In this article I am delivering information about newest structure of Educational system in Poland, implemented in the reform from 2017. Which means 8 grades of primary school, no gymnasium, 1 year longer secondary school period and vocational school divided in to 2 grades. Below the list of things covered in my material.

As usual, a little bit of statistics first. Accordingly with data from Central Statistical Office (Główny Urząd Statystyczny), in the year 2018/2019 we had over 1,230,250 students, where almost 78 300 were foreigners. This includes 66% of full-time and 34% of part-time studies.

We also have over 3,000,000 children in primary schools and 1,500,000 in secondary schools. In total it results with over 5,730,300 people occupying educational system in Poland. Following educational system by youth from 7 up to 18 year old is obligatory in Poland. It is up to the parents to ensure that their children attend school. If you are the parent who fails to do so, you might face a fine up to 10 000 zł, and the court will enforce the child’s schooling obligation. Public schools are for free – which means that public school as an institution can not ask You to pay any fee for following the classes. But! It can’t be that easy. I will explain more in the following parts of this article.

Primary School

Education system in Poland - Primary school
Education system in Poland – Primary school

So called elementary schools. Following the 2017 reform of the educational system, compulsory primary education is attended by 8 years – which is synonymous with 8 grades. The basic criteria here is the age of the student – children who are 7 years old and have completed one year of education in kindergarten are subject to compulsory education.

A little students start with subjects as “early school education” (edukacja wczesnoszkolna), information technology – IT, physical education (wychowanie fizyczne) and additional language – in majority of the cases – English. Subject called “early school education” consist of polish language, math, art, basic rules saying about behaviors in the community as well as basic information’s about surrounding us world of nature.

At 4th grade, subjects become more focused: instead of “early school education” children are getting separate polish language, math, biology, chemistry, physics, geography, history, computer science, foreign language, music, art, social studies, technology, physical education, education for family life and education for safety.

At the end of 8th grade, our students supposed to be 15-16 years old. This is the time, when they will approach the “Eighth grade exam” (Egzamin Ósmoklasisty). The result of this exam, might be very crucial in case of choosing secondary school.

Secondary School

Education system in Poland - Secondary school
Education system in Poland – Secondary school

Secondary school called also high school is divided in to three main types: regular high school (liceum), technical school (technikum) and vocational school (szkoła branżowa also known as szkoła zawodowa before 2017). You might want to ask, what is the difference? I am going straight forward to the explanation.

High School (liceum)

If you want to be able to study in a general secondary school, you must first graduate from primary school and take the eighth-grade exam. Profiles in high school give you possibility to study subjects at the additional advanced level (you may choose from 2 to 4 subjects at the same time). There are also bilingual classes where some subjects are taught in a foreign language. Students from such classes have the opportunity to take the bilingual exam as well. At the end of the learning period, the student takes the secondary school-leaving exam (matura) which finishes his graduation. The graduate may start education at a post-secondary school or university (secondary school-leaving certificate required).

Technical School (technikum)

Takes 5 years. It is 1 year longer then in case of regular high school, since except regular subjects preparing you to secondary school-leaving exam (“matura” is so much shorter to write 😉 ), you get as well subjects where you exercise and prepare yourself to the specific profession and get certification with title confirming it. I made for You list of all titles from which you can choose, as you go to technical school. You may download it from link below.

So at the end of technical school, except school-leaving exam and diploma you would get as well separate exam (egzamin zawodowy) which confirms your technical skills about specific profession and of course your profession certification. Just like in case of regular high school, the graduate may start education at a post-secondary school or university.

Vocational school (szkoła branżowa / zawodowa)

After the mentioned reform, vocational school is divided in to 2 grades. Education in the first level vocational school lasts 3 years and includes general and vocational education. After graduating the 1st level and passing the exam in one qualification, the graduate will obtain a diploma confirming qualifications in the profession, and will also receive basic industry education, but with no school leaving exam, what also means no school leaving certification.

Finishing first grade does not allow you to continue education on study nor get the Technician diploma about your profession. It does allow you to finish you education path at 18 – 19 years old. But, the graduates of the 1st degree Vocational School will be able to continue their education at the lasting 2 years of additional period 2nd degree in order to obtain a technician diploma. In addition, a graduate of the vocational school of the second degree will receive secondary technical education and will be able to take the school leaving exam (matura).

StudiesEducation in Poland cost?

Education system in Poland - Studies
Education system in Poland – Studies

The types of studies in Poland usually have a two grades. Students usually start their adventure with higher education from making decision about becoming bachelor (licencjat) or engineer (inżynier). Bachelor studies are provided at most universities and academies. Most often, their duration is three years, what means 6 semesters. Engineering studies are a bit longer – 7 semesters. Regardless of whether you choose the fields of study carried out as bachelor’s or engineering studies, you will gain basic knowledge and qualifications as part of the first cycle education. At the end of your studies, you will also start the defense of your first serious diploma thesis.

After completing your first grade studies, you can think about further education. For people who want to ensure the completeness of their education, there are second grade studies – so called master’s studies. They may also vary in duration depending on which university is chosen. So called second-cycle (2nd grade) studies usually involve additional two or one and a half years of study.

This is not the end though! Some majors of study in Poland are uniform. You can call them then uniform master’s studies (studia jednolite magisterskie). The group of this type of education path, is not long and includes, for example, fields of study such as psychology, pharmacy, law, medicine and dentistry or graphics, etc. Students who choose uniform education will be educated for at least 5 years.

Mode of Study

The fields of study in Poland and the formal aspect related to them is not only the type, but also the mode of study. Prospective bachelor’s, engineers and masters can start their higher education in full-time, part-time or online mode.

Below I added a link to pretty fresh solution working on the base of search engines taken from OTOMOTO (if you look for a car) or OTODOM (if you look for an appartment). With this difference, that OTOUCZELNIE, allows You to look for studies for yourself in the biggest cities in Poland taking into the consideration major, grade and mode of study. But! On the moment of writing this article, database is not covering all Poland yet, neither all universities and academies.

Of course, getting master degree (2nd grade) might be just a warm up if you will choose to get for example Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Habilitation or Professor grade / title (3rd grade). Studying at the third cycle, i.e. doctoral studies, lasts several years and is significantly extended in a narrow field. But this is subject for completly separate article.

How much does the Education in Poland cost?

How much does the Education in Poland cost?
How much does the Education in Poland cost?

Public primary and secondary schools and studies are free of charge. Key word here: “Public”. So now is the time for another “but”. Despite the fact, that there are no fees to pay, usually You would need to pay for dinners, school trips and school starter kit or fox example additional fees for eams and practical exercises during studies.

Starting with elementary school, school kit contains backpack, school accessories, notebooks, proper school shoes and set of clothes for Physical Education – P.E. (Wychowanie Fizyczne). Of course price bracket does depend on quality of the items which You will buy. Only school kit might result with cost oscillating around 300 – 500 zł. Good news here is related with the fact, that all books and exercise books are for free during whole period of compulsory primary education. Only exception here is related with optional subjects, for which we need to buy books on our own – for example catholic education or ethics. Going forward, you also need to buy books on your own in secondary school and on studies.

Allow me also to clarify the issue of mandatory fees during studies:

  • students of private universities are required to pay tuition fees,
  • public / state university students do not have to pay tuition fees.

Part Time fees

Exception to the rule above is that part-time and postgraduate studies at state universities are always paid. The amount of tuition fees at private universities depends on the field of study – you have to pay the most for economics, IT and business. The humanities and social studies will cost us the least. The exact price lists are always available on the websites of individual universities. However, pay attention to a very important aspect. I mean the number of installments, as some universities charge tuition fees for the full 12 months (including the holiday period). In such a case, education will be correspondingly more expensive – sometimes even by 1,000 zł per academic year.

So it is pretty easy math right now – average regular monthly fee oscillates around 500 zł, which means that only tuition fees at private universities may cost around 5,000 zł to 6,000 zł per year. Let’s be completely honest: tuition fees are your least concern, which can be dealt without much problem, for example by receiving the rector’s scholarship for research, sports, social, etc. If you are not living in your home city, normal costs of living, such as renting a flat, food or entertainment, are much more challenging.

Summary of Educational system in Poland

Diagram of education system

The education system in Poland gives us a lot of possibilities for getting proper degree. But which way shall we choose? It does depend on our own ambitions and goals which we want to achieve. For example, if I would like to become a doctor, just after primary school I would have go for high school with biology / chemistry profile and then full-time unified studies.

On the other hand, becoming an IT specialist might be pretty much different. Good technical school is able to prepare you practically to performing basic IT tasks, so just after getting your technician diploma, You might get IT work and study IT in a part-time mode, what would give you proper experience, knowledge and degree at the same time.

And if you are not really “in to learning” and you just want to finish any school at earliest, you should have choose 3 years of vocational school just after primary school. You might change your mind and always continue your education after all 😉

As I said already – it is up to you and your own aspirations. Anyway – I hope you like this post and/or find it useful. If there is anything, what would You like to add, feel free to use comment box below in order to start creating additional content of my posts 😊

Would you like to read more publications about “Education and Career” on my blog? Click Here. You may also get to main “Table of content“, available here.


Vivek Sharma · 05/05/2023 at 12:34

This is exactly I needed to know. Thanks a lot Mateusz for this detailed article.
Soon, I need to look for high-school for my son in Poland and this article has definitely given me some insights.
Thanks for taking up the effort on consolidating all the information.

    Mateusz · 05/05/2023 at 12:44

    Very welcome 🙂

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