|HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL|
Home Education in Yesterday’s and Today’s Poland
The Kopec family, the first of the next generation of homeschoolers in Poland.
Marzena and Pawel Zakrzewscy, authors of Edukacja domowa w Polsce: Teoria i praktyka, and their children.
Dr. Marek Budajzcak and his family, the oldest generation of Polish homeschoolers.
By Marek Budajczak, PhD
It seems worthwhile to compare the present condition of home education in Poland and its value for the nation with those of our national history.
During the 123-year annexation of the whole territory of Poland by three of its neighbors—Russia, Prussia and Austria—the survival of our Polish national treasures of culture and the Polish language was made possible thanks to the education that occurred within small and extended Polish families. (Activities of the Roman Catholic Church and many local cultural associations also helped in this regard.) Just after regaining national independence in 1918, the Polish government stated that an “educational duty” was to be fulfilled by every child. Along with public and non-public schools, the law stated that education might occur at home.
As we all know, this positive situation did not last for long. After the 1939–1945 period of occupation by Nazi Germany—homeschooling was then the dominant form of education being done throughout the country underground—Poland was enslaved by the socialist (others call it communist) government and administration of the totalitarian Soviet Union. During this period, the state’s monopoly on education meant that educational freedom did not exist at all; thus there was no place for home education.
And again the Polish national history came full circle. In 1991, just after regaining national independence for the second time, in 1989, the Polish Parliament established the System of Education Act. (There is no specific constitutional provision for home education in Poland, only the general statement that parents have the right to choose their child’s school.) In this Act, Article 16.8 opened the door for a new Polish homeschooling movement, albeit in a highly restricted manner. Yet even this small amount of freedom was frightening for school officials, and especially for the Ministry of National Education, which persuaded members of the Parliament to add special restrictions to the aforementioned article that made homeschooling a legal option in Poland.
A challenge emerged for the small group of Polish homeschoolers to persuade government officials to bring the education law into accordance with the constitutional laws. One of the hardest legal problems to solve was the requirement for homeschooling parents to work with their nearest public school. Only the headmaster of this school was able to give his permission to the parents to homeschool their children. These circumstances meant that many Polish families faced great difficulty in receiving permission to homeschool. This situation lasted for a long 18 years! As a consequence, there were no more than 100 Polish children educated at home at the end of the period.
During this time, Polish homeschoolers worked diligently to change the current, harmful legal formula. The Polish Ombudsman and the Legal Defendant of Children’s Rights, university professors in educational sciences, some politicians and journalists, and many other friends worked to help homeschoolers. Among these was former HSLDA Director of International Relations Chris Klicka, who is sorely missed by the Polish homeschool community. Working as a special representative of HSLDA, he contacted one of the Polish ministers of National Education for the good of Polish homeschoolers.
At last these joint efforts succeeded. In April 2010 the Polish Parliament passed an amendment to the Education System Act, clearly stating a parent’s right to apply for permission to homeschool from any school headmaster. Currently, there are five Polish schools—both public and non-public—that are very friendly to homeschoolers and grant permission to homeschool. This positive change for homeschoolers has caused the number of homeschool families to skyrocket.
In less than 12 months, the number of homeschoolers in Poland has risen to at least 500 children, from the whole range of compulsory education age of 5 to 19 years. Many other families are determined to apply for the educational freedom for the next school year.
Poland now has two homeschool associations: Stowarzyszenie Edukacji Domowej and Stowarzyszenie Edukacji w Rodzinie. In addition, Polish homeschooling community activists created several thematic websites and blogs, and there is an active homeschooling forum online with over 600 topics that been running for almost five years. Polish homeschooling families also gather for conferences from time to time. Homeschool leaders have written two important books on Polish homeschooling: the scientific Edukacja domowa by Marek Budajczak and Edukacja domowa w Polsce: Teoria i praktyka by Marzena and Pawel Zakrzewscy, a compilation of many testimonies of Polish homeschool families.
While these positive changes over the past year are cause for much rejoicing, Polish homeschoolers realize that several unsolved problems stand before them. Among these, requirements for homeschooled students to comply with compulsory non-standardized annual academic examinations, as well as forced examinations at psychological-educational centers (both demands are unlawful in the light of anti-discriminatory claims of the Polish Constitution).
Another concern is Polish membership in the European Union. It is worth adding that foreign families of European origin who stay in Poland have an undisputed right to homeschool here. In addition, American parents and children are totally free from any educational coercion in Poland. This legal right is of special importance for German families seeking asylum because of persecution for homeschooling in their own country. Unfortunately, the situation of homeschooling in Poland is not guaranteed to last forever! Recent aggressive changes in the legal regulations of homeschooling in Sweden and other European nations give one pause. Similar ugly solutions might easily be acquired by any liberal or social-democratic Polish government. If Poland follows the example of Germany or Sweden, where will Polish homeschoolers be?
Then we shall call for the help of Divine Providence...and actively wait for the third full circle of our national history. Possibly the last one, for, according to the Polish saying: “Do trzech razy sztuka” (the same as an English: “The third time’s the charm”)!
Marek Budajczak, PhD, leads Stowarzyszenie Edukacji Domowej, the Polish Association for Home Education, and is the author of Edukacja domowa.
| Other Resources|