Life in Poland

What all the hubbub, Bub?

Poland’s educational system is undergoing a reform. According to the new regulations, the age for starting compulsory education will be lowered from age 7 to age 6 for first-graders.
The result is that 5-year-olds will begin their education in zerówka, so-called zero class (like kindergarten in the US) and 6 year-olds will start 1st grade. The 3-year reform will, in September, be in its second year. So this September, parents still have a choice to send their 6-year-old to 1st grade or wait until next September and send their 7-year-old. After that, all 6-year-olds will compulsorily enter the 1st grade.
So what’s all the hubbub, Bub?
Parents against the reform want to return to the pre-reform status concerning the age of kids starting school and also the curriculum for teaching them. They feel that the new program is too ambitious for this age group and that the children are unprepared. Those parents feel that their freedom of choice has been taken away from them in the issue most important to them – their children. Those supporting the campaign “Ratuj Maluchy” (Save the little ones) have delivered their petition signed by more than 330,000 parents to the government.
Let’s get down to it…
Your child being ready for school and the school being ready for your child are two different things. I think many of the parents who claim that their kids are not ready actually mean that the kids are not ready for 1st grade as it existed before the reform and many fear that the schools haven’t made the necessary changes to accommodate these youngest pupils.
I understand that. Nobody wants their kid to be a guinea pig, me either, but I also don’t want my 19-year-old to still be in high school.
As I listened to my talk radio on this subject yesterday almost every caller’s complaint boiled down to this -the Polish inferiority complex and fear of change (sorry, but  normal people rarely call in). Reform? No way! No how! For sure the government will screw it up somehow. My kid? Go to school early? No way! No how! The government is stealing our children’s childhood. We cannot allow it! The government just wants money for books and able-bodied workers (one year earlier) working for their retirement. I went to first grade when I was 7 and my kid will too!!!!!
A little faith people.
By the same token, I can claim that I went to school at 6 (even at 5, actually) and everything worked out well for me. The difference being, I went to school in the US where every year five- and six-year-old kids started the 1st grade. The schools were ready for us. In addition, American schools have the same number of lessons for all grades each day. We all started at the same time and finished at the same time. There was no świetlica (after-school program) where we sat after only 2 or 3 lessons for the day. Maybe that is also a concern for the parents.
Roman Giertych, a Polish politician, claims to know the real reason behind the reform…to get parents to spend money on new textbooks. He calls the whole reform “idiotic”. This from the man who a few years ago spearheaded the school uniform campaign causing cost and confusing throughout the entire country.
From onet:
Cała ta reforma jest po to, by powstały nowe podręczniki, a rodzice musieli je kupić – mówił na antenie TVN 24 w programie “Fakty po Faktach” Roman Giertych. – Cofnąłbym całą reformę, bo jest idiotyczna – dodał.
What do the experts and the ministry of education say? I get the impression that they are surprised by the backlash. The Ministry reminds us that practically every civilized country operates on such an educational system. Opponents argue that 2 wrongs don’t make a right. The Ministry also points out that the children are under that same care as before, just housed in a different location (and sometimes in the same location). Opponents argue that primary schools are not able to take care of such little kids and protect them from the older kids. As far as the program goes, the Ministry and other experts claim that the new program is not too ambitious, but rather that the old program was not ambitious enough. Opponents disagree, but I think they’ve got a point there.
My first grade experience was a very pleasant one. It was quite similar to my kindergarten. We learned a bit more of course, but we had plenty of time to play and draw and run…and pray…it was a Catholic school. Misiu also remembers his first grade as a pleasant experience with a lot of playing and drawing and fun. The difference being, he was almost 8, the oldest in his class, and could already read and write. He was a real bookworm and insisted that his parents teach him (just like our Lizzie). Reading and writing were not skills that all his classmates had acquired at home. At that age, I was in the 3rd grade and already deep into my passion for books about Ramona Quimby…my favorite entitled, “Ramona Quimby, Age 8”. By the way, that’s exactly how I looked at age 8.
The worst, in my opinion, are the moms standing with kids in front of the TV camera, pleading “A moje dziecko nie da rady….” Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mom.
So what can I do? Nothing, my 6-year-old child will go to the 1st grade compulsorily in one year. I will send her and hope for the best. Unfortunately, my 6-year-old will enter 1st grade in the final year of the reform…meaning all the kids who were not sent this year will go next year by law. The classes will be packed. Through their whole educational life and future job search, this group of kids will struggle. Well, not my kid, she’s a superstar.

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  • Reply
    July 5, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Oh Chris:))) My son when we came here, just completed 1 grade in Poland and teachers here assigned him to 3 grade. Thankfully I didn't speak English, so I missed the chance to make an ass of myself:)))

  • Reply
    July 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    No doubt, she is :)In the UK children start pre-school at the age of 4 and move to so-called reception at the age of 5 (and the birthday matters – those born after 1.09 of each year start a year later).At this age they slowly start learning reading and writing, still playing more then just learning.The really tough time is the transition from primary to secondary at the age of 11 – I see lots of anxious kids and parents in the surgery each September.Polish school reform – Giertych should really shut up and become invisible – being MoE himself had his chance, not done too much.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Very interesting to read about educational changes in Poland. I hope that these new reforms will make Polish education more conceptual and inquiry-based. I know that my son educated in US knows less that my nephews educated in Poland, but he is such a great problem-solver. I think these skills are so needed in 21 century when world is changing so rapidly. Good luck with the new chapter. your girl will be just fine!!!

  • Reply
    July 7, 2011 at 1:21 am

    And of course you child is super-super-star. Likewise mine!!!:):):)

  • Reply
    July 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Seriously?! I think school for 6 y/o is just fine… but not necessary in the same form they've been teaching up to now. 1st graders in Poland get more homework than middle schoolers in the US. They should really work on adjusting syllabus and learning/ teaching goals for the little ones! And they should totally figure out how to make school last all day long, not 3-4 hours a day…It will take them a while, but nice to see that something has started to change 😉

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