Poland recorded a drastic improvement of the education level in the last decade – announced The Economist, referring to a book written by Amanda Ripley “The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way”. Ripley placed Poland among countries which provide the best education for their children.
It took the reporter of the Time magazine three years to find answer to the question what determines the success of the most vigorously developing education systems in the world, analysing, among others, systems in Finland, Poland and North Korea which belong to world’s leaders in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), an international study assessing knowledge and skills of students. Ripley monitored also experiences of three American students who took part in an international exchange which gave them opportunity to study in one of these countries for a year. And she found the answer: Metamorphosis of outcomes achieved by students was possible thanks to education system reforms.
The fact is that the Polish school has been changing for many years, starting from 1991 when the Act on the Education System was created. In 1999, the structure of the education system was changed from a two-stage into a three-stage system, a new core curriculum as well as a completely innovative system of external examinations were developed; school and teachers gained a greater autonomy which led to, among others, higher expectations to be met by students and greater responsibility for education outcomes. Then, in 2008, the core curriculum was changed – it was written in terms of requirements and specifies key competences which should be acquired by a student upon completion of the whole education process. The new core curriculum brings what we are being continuously reminded of by the changing reality into focus – that it is important with which competences a student should leave the school and what education methods can be used in order to provide the student with them.
Today’s school should not only impart knowledge and learning should not only consist in memorising it. Today it is about something else – the school should prepare students to think and solve problems creatively, analyse, draw conclusions and present their personal view of the world. This type of school which poses an intellectual challenge to students was the one 19-year-old Tom from Pennsylvania experienced during a year spent in an upper secondary school in Wrocław.
The book “The Smartest Kids in the World” and the publication in The Economist aroused interest of Polish media which ask about reasons for these successes – since our international success is underestimated in our country. However, the author writes people from all countries she visited criticise their education systems. What is more, good education is a tremendously difficult task and each country has a lot to do in this area. This is an important contribution to the debate about the Polish education system.