Two readers asked me the same question one day – is there any free school in Krakow that is friendly and open to children who don’t speak Polish or even another European language? The answer is yes. There is a school which has started a fantastic project for the expat community this year. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Michał Stolarek, the principal of Karol Wojtyła Gimnazjum nr 12 in Krakow, and Prof. Małgorzata Pamuła-Behrens, an expert and researcher in foreigners’ language education at Pedagogical University of Krakow. The project that they’re working on is so important that we decided to describe it here all together. In this article we’ll explain to you what preparatory classes are, how Mr. Stolarek is preparing his school to give your child the best education, and why you no longer need to pay for education or fear that the first year in a new school would cause any stress for your children.
Education in Poland is free
Public schools in Poland are always free of charge. Also, every school has a duty to welcome your child and organize extra lessons for them – including Polish for foreigners.
In fact many parents were afraid of the impact on their child’s life that public schools could have, because the only possible solution was to join regular classes in Polish from day one. Often the only alternative was to send a child to a private school, which many consider too expensive. Preparatory classes – the project that will begin this next school year – solve all these problems.
Read more about the educational system in Poland on the Migrant Info page
How will preparatory classes work?
As Prof. Pamuła-Behrens says, preparatory classes have been introduced both for Polish and foreign students who were previously subject to different educational systems in other countries or don’t speak Polish (at all, or at least well enough to make full use of the learning plan). The aim of the project is to adapt the educational process and organisation to their language and academic needs.
According to Prof. Pamuła-Behrens, education in the preparatory classes will be available in three age groups: 7-10, 11-13, and 14-16. Students will follow the regular school’s curriculum, however, teachers will adapt their methods and realisation forms to individual needs and possibilities of students. As far as Krakow’s Gimnazjum nr 12 is considered, Prof. Pamuła-Behrens and her team from the Migrant Education and Integration Research Center are responsible for preparing a programme that will be used to teach children Polish for 3 hours per week.
Both Prof. Pamuła-Behrens and Mr. Stolarek stress that the key part of the project will be to support integration of the child with a group and build a solid, multicultural school community. To accomplish this, children will participate in some lessons together with their future regular classes.
Does my child have to speak English?
Not at all. The project presumes the involvement of a cultural assistant speaking your child’s language. Cultural assistants will support regular teachers. They will also accompany foreign children while integrating with their Polish peers.
Most of what Prof. Pamuła-Behrens told me can be applied to any school in Poland according to the legal and financial instruments introduced by the Ministry of National Education in September 2016. If you live in any other Polish city than Krakow, let me know – I’ll check if there are public schools with preparatory classes in your city.
If you’re interested in a free school in Krakow, scroll down and check out my interview with Mr. Stolarek, who will give you a few details about his school.
Mr. Stolarek, thank you so much for agreeing to answer our questions. Who is the target of your project?
The project is dedicated to children who don’t speak Polish and want to start their school education in a preparatory class. In such an intimate group (up to 10 children) they will be able not only to learn to communicate in Polish, but also to prepare themselves to continue their education in a class with Polish peers.
Is your school supported by other institutions in the project’s preparation and implementation process?
We receive support through training and research thanks to collaboration with the Institute of Polish Studies of the Pedagogical University of Krakow. Experts from the fields of education and integration of migrants will help us to prepare syllabi and will support our teachers during the year. Professional support will be provided also for interviews qualifying children for preparatory classes.
Staff policy issues are fully covered by the school’s budget.
At the moment the Polish government is closing down schools for children aged between 13 and 16 years (gimnazjum). After the transitional period children will study in primary schools until they turn 15. After that they will choose a general secondary school (liceum), a technical school (technikum) or a basic vocational school (zasadnicza szkoła zawodowa). Starting from September 2017, Gimnazjum nr 12 will begin turning itself into Primary School nr 15. You will open a class for 7-year-olds in the first turn, but you will keep teaching older children from your previous gimnazjum. What ages of children will you therefore accept into the preparatory classes?
Yes, right now we are recruiting for classes I, IV and VII of the primary school; that is, children as young as 6/7, and as old as 14 years. In 2017/2018 we will still teach 15- and 16-year-olds in our gimnazjum.
In accordance with the law we can open preparatory classes for three age groups 6/7-10, 11-13, and 14-16. That means that potentially we can accept children from all age groups. In practice it will depend on the number of children enrolled, because we need to meet minimum numbers of children for each age group to be able to open it.
It should be stressed that age is not the only condition for assignment to classes. The special team composed of two teachers and a guidance counselor or a psychologist in collaboration with the experts from Migrant Education and Integration Research Center will choose the best class for each child on the basis of their individual school experiences from other countries and Polish language skills.
When should parents notify you about their plans to enroll a child in school?
It would be best if parents declare their will to enroll when they are planning their move to Poland, or just after arrival. Thanks to such declarations we would be able to take care of the procedure of letting the child into our school and create the best conditions for them to start education by hiring a cultural assistant. However, barring various, random events we will let a child into a school not only in early September, but also throughout the whole school year.
Are there limits as far as how many students can be enrolled and, therefore, is there a risk that a child won’t be accepted into school?
The school is open and welcomes every child. The possibility of not accepting a child into school may happen only when the City Education Department of Krakow decides not to open a preparatory class.
Do you follow the school districts rule and only accept children who are registered for residency in your district?
No, that will not apply to our school this year.
Does the project include support for parents?
Of course. We are looking for a holistic approach to the issue of migration. Extension of parents’ pedagogic knowledge, meetings, training and communication of needs are necessary when we are aiming for high quality of teaching and upbringing.
What kind of special classes will your school offer to students?
We are going to offer sporting activities and after-school classes of taekwondo for children from the age of 6 that will be conducted by Mr. Konrad Kulawski from Krakowska Akademia Taekwondo.
All children will participate in the project Piszę, więc jestem (I write therefore I am) which will consist of calligraphy classes as a multi-faceted form of supporting child development.
We are also going to introduce a ballet class and open a student lounge with a quiet zone and places to work and relax.
If parents want to ask for details or enroll their children in the school, who can they contact?
Parents can communicate with us through our e-mail address: [email protected]. We’ll try to provide reliable information as quickly as possible.
We invite all parents to contribute to the project by sharing your experiences. If you wish to consult with us, please contact us through the given e-mail address.
Thank you. I congratulate you on this very important and needful initiative.
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