Country report

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4. Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC) activities in language education

Until recently, language classes have concentrated mainly on linguistic competence and skills development and training. Approximately in 2000, teachers have started to introduce more elements related to everyday life and culture of target countries. Working with authentic materials simply imposed the introduction of topics related to current issues. Access to Internet, press and books in foreign languages and ease of travelling have facilitated the availability of knowledge and aroused interest of young people. Schools have had no other choice but to adjust to that. As a result, language classes at schools have gradually become forums for the exchange of opinions. When in 2003, cross-curricular educational paths, and in particular civic education, regional education and European education, were introduced to core curriculum (see: 2.4), and simply imposed on teachers the use of cross-curricular teaching, language teachers had already been ready for that. Their so far instinctive activities have been simply organized and an aim has been prescribed to them, which is to prepare young people to play the role of responsible, open, and efficiently acting citizens of Poland, Europe and the world, which means teaching students to become intercultural citizens.

4.1. Language teaching and EDC

Language teaching is related to education for democratic citizenship. Teaching methods and contents included in foreign language curricula create favourable conditions for this and their examples include:

  • Listening to others – at each lesson, listening comprehension ability, which among others stands for understanding or trying to understand others, putting yourself in somebody else’s position, seriously treating other people’s opinions and arguments, accepting praise and criticism, is trained.

  • Talking to others – speaking ability training constitutes the basis for each language lesson – students learn to express their opinions (about needs, interests, feelings, values), talk in a comprehensible way, give clear and straightforward arguments, not to offend people with different opinions. The following techniques are used in training these skills:

    • pair work – which stands for establishing dialogue with another person

    • group work – which means participation in the division of labour, accepting tasks, working to complete them, accepting the decisions taken by the majority, emphasizing group responsibility

    • role plays and simulations– which stand for putting yourself in somebody else’s situation, tolerating divergences and differences, discerning conflicts and solving them in a socially accepted manner, accepting mistakes and differences, encouraging to the exchange of views, showing courage in expressing one’s own views

    • debates – using arguments and making choices in artificial (and later in real life) situations, thorough analysing of other people’s statements, listening to the parts of the conflict in order to reach the truth, looking for compromise and consensus.

      • Project works undertaken during language classes teach the ability to live with others, cooperate, create and implement common enterprises, take responsibility for your actions.

If one adds to that the implementation of language aims included in curricula, such as teaching of the creation of different forms of expression, and combine it with the ability to behave in a manner accepted in a given community, it is obvious that language education is truly related to education for democratic citizenship.

4.2. Taking actions at the local community level

Thanks to the style of their work, language teachers develop in students the attitudes of commitment and belief in their capabilities. They encourage students to participate actively in local community life. Schools, especially in small towns and villages, become centres of cultural and social life. Initiatives taken there meet interest not only of parents, and quite often grow to be initiatives on a local stage (exhibitions, performances, festivities, tournaments, competitions and town twinning originating from inter-school cooperation). What is more, the activity and commitment of children is quite often passed on to the parents.
The European clubs mentioned above and various forms of out of school activity approximate school education to social and public life. In this way, examples of civic activity are promoted, which helps young people function in international civic society.

5. Future strategies for language education – topics for discussion

Language teaching has an important role in the educational policy. As a result of undertaken activities (see 2.6) a considerable progress has been achieved, however, there is scope for further improvement.

5.1. Initial and in-service teacher training

The improvement of the quality of teaching in initial teacher training is important, and should lead to the increase of teachers’ effectiveness. The necessary mechanisms that can trigger such development include: preparing foreign language teachers to use innovative teaching methods, interactive and active tools in order to support the teaching process and to respond quickly to pupils’ needs.

5.2 Young learners language teaching

Lowering of the age of compulsory language learning is envisaged in the “Strategy for the Development of Education in 2007-2013”. It is planned that the compulsory learning of the first foreign language will start at the grade 1 of primary school. The fact that there is a clear social need for the implementation of this solution is also an additional argument for its support.
In order to implement this solution it is necessary to train the qualified staff for early school education (see also the Young Learners Network Programme, section 4.1). For this purpose, we train teachers, prepare training materials for the teachers who already teach grades I-III a foreign language as an additional subject. We have also prepared European Language Portfolio for grade 0-III pupils. A big number of textbooks and teaching aids for this age group are available on the market.
It is worth mentioning initiatives taken by local authorities who solve the problem of foreign language teaching in grades I-III themselves by paying for it with their own funds. These are the examples of good practice, which can be used as pilot projects prior to the introduction of this solution on the countrywide scale. One can also consider the use of a temporary model of foreign language teaching to young learners co-financed by local authorities with the use of specific incentives and providing support from the central budget.

5.3. Stages of language education

Foreign language is taught at each school as a compulsory subject from the fourth grade of the primary school. It would be advisable to think about earlier introduction of the second foreign language (already at lower secondary school) and the introduction of language competence test upon the graduation from the lower secondary school. It is connected, however, with ensuring the continuation of the same language at subsequent stages of education and ensuring the adequate number of foreign language teachers.
There is also a social need, especially in large cities, to increase the number of bilingual schools, especially lower secondary schools. CLIL develops linguistic and communicative competences of students faster and makes them more open and more effective in performing various tasks. The introduction of compulsory foreign language classes into the teacher training curricula should contribute to preparing teaching staff qualified to teach CLIL.
The new matura exam in a foreign language also requires modernization. Works are conducted to adapt the matura exam standards to these of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Moreover, matura papers are still being analysed. The conclusions of the analysis will allow for taking further decisions. They are indispensable, because during the matura exam in 2005 a number of difficulties relating to recruitment procedures in higher education based on matura certificates appeared. These procedures must be agreed with reference to bilingual and international (IB) matura exam.

The difficulties also result from academic teachers’ distrust in the quality of teaching at educational stage IV. It is advisable that educational stage IV and academic teachers commence cooperation and learn from one another.

Facing new opportunities for mobility and opening up of the labour markets it is necessary to consider modifying foreign language teaching in vocational training.
It is also necessary to undertake measures aiming at improving schools’ equipment facilitating language learning.

5.4. Schools for national minorities

The maintenance of schools that teach minority languages and the regional language is increasingly difficult for the bodies which supervise them. Because of the growing population decline, one can observe a declining number of children, and less and less frequently these children learn mother tongue at home. It often happens that they start to learn it at school. Modifications to the system of financing education should be taken into consideration in order to preserve the functioning of small schools with regional/minority language teaching. It should also be discussed how the foreign language teachers should be trained, so they can contribute to the preservation of the national (ethnic), linguistic and cultural identity of pupils from ethnic minorities.

5.5. Out-of-school education

The results of survey on foreign language students in language schools are most disturbing. Every third student in such a school attends a primary or lower secondary school at the same time. Teachers employed in language schools confirm that their students often follow the courses in the same languages as those taught in their own school. This means that the foreign language teaching offered by schools does not satisfy the pupils and their parents. The increase in the minimum of teaching hours envisaged in the school curriculum for foreign languages should be considered – up to 900 hours for the first foreign language, and up to 500 hours for the second.
The popularity of out-of-school language education obscures the picture of the effectiveness of compulsory language education at schools. The first external matura exam, which was administered in 2005 showed that the results in foreign languages were better than in other subjects. It is difficult to decide to what extent this is due to the level of foreign language teaching at school, and to what extent – to the out-of-school education. It would be helpful to ask every pupil taking the foreign language Matura examination to fill in the form on the scope of additional foreign language learning he/she has undertaken. This would help with the assessment of effectiveness of the school-based foreign language teaching.



  1. The Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2 April 1997, art. 27

  1. Act of 7 October 1999 on the Polish language (OJ no. 90, item 999 as amended)

  1. Act of 27 July 2005, higher education law (OJ no.164, item1365)

  1. Act of 7 September 1991 on the system of education (OJ of 2004, no. 256, item 2572 as amended)

  1. Act of 6 January 2005 on national and ethnic minorities and regional language

(OJ no.17, item141)

  1. Resolution of Council of Ministers of 19 August 2003 (no. 209/2003) establishing a long-term programme: Programme for the Romani Community in Poland

  1. Regulation of the Minister of National Education and Sport of 3 December 2002 on conditions and methods of performing by schools and public institutions of tasks allowing to sustain the sense of national, ethnic, linguistic and religious identity of pupils from national minorities and ethnic groups (OJ no.220, item1853)

  1. Regulation of the Minister of National Education and Sport of 10 September 2002 on detailed qualifications required of teachers and the determination of schools and cases, in which it is possible to employ teachers without higher education diploma or who have not graduated from a teacher training institution (OJ no.155, item1288)

  1. Regulation of the Minister of National Education of 12 August 1997 on teacher training institutions (OJ no.104, item 664)

  2. Regulation of the Minister of National Education and Sport of 7 September 2004 on teacher training standards (OJ no.207, item 2110)

  3. Regulation of the Minister of National Education and Sport of 21 May 2001 on frameworks charters of public kindergartens and public schools (OJ no. 61, item 624)

  4. Regulation of the Minister of National Education and Sport of 5 February 2004 on the authorisation for school use of pre-school education programs, curricula and textbooks and on withdrawal of the authorisation (OJ no. 25, item 220)

  5. Regulation of the Minister of National Education and Sport of 12 February 2002 on framework curricula at public schools (OJ no.15, item 142 as amended)

  6. Strategy for the Development of Education in the years 2007-2013, Ministry of National Education and Sport, 2005

  7. Strategy for the development of Lithuanian minority education in Poland developed by Inter-Department Team for National Minorities, December 2001

  8. Draft Strategy for the development of German minority education in Poland, developed by the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Interior and Administration

  9. Agreement between the Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Poland and the Embassy of the French Republic in Poland on the rules of administration of matura examinations for the leavers of bilingual forms with French as the second language at Polish general secondary schools in school years 1997/1998 and 1998/99 and conditions for the issuance by French authorities of French Language Proficiency Certificate to the leavers of these schools who successfully passed the prescribed examinations signed in Warsaw on 12 January 1998 (as annexed and amended)

  10. Agreement between the Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Poland and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Spain on the establishment and operation of bilingual forms with Spanish as the second language at general secondary schools in the Republic of Poland, the organization of matura examination for the leavers of these forms and the description of indispensable conditions for their being awarded the Titulo de Bachiller by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Spain signed in Warsaw on 6 May 1997 (as annexed and amended)

  11. “Common European Framework of Reference: learning, teaching, assessment”, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 2001

  1. “eTwinning Poland 2005” FRSE, Warsaw 2005

  1. “Języki obce w szkole”, special issue: “Bilingual Teaching”, no 6/2002, Wydawnictwo Centralnego Ośrodka Doskonalenia Nauczycieli

  1. “Prevalence of teaching foreign languages in 2004/05”, Zarębska Jadwiga, National In-Service Teacher Training Centre, 2005

  1. “SOCRATES LINGUA. Compendium of Projects 1998-2004” FRSE, Warsaw  2004

  1. “The system of education in Poland”, Warsaw, Foundation for the Development of the Education System, Eurydice, 2005.

Glossary of Abbreviations


Content and Language Integrated Learning


National In-Service Teacher Training Centre


a component of the SOCRATES Programme, supporting the initiatives leading to the improvement of quality in school education and to promoting of the European dimension in educational processes, through, among others, promotion of foreign language learning.


European Union Programme operating in the area of support and use of ICT in the European education systems


the main action of the eLearning Programme, providing support to schools wishing to cooperate via Internet with partner schools in other European countries


European Year of Languages


Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment


European Association for Quality Language Services


Foundation for the Development of the Education System


Central Statistical Office


International Baccalaureat


teacher training college


a component of the SOCRATES Programme, supporting the other actions of the programme through the activities leading to the preserving and development of linguistic diversity in the European Union, improving the level of foreign language learning and teaching, assuring a wide access to various forms of “lifelong foreign language learning” according to the individual needs of learners.


Ministry of National Education


Ministry of National Education and Sport


Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration


foreign language teacher training college


Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development


Polish Association for Standards in English


Programme for International Student Assessment OECD


European Union Programme aiming at the development of European cooperation in education


Testing in Polish and Slovene (a project in the Socrates-Lingua 2 Programme).

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