We Don’t Need No Education

Another Brick in the Wall
Another Brick in the Wall

There has been plenty of news in the press recently concerning the state of education in Poland. Four articles, all painting a negative picture of Polish education, come to mind. The first article describes the new educational bill which has been passed giving parents the possibility to send their six-year-olds to school. What is frightening is the huge number of parents (and politicians, including the President) against the bill. This all came to a head when President Kaczyński rejected the bill refusing to sign it forcing parliament to successfully reject the Presidential veto.

Teachers, Leave Them Kids Alone
Why are so many politicians scared of sending Poland’s six-year-olds to school? One possible reason is the fact that many educationalists believe the syllabus for six-year-olds and curriculum for young learners has not yet been put together. The second article discusses the fact that this new reform will mean six-year-olds will actually be given the same material as seven-year-olds meaning that the latter will spend a whole year repeating the material they already completed a year before. If this is the case, Poland can expect not a wave of more intelligent children but a slew of bored kids coming home every day from school.

Don’t Take a Slice of my Pie
This is all compounded by the fact that the government is approaching the ‘problem’ of education in a completely irresponsible way. In the current economic climate, local authorities need all the help they can get. Now is not the time for educational decentralisation which forces local authorities to bear the brunt of the costs of teaching. Now is the time to pump money into a system which will help see out the crisis. Surely, the more educated people we have in the country, the better chance we have of coming out of this crisis and moving forward. The third article paints a sad picture in which local authorities will not be able to pay teachers this year.

Waiting for Someone to Show You the Way
The need for coherent educational policy is perhaps the single most important priority of any government, especially of a country which spent fifty years in the grip of communism, that was wracked by war and before that partitioned into nothingness for 123 years. The fourth article highlights the problems in Poland and the fact that very few young people in Poland read books nowadays. Poland’s educational system needs direction, Polish school children need focus and Polish teachers need vision. Investment is one thing but without direction, focus and vision we might as well say goodbye to a bright new, post-credit crunch, future.

10 thoughts on “We Don’t Need No Education

  1. It sounds to me as though any powerful, dedicated, idealistic approach at all to the problem of education would be better than endless dithering.

  2. Hi Raf:
    I Read your blog and related articles with interest. I’m from Canada and the mother of 2 elementary aged boys. I have a hard time believing that many Polish parents are against the idea of sending 6 year olds to Grade 1. I have frequented a few womens’ forums recently and was shocked at the hysteria this decision has produced (particularly since it is voluntary for a few years and at the discretion of parents).
    Here in Canada (Ontario to be specific, because all things pertaining to education are handled at the provincial level), kindergarten (2 years: junior and senior, each half day) is voluntary, but probably utilized by about 95% of families. We are one of the only provinces in the country to have a junior kindergarten (children turning 4 in the calendar year are eligible). The adoption of junior kindergarten produced much debate; some oppponents argued that children were “institutionalized” at too early an age. But overwhelming evidence proved that by Grade 1, children who were socially/economically disadvantaged were already “behind” their peer group in Grade 1 and were extremely unlikely to ever catch up. This was unacceptable. So, a great deal of time and effort was spent ensuring that educational opportunities were available to every child and that no child would be left behind. Children learn to interact with one another, function in groups, acquire early reading and numeracy skills, and in some cases are exposed to the English language for the first time (we are a land of immigrants). The other important benefit is obvious: kndergaten(currently half-day but moving to full day)is free.
    French immersion, a program which teaches children exclusively in french until the 4th grade, begins in senior kindergarten at the age of 5. It has been proven that the earlier a child is exposed to a second language the better. My youngest son is 6 years old and is in the Grade 1 french immersion program. I am astounded by how much he has learned. He speaks, reads and writes in two languages at the age of 6!!! To me, this is nothing short of miraculous. I can’t imagine keeping him at home until the age of 7, until he is “ready”. Ready for what? We underestimate the ability and desire of children to learn.

  3. Basia,
    Lovely to hear from you. I entirely agree. Learning (not necessarily institutionalised learning) should begin as soon as possible when the brain (and mind) is still malleable and kids can learn about the good things in life.
    As a child I hated school and am fully aware of the negative effects of schooling but the arguments by many of these parents seem to me quite odd i.e. “a child must be with its mother and family”. Why? Is the mother and family always able to give a child what it needs? And I’m not talking about love…

  4. Czesc:
    Here in Toronto we have a very large immigrant population(where a child’s first language may not be english)and a very wide dispersion of socio/economic circumstances (very rich and very poor). It became extremely apparent that children arriving in Grade 1 functioned at significantly different levels depending on those preceding factors. Children of well-to-do parents generally attended progressive daycares, pre-schools and Montessori schools which produced well socialized children that could function at high academic levels (most would be reading fluently by the age of 5). Contrast this to the child of a single mother trying to make ends meet, who drops her child off with a babysitter where the child watches tv all day. Upon reaching school age, these children were already significantly disadvantaged versus their peers. The playing field had to be leveled. A universal program (kindergarten) was therefore offered to children at an early age.

    I assume similar circumstances must exist in Poland. In some instances, children likely receive excellent programs and stimulation before the age of 7, and in others they may be left in the care of “babcia” who will meet all their physical needs but may do little to stimulate their minds or engage in creative play. I think it is this potential disparity between circumstances that troubles me the most. Given that the program is initially voluntary, I can’t see why parents would oppose it. Are Polish elementary schools so traumatizing to young children…surely not.
    And like you, I don’t believe that institutionalized learning is the only or best approach. The alternatives to a institutionalized setting however, are completely dependent on the circumstances of each family and or parent.

  5. Your assumption is not necessarily correct. Poland does not have a slew of children of immigrant parents, although there are huge discrepancies between the rich and the poor. I would also contest the presumption that they have ‘excellent’ programmes before the age of 7. The forté of the Polish education system seems to be liceum where kids really do receive great schooling, however, prior to this, schooling is lacklustre and after this period teaching seems to trail off into feeble university education.

  6. I really like this image of the children in the brick wall. Is this your image? If so, may I have your permission to use it? If not, do you know where the sculpture is located?

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