Yesterday 4.9 million Polish kids went back to school. There are some important changes in the education system this year, the most important being that six-year-olds and not seven-year-olds start primary school.611 thousand children start school this year, among them 381 thousand six-year-olds, because, even though it’s compulsory to start education at the age of six, some parents managed to get a certificate from a psychological-educational institution that a child is not developed enough to go to school. Those children will go to school next year. Also, a child who doesn’t do well, can go back to the so called “zero” (zerówka) class before the end of December.
New food regulations
Another change is the amendment of the law on food safety and nutrition, which prohibits school shops to sell junk food containing large amounts of ingredients not recommended for children’s development: sugar and sweeteners, fat or salt. The new rules apply to all types of schools, with the exception of facilities for adults. Foods which are not approved for sale in educational facilities will not even be advertised there.
Books and expenses
Schools will provide textbooks for first-graders, second-graders, fourth-graders and junior high first-graders. In addition, schools will also receive 50zł for each student for the purchase of exercise books from the Ministry of Education (MEN). Foreign language books will be free as well, each school will receive 25zł per child for their purchase. The only books for which parents have to pay are the textbooks for optional subjects.
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However, free books are not for all children, and parents still have great expenses when sending their kids to school every year. For almost 40% of parents that means a huge expense. To buy all the necessary stationery and books, half of them must tighten the belt, and 25% opt for a loan. A survey of the National Debt Register (KRD) shows that parents must spend 565zł.
The study shows that in a situation where there are no funds to purchase a new backpack or textbooks, parents most often (84%) turn for help to family or friends. 14% said that in such a situation the solution is a bank loan. 13% decide to get the money from a loan company, and 9% at their workplace. In addition, 7% of parents admitted that they use a debit or a credit card.
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The last change the Ministry has introduced is a new way of assessing students. So far, descriptive assessment were used only in classes I-III of primary school. Now they can also accompany the 1 – 6 marks.
The only thing that hasn’t changed are the teachers’ salaries. 2015 is in fact the third consecutive year in which they will not get raises. The last raise was in 2012, and, depending on the teacher’s professional status, amounted to 84 – 114zł.