“This [legislation] is a positive answer to the expectations of parents, who have led a dramatic fight for the good of their children, the good of Polish education,” commented the Law of Justice (PiS) MP Marzena Machałek.
The previous Civic Platform (PO) government began to gradually lower the compulsory school starting age to six as early as 2009, though was faced with significant opposition from parents and the reform only came to an end in September 2015.
“Children aged six go to school in 24 EU countries, in some of them they start even earlier. Children in over 130 countries around the world begin school aged six or earlier.
“Why do you [PiS MPs] believe that Polish children, in contrast to other children, not only European ones, are not able to begin school education aged six?” argued Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, the former PO Minister of Education.
Under the legislation six-year-olds will have compulsory kindergarten, though parents will have the option of sending them to school early under certain conditions. Kindergarten for five-year-olds will no longer be compulsory, though they retain the right to a kindergarten place should the parents request it.
To introduce the changes current six-year-olds, who are all at school, will be allowed to repeat the first class of school next year if their parents ask for this. Children born in the first half of 2008, who are currently in the second class of school, will be able to repeat that class next year.
Superintendents to be dismissed in 2016
The legislation also grants the Education Minister more power over the appointment and dismissal of superintendents in the education departments, which currently lies with the regional voivodes, while the superintendents themselves will gain more formal power over local authorities.
As a consequence of the changes, all current superintendents must quit their jobs within three months of the legislation being enacted, and replacements will be appointed.
“Like school directors superintendents should be chosen by the widest range of people possible, so that any political influence is minimized,” criticized the head of the Polish Teachers’ Union Sławomir Broniarz.
A total of 269 MPs from PiS and Kukiz’15 supported the changes, with 156 from PO and Modern Poland voting against. (sl/rg)
Source: PAP, Gazeta Wyborcza