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If you have an older child in private school, it’s important to decide whether boarding or day school is right for them. There are benefits to both, and many schools in Poland offer both boarding and day programs.
Boarding schools: Boarding schools in Poland offer room and board. Many offer day programs as well. This means they often have a nice mix of international and domestic students. While they tend to be more expensive than day programs, boarding schools have several benefits. For instance, in Warsaw, boarding schools often have diverse student bodies, international learning programs (like IB), high-level academics, and strong student support programs. They also offer a unique community, where you child learns, lives, and grows up with their classmates.
Day schools: Private day schools come in all shapes and sizes. The common theme, though, is that students normally travel to and from school and go back home at the end of the day. While boarding is offered mostly to older students, day programs in Poland are offered from preschool to high school. They also offer a wide range of different kinds of programs and curricula. For instance, Warsaw days schools alone have Montessori, international, special needs, gifted, and IB programs.
Most private and non-public schools in Poland are coed—they admit both boys and girls. Poland also has boys- and girls-only schools, though.
Coed schools: Coed schools have both boys and girls. In Poland, the majority of private and public schools are coed. These schools have a gender-neutral curriculum and learning environment. They also have a wide range of boys’, girls, and coed extracurricular programs. Coed schools provide boys and girls with a rich environment, one that reflects the world around them. They also allow kids to develop strong social and emotional skills.
All-boys schools: Boys’ schools in Poland provide a single-gender environment suited to boys. Boys’s schools often have a lot of physical pursuits and give boys more chances to be active than coed schools. This is especially true at the lower levels. As boys get older, they are given more time to explore their unique interests (for instance, in the arts or sports). The curriculum of boys’ schools is tailored to to meet the unique learning and psychological needs of boys. These schools also aim to impart a passion for learning.
All-girls schools: Girls’ schools in Poland are popular with parents who want their daughters to develop a strong sense of self and grow into mature women. They provide a comfortable environment with staff who understand the unique learning styles of girls. Students are also given plenty of role models. In this environment, your daughter can feel free to ask questions, express her feelings, and state her opinions with less self-consciousness than in a coed school. Some parents also feel their daughters feel less pressure at a girls’ school than they would elsewhere.
There are four main levels of education in Poland: preschool, elementary (or primary) school, middle (or junior high) school, and high (or upper secondary) school. The only compulsory levels for Polish students are the last year of preschool (pre-primary school or “zero year”) and elementary school.
Preschools: Preschool is geared toward kids who are too young to attend elementary or primary school. Most kids who attend a preschool program are between three and six years old. But there are plenty of preschools in Poland for children 12 months or younger (or even for infants). Sometimes called “pre-primary school,” preschool features a zero year (Zerowka), which is meant to help with the transition to primary school. This is compulsory for all children in Poland.
Elementary schools: Elementary schools, sometimes called “primary schools,” are equivalent to elementary schools in Canada and the US. They are for kids between the ages of 7 and 13, and kids normally attend them for six years. Elementary school, and the zero year (Zerowka) of preschool, are the only compulsory levels of education for Polish kids. Elementary school in Poland is divided into two stages. The first stage (I Etap), Grades 1 to 3, involves more integrated teaching (normally taught by one teacher). The second stage (II Etap) covers Grades 4 to 6, and involves more subject-specific teaching (with subjects normally taught by specialist teachers).
Middle schools: Middle schools, sometimes called “junior high schools” or “lower secondary schools,” are equivalent to North American junior high schools. While middle school is optional in Poland, most kids attend middle school, from the age of 13 to 16 (grade 7 to 9). Middle school in Poland is the third stage of education (III Etap) and covers stages 1 to 3. According to Alberta’s Poland International Education Guide, middle school focuses primarily on the Polish language, math, physical education, modern foreign languages, history, religion, and ethics. It also covers physics, biology, chemistry, geography, the arts, computer science, and social studies.
High schools: High schools, sometimes called “upper secondary schools” or “general secondary schools,” are equivalent to North American high schools. While these schools are optional, many Polish kids (and foreign students) attend high school. These schools are for students aged 16 to 20. This is roughly equivalent to grades 10 to 12 and the first 2 years of university or college in North America. Like middle schools, these schools focus a great deal on the Polish language, foreign languages, physical education, and math. They also focus on the hard sciences, geography, history, religion, ethics, information technology, and business.
“Curriculum” refers to what is taught and how it’s taught. Keep in mind, that some schools don’t fall neatly into one category. Indeed, many schools use more than one curricular approach. They also have different ways of delivering curriculum, as well as different focuses and specialty programs.
Montessori schools: This approach is especially popular at the younger levels: preschool and elementary school. It’s sometimes available all the way up to high school, though. The hallmark of Montessori schools is decentralized and self-directed learning. Kids often have the freedom to choose their own tasks and work at their own pace (with guidance from the teacher). Instead of providing whole-class lectures, teachers guide, mentor, and provide short lessons to small groups of students. Many Montessori schools in Poland, including in Warsaw, are accredited by a certifying institute, such as the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). And some have teachers with specialized Montessori training, acquired at the Polish Montessori Institute (PMI), the AMI, or elsewhere.
Special needs schools: Special needs schools are geared towards students with any type of special need. This includes physical, learning, linguistic, social, behavioural, and psychological needs. Many private and non-public schools in Poland offer small classes, tailored instruction, and extra support and resources for students with one or more special needs. Some of these schools offer full-time special needs support, while others offer part-time support (for instance, through a pull-out special education class or through in-class accommodations).
Social schools: Social schools in Poland are normally non-public (and non-profit) schools created by social organizations. Parents are often quite involved in these schools, working closely with teachers and students. These schools aim to build the social skills of students. As the Social Education Association (STO) in Poland puts it, “It’s about shaping a student as a person: in a mental, social, cultural, and physical sense.” Many social schools also have small class sizes, lots of extracurriculars, and use innovative teaching approaches.
Language schools: Many private and non-public schools in Poland offer specialized language programs. Some of these schools offer English as the main language of instruction. Others offer bilingual, Polish-English instruction (with courses taught in both Polish and English). Many schools also offer a wide range of intensive courses on foreign languages, such as French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. These schools can be an ideal fit for international students. Since they also often admit Polish residents, they tend to have a diverse student body (which is one of their major perks).
International schools: International schools in Poland are geared toward foreign students, from Canada, the US, Britain, France, Germany, and many other countries. Many of these schools, including those from Warsaw, offer English-language instruction, and some offer bilingual, Polish-English instruction. These schools normally have high-level academics, with international programs such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), which can be offered at the primary, middle, and high school level. Most international schools also admit local residents, and thus have a nice mix of foreign and domestic students.
Gifted schools: Gifted schools and programs focus on the learning needs of gifted students. They provide a fast-paced and enriched learning environment to keep gifted learners engaged. Gifted programming is normally available at the primary and secondary level. In Poland, the main options for advanced learners are dedicated gifted programs (where your child learns exclusively with other gifted students), part-time withdrawal classes (where your child is taken out of class periodically for enriched or accelerated studies), and in-class accommodations (where teachers make adjustments in a regular class to meet your child’s special learning needs).
Waldorf schools: Waldorf schools in Poland don’t have a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Curricula are tailored to the specific learning needs of students. Waldorf teachers educate the whole child: head, heart, and hand. They develop children’s aptitudes for thinking, feeling, and acting. Art, music, and imagination, in Waldorf schools, are infused throughout the curriculum. This nurtures children’s creativity, curiosity, and love of learning. Most Waldorf schools delay core academics until at least grade 1, when children are ready and interested.
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