Educational system in Poland
As a result of the recent reform, compulsory education in Poland starts at the age of five (0 class in kindergarten). Children enter primary school at the age of six. Thus, it is required that they complete one year of formal education before entering 1st grade. At the end of 6th grade, when pupils are 12, they take a compulsory exam that determines to which lower secondary school (gimnazjum) they are eventually accepted. They attend gimnazjum for three years (grades 7, 8, 9) and take another exam that helps to determine the upper secondary school for which they enroll in the next stage. Their subsequent decision regarding further education is based on several alternatives. The most common options are the three-year secondary school called liceum and the four-year vocational secondary school called technikum. The total duration of education before the maturity examination is 13 - 14 years. At this point, having passed successfully the final exams, graduates are awarded a secondary school leaving diploma (matura) which entitles them to apply for admission to a higher education institution (HEI).
Higher education institutions fall into two categories, namely, public and non-public. The Polish system of higher education follows the principles of the Bologna process. This means that higher education institutions in general offer three-year or three-and-a-half-year bachelor studies (first-cycle programmes), two-year complementary master (second-cycle programmes) and three-year PhD studies (third-cycle programmes). Writing a final thesis or diploma project is a condition for obtaining a degree. For greater transparency, the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) system has been introduced in Polish HEIs. It requires students to gain 30 credit points every semester. In addition to the general structure, 11 fields of study including acting, art conservation and restoration, canon law, dentistry, law, medical analysis, medicine, production and photography, pharmacy, psychology and veterinary medicine offer only long-cycle Master's degree programmes (from 4.5 to 6 years).
The academic year in Poland lasts nine months. It starts in October, finishes in June, and is divided into two semesters (summer and winter), each 15 weeks long, and each concluded with an examination session. During July, August and September summer holidays take place. There is one mid-semester recess in the first semester of about ten days for the Christmas holidays, and a break after the first exam session, which lasts for about a week.
The grading system of the higher education in Poland recognizes 4 grades - from 2 to 5 where 2 is the lowest grade and five the highest (i.e., 5 - very good; 4 - good; 3 - satisfactory; 2 - unsatisfactory).