cornily, board chair at Pro Futuro.

How the expo helped parents

Warsaw 2019 Expo

There were plenty of families at the expo, on a sunny, slightly chilly Sunday afternoon. Many parents brought their kids with them. Over its five hours, 1050 people participated in the fair, some of them looking to enrol their child in a school, others to get more information. They asked questions about a wide range of topics.

“The most common question was about the school location, number two—about our program,” said Anna Strubińska, principal. “Then they asked about the organization, our teachers, our values. They asked whether the name of the school really corresponds to its profile, because our school is named after the inventors of Enigma.”

“So does it?” I asked.

“Not entirely, because our school does focus on mathematics, but it also develops skills in the humanities.”

According to Katarzyna Czech, the owner of Thames British School, parents asked whether their school uses the Polish or English National Curriculum, how big classes are, and where teachers come from. They were also interested in the fees and whether the school organizes open days (open houses), because they would like to visit.

For many, what was most important was the language of instruction. “Parents are happy to find out that teaching is done in English, but the Polish language is also important to them, and sometimes they don’t want their kids’ English to be better than their Polish,” says Czech.

Adrian Hammonds, a teacher at Edison Primary School in Wilanów, explains that parents’ asking about location is completely understandable. “Parents look for schools close to where they live, considering the cost and time of transportation. They also ask about the school curriculum and the extracurriculars.”

“What else should they ask about?” I inquired.

“Whether the school cares about the child’s health and physical development, because we need to develop in many other ways, not only intellectually.”

The double cohort year

The parents at the expo were very interested in high schools, which on September 1st will be admitting a double cohort. This unique situation is the result of the last stage of an education reform in Poland. Since middle schools will no longer operate, graduates of elementary and middle schools will enter high school at the same time. This is twice as many children as usual.

Schools will have to use two different curricula in two different cycles—the old three-year high school one, and the new four-year high school one. And although this applies mostly to schools with the Polish national curriculum and public schools, the issue of the double cohort will create a challenge this year for non-public schools in Poland as well.

This explains why at the expo, out of 25 schools, 15 were high schools. Among them, there were bilingual and international high schools with the Polish national curriculum. Most of these are enriched with the best elements of western curricula, such as Akademickie Liceum Ogólnokształcące przy Wszechnicy Polskiej, Społeczne Liceum STO, and Zespół Edukacyjny im.

Some also offer the IB diploma as well, such as Lotników Amerykańskich, Meridian International Schools, Monnet International Schools, and the International American School of Warsaw. There were also several international schools in attendance, some of which use exclusively foreign curricula, such as the largest private schools in Poland: for instance, the British School Warsaw (English system and IB), the American School of Warsaw (American system and IB), and Akademeia High School, which exclusively uses the British system.

There were also schools that have introduced high school education for the first time this year.

“This has been an amazingly well spent time. There’s so much interest on the part of the parents, who are extremely interested in the non-public educational institutions because of the expected crowding in public schools and the fear that there just won’t be enough places for everyone,” said Dr. Małgorzata Byca, vice principal of the British International School.

Warsaw 2019 Expo

Second annual Our Kids school expo: next year

According to the school exhibitors, the expo was extremely successful.

“Everything turned out to be really great—we had a fantastic opportunity to promote our school and talk to the parents,” said Adrian Hammond. And many shared this opinion. For instance, many representatives of the largest international schools agreed, as they were almost answering questions non-stop, from both parents and their children.

“Poland offers a lot of choice in non-public education. That’s why it’s important to see the differences between schools. Most important is the quality of education, because it affects the development of each individual, and influences where they are eligible to go to school later, what opportunities will be open to them, and whether they will have the right skills,” said Stanka Stoimenova of the American School of Warsaw.

The exhibitors were happy and, most importantly, the parents as well, actively participating in the discussion panels. The next expo is in 10 months. In the meantime, we recommend using our comprehensive website and print school guide.

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