Mar 11,2020

Polish teenagers are acing educational ranks

Wherever we go we are constantly under a massive influence of negative news like catastrophes and disasters, rarely ever do we hear about something positive. One such thing are the scores that Polish students achieved in education ranking compared to their peers in Europe and worldwide.

The most honorable and professional studies about education called PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) show that Poland can be proud of its position in terms of education and learning. This research is conducted by OECD and can be divided into three distinct cat

egories: science, mathematics, and reading. The results are published every three years since 2000. During the study, participants at the age of 15 are randomly chosen to answer a questionnaire. An additional questionnaire is dedicated to the principal of the school.


The charts below show how the position of Poland in these rankings changed throughout the years globally and in the European Union.


This diagram shows that we have a reason to celebrate. Although the Polish education system was in the middleweight 15 years ago, now it is surging in the world lead, after coming back from the setback in 2015. For two years we have been in the 10th place in mathematics, 11th place in science and again in 10th place in reading. The podium is occupied by the geniuses from Asia: China, Singapur, and Macau.


However, if we look at the European Union, we will see that we are in the lead in mathematics and science and almost there in reading. In the first two categories only Estonia and Findland top Poland. In the last category, it is Irland who is the winner.

Seeing this success, we can wonder what led us to it. It is thought that it was the education reform from 1999 which brought the Polish junior high schools into existence, and resulted in many additional perks: better work environment after primary schools, diversity in classes thanks to zoning and allowing the most talented students to get into the more demanding schools through the process of exam selection after primary school. This success was possible to achieve thanks to the students and the teachers – it is them who worked very hard with dedication, conscientiousness and commitment, and they are the people who deserve the recognition.

However, it is very puzzling what engendered this depression in both diagrams in 2015. One of the most plausible hypotheses is the fact that it was the first time the researchers had to use a computer questionnaire. You couldn’t go back to the prior question and you needed to be keen on computer science to some extent. This showed an Achilles’ heel of the Polish education system – teaching about computer science and new technologies, which is deeply deteriorated. But there is no reason to panic, such studies are designed to make countries see their mistakes and keep on growing. The Polish education system needs to prepare the students for using modern technology, teach them IT-related subjects, and broaden the basics of programming. It is crucial in our rapidly globalizing world, in which technology continues to play a bigger role and the automatization of the work market is still widely discussed.

Another lesson for Poland from PISA studies is the need to enhance the atmosphere in schools and to focus more on interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, stress and time management. The downside of these good results from different school subjects is polls and questionnaires about satisfaction with school life, ambition, level of safety and the amount of work. We could ask: we have succeeded, but at what cost?

Polish teenagers usually spend 47 hours per week on studying, while the average time in the OECD countries is 44 hours. In Finland, which results are similar to Poland’s, the average is 36 hours per week dedicated to studying. Polish children are more similar to the stereotypical workaholic Asians or Americans, rather than their peers from Europe.

Unfortunately, these studies also show that Polish students lack motivation. They often incorrectly reckon that intelligence is something you are born with and there is little you can do about it. We also need to tackle the problem of inequality among kids from poorer neighborhoods. Students from wealthy environments are prone to find themselves suitable for higher education, whilst these from poorer ones think that two times less often. Other than Poland, only Hungary, in the entire European Union, has such a huge gap between these two backgrounds. However, even children with the best results don’t have faith in their future and often think that they don’t stand a chance to start a career in the future.

But let’s not forget that, in general, the PISA results are a reason to be happy and proud, and some of the setbacks should only be the guidelines on how to fix the cracks in the Polish education system. Just like the leaders of this ranking, we have to be aware of our strengths and optimistically face the obstacles on the way to achieving our goal.




  1. PISA study 2018
  2. Wonderful illustration seen above was created by Marcin Lenkowski. Please, check his Instagram out: @teironius.


Kuba/translated by Konrad