Varsovie (picture from Wikimedia)Within a period of 10 years, the Polish education system has undergone 2 far-reaching reforms which have introduced significant changes in the school structure and curriculum. Compulsory schooling now starts at 6 years of age instead of 7. One of the aims of the reform is to foster flexibility and mobility throughout one’s professional career.

The proportion of mainstream education in post-gymnasium vocational schools has increased, which means that horizontal mobility between the 2 types of teaching is relatively flexible.

The assessment system has been unified. Training in vocational schools leads to professional examinations validated by an independent authority. A new examination called « Matura » is recognised by all tertiary education establishments.

Financial aid has been set up to encourage employers to participate in vocational training. For example the cost of vocational training for young people can be paid for by the labour fund.

Several recent initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of National Education address these challenges:

Amending the regulation on the special economic zones of 1st January 2015, which obliges the economic zones to cooperate with vocational schools to promote VET, support vocational counselling and guidance and inspire entrepreneurs and employers to take a more active role in VET development introducing a ‘dual system of vocational education and training’ by amendment of the regulation on practical training of 15 December 2015, defined as organising theoretical education at school and the practical instruction at workplace. It can be organised both as a work contract signed between an employer and an apprentice/young worker and an agreement on practical training between a VET school principal and an employer.

The Polish education system – 2014


Polish system (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)




The vocational pathway in Poland


Since 2004, students graduating from vocational institutes can confirm their qualifications by entering a theoretical and practical examination organised by accredited centres such as schools, educational establishments and employers.


Secondary education

InPoland, school is compulsory until the age of 18. Young people can opt for a vocational pathway from the age of 16, at the end of the 1st cycle of secondary education. They can choose from several options:

  • The general vocational college (Liceum profilowane), offering a 3-year course, combines mainstream education and general vocational training. School-leavers from the Liceum profilowane who pass the diploma can continue their training in a post-secondary institute. Furthermore, the school-leaving certificate (Matura) gives them the opportunity to go on to mainstream higher education or higher vocational education.
  • The basic vocational school (Zasadnicza szkola zawodowa), offering 2- or 3-year courses, leads to a certificate as a skilled worker, but does not prepare pupils for the Matura.
  • The secondary technical school (Technikum), offering a 4-year course, leads to both the Matura and a vocational qualification at technician level. Upon completing their training, school-leavers can take an external examination confirming their professional qualification. Obtaining the Matura in the 4th year gives them the opportunity to go on to tertiary education.
  • The complimentary secondary technical school (Technikum uzupelniajace), offering a 3-year course is geared to pupils coming from the basic vocational school. It aims to train pupils up to an intermediary level and prepares them for the examination confirming their professional qualification and the Matura. This course leads to the Technikum school-leaving certificate.
  • Post-secondary schools (Szkoly policealne) offer courses lasting 2½ years to high school graduates coming from mainstream education who wish to gain a professional qualification.


Informations from CEDEFOP

Higher education

Higher education institutes (Instytucje szkolnictwa wyższego): there are both vocational and mainstream institutes. They are accredited to provide courses for 1st and 2nd cycle studies and also courses leading to Master’s degrees.



Apprenticeships are organised in small and medium-sized enterprises, mainly in the field of trades and crafts. Employers are often affiliated to a professional association or guild which also supervises training.


Key figures

  • In 2013,Poland had a dropout rate for young people currently in the 18 to 24 year-old age bracket of 5.8%, a relatively low rate considering the average in the European Union (12 %). (Eurostat – 2014)
  • In 2015,more than 36% of VET schools in Poland were post secondary vocational schools, followed by 33% of basic vocational and 30% of vocational upper secondary schools. (CEDEFOP – 2016)
  • 90% of young people in the 20 to 24 year-old age bracket in Poland successfully completed their upper secondary studies in 2013. (Eurostat – 2014)

Last update : 19/03/2018