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The record increase in popularity of private education in Poland

The crisis in public education leads to unprecedented interest in private schools

Recent times have been very difficult in many areas of ​​life—a long-lasting pandemic and now the unrelenting war in Ukraine with its serious economic consequences.

The condition of Poland’s education, which is going through a serious crisis, is also becoming increasingly concerning. These concerns have been voiced by teachers, educators, parents, and local governments.  continue reading...

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The situation in public education

There are a number of worrisome phenomena in public schools:

• An unprecedented shortage of teaching staff

The teacher shortage is increasing each year, but has reached an alarming level and is now a huge problem for many schools.

The main reason for this is very low wages. Frustrated teachers are leaving teaching for other professions, older ones are retiring, and few new young ones are coming. Although teaching is a profession which requires a university degree, the starting salary is only PLN 3,400 a month. The shortage of teachers is visible in a large number of job offers. In Warsaw alone, three and a half thousand teaching positions are vacant.

Other reasons for this state of affairs include work overload, difficult working conditions (nearly 80% of teachers use private equipment and office supplies at work), lack of employer support and financial development prospects, and the risk of strikes.

The average age of teachers is increasing. Teachers are overworked, and in order to cope financially they take extra hours and sometimes extra work, including private tutoring, which has become the norm in public education. All of this has a negative impact on the quality of education.

The shortage of teaching staff in schools is dealt with in a number of ways. For instance, retired teachers are asked to return to work part-time, full-time teachers have to agree to overtime, and sometimes schools hire teachers without full qualifications.

• The prestige of the teaching profession is falling

This is what teachers complain of. Some teachers leave the profession not only for financial reasons; for many, there is also a dignity factor, as Katarzyna Przyborska writes in "Krytyka Polityczna."

• The number of students in class is increasing

In large city high schools, more than 30 students in class have become the norm. In the 2021/2022 school year, the education authorities also raised the number limits for kindergartens to 28 kids and for primary Grades 1 to 3 to 29 students. The impact on the quality of education is obvious: it undermines it.

• Local governments face financial difficulties

Local governments, which finance public schools, are struggling with budget problems and are cutting spending to cope with financial burdens. Schools have to make a number of painful savings, which also negatively affects what they can offer.

• Prospect of returning to remote learning

Schools are at risk of having to switch back to distance learning, this time not because of the pandemic, but due to the cost of heating and maintaining schools. The impact of remote education on students’ mental health can be extremely worrisome.

The effects of the crisis in education

The condition of public education is becoming more and more concerning. The consequence of this is the unprecedented outflow of students from public to private institutions.

• Parents' level of awareness increased

As we wrote on the basis of our own research, the pandemic caused a significant increase in parents' knowledge about the education of their kids. During the lockdown, as never before, they could keep an eye on their children and observe their learning on a daily basis—seeing how they’re taught. As parents reported, they gained considerable knowledge about the programs and teaching methods and became more involved and aware of what’s important. They understood the importance of their children's well-being, individualized work, and schools’ support for the students and parents. Many parents of public school students saw that some curricula and teaching methods didn’t fit with the realities of the modern world. Moreover, it became clear that private schools are much better equipped to deal with a crisis like a pandemic and pay much more attention to non-academic elements, such as the students’ well-being, which is of particular importance in such situations.

• Rapid growth of the private education sector

All these issues with public education have caused a rapid increase in the popularity of private schools.

Private education has been developing dynamically since the education reform in 2017. The 2021 study, described in the article "Poles definitely prefer private schools,” shows that the popularity of private schools is constantly growing. In the 2021-22 school year, the trend away from public education became much stronger than before. The Our Kids school-research platform records an increase in readership every year, but now this increase is even greater—more and more families are looking for private schools and information about private education. We also hear from parents contacting us that they are seriously concerned about the condition of public education—increasing numbers of them are thinking about moving their kids to private schools.

The number of private schools and the percentage of children studying there is also growing. New schools are being established, those already on the market are opening more classes or creating additional levels—primary schools open secondary schools and secondary schools open elementary schools. For example, in three years, as many as 24 new private schools appeared in Poznań.

As Katarzyna Przyborska writes in "Krytyka Polityczna": "In the 2016/2017 school year, before the reform, there were 1,244 private primary schools and 448 private secondary schools in Poland, while five years later, there were 1549 and 607, respectively, i.e., about a quarter more. During the same time, the number of public schools increased only slightly."

What does this mean for families looking for private schools?

First of all, the choice is much greater, but at the same time, with so many private schools and teaching methods available, parents feel increasingly overwhelmed by the options on the market. In the current situation, professional advisers play a particularly important role. Such a proven and free advisor/source of knowledge and information is the Our Kids platform, used by thousands of parents trying to find their way through the maze of information about private education. As the only platform in Poland specializing in private education, we offer families looking for schools extensive knowledge about what school types are available, how they work, how to find the best school for their child, as well as in-depth profiles and descriptions of schools, and tools for comparing them.

We recommend the article ABC of Educational Terminology - Glossary of Terms and Conditions, in which we explain the concepts and terms that you may encounter when looking for a school. This is the perfect start to your school search.

On February 4, Our Kids returns with its third Private School Expo, the only fair of private kindergartens, primary schools, and high schools in Poland, at the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw. Stay tuned for more details. You may want to read this article: Opinions about Our Kids Private School Expo.

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