Ralf Dahrendorf Roundtable: Education Deform. Sharing Best Practices.

09. Sep 2017
Wrocław, Poland
Among Central European countries, Poland was the biggest education success story – following modernising reforms launched at the end of the 1990s. No other European country climbed the international education tables so consistently as Poland. In 2003, the results of Polish students were below the OECD average. In subsequent surveys in 2006 and 2009, Polish students reached the OECD-average level, while they achieved results above the OECD average in 2012. This development was bluntly stopped by the PiS government, elected in October 2016. PiS wants to create a new generation of Polish patriots, who will know all details of everlasting conflicts between Poland and its neighbours but who will not be able to contribute to the acceleration of scientific advance. Schools became a weapon of PiS’s war against the liberal democracy, the development of civil society and the European integration. Will they succeed?

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  • Short view

    The RDR “Education Deform” was organised by ELF with the support of VVD International in Wrocław, Poland, on September 9th 2017. The RDR took place in open space by the Mary Magdalene Church, starting at 4 am.

    The RDR gathered around 50 participants, among them 2 MPs and several city council members.

    It started with a word of welcome and an introduction by Tadeusz Grabarek, regional Chairman of Nowoczesna, Polish liberal party.

    The RDR was organized as part of series of events called “Letnie Warsztaty Demokracji” (Summer Democracy Workshops) that has been going on in Wroclaw between June and September 2017. What was unique about this series is that they were not organized in event rooms, but outdoors, in main squares and streets of Wroclaw (with a big screen) engaging local people. Equally important as the debate downtown were live streams on Facebook and direct contact with the audience after the actual debate.

    The panel was moderated an expert in the field of education and teacher Maciej Wiśniewski.

    The first panelist, Rebeka Czobor from the Hungarian liberal movement Momentum, presented the education reform in her home country. She stressed that liberal movement Momentum supported teachers but their programs go further. Momentum believes that schooling should be compulsory till 18 years old, instead of 16 today.

    Iwona Dyszkiewicz, teacher and member of the Wrocław county council, focused on the reform of curricula in Poland and that textbooks are not yet ready.

    Last speaker, Jacek Iwancz, high school principal in a mid-size town Świdnica, elaborated the topic of structural reform of Polish education system. By abolishing middle schools and integrating them into elementary schools, the ministry of education immediately put thousands of principals out of work. Now, the ministry was free to appoint new principals for the newly expanded schools.

    The live stream online was followed by almost 7.000 viewers.

  • Report

    Education is a European topic. The only path to successful European integration is through proper education and training for the youth of Europe. Unfortunately, some of the Member States are reforming their schools not to help their students to succeed in the labor market and contribute to the economic success of Europe but instead to raise a new generation of supporters of particular political parties.

    This development path was bluntly stopped by the PiS government, elected in Poland in October 2016. The PiS government wants to revert to a pre-1999 structure of eight years in primary school and then four years at high school, by closing middle schools, where pupils currently spend three years. The middle-tier schools have been described as unsafe and ineffectual by officials of the education ministry. Critics say the government proposal was drafted in haste and contains many flaws that would result in a poorly devised new curriculum. The new curriculum is described by many as going into a nationalist, xenophobic direction. It focuses on history, literature and the Polish language and overlooks natural science and IT.

    This “reform” is commonly called a “deform”. It created a general opposition in Poland and provoked protests of the opposition parties, unions, and local authorities. The topic of education will most probably become one of the key topics in Poland. Polish liberals must, therefore, be well prepared for the discussion and get inspired by their colleagues from other countries.

     

    The RDR “Education Deform” was organised by ELF with the support of VVD International in Wrocław, Poland, on September 9th 2017. The RDR took place in open space by the Mary Magdalene Church, starting at 4 am.

    The RDR gathered around 50 participants, among them 2 MPs and several city council members.

    It started with a word of welcome and an introduction by Tadeusz Grabarek, regional Chairman of Nowoczesna, Polish liberal party.

    The RDR was organized as part of series of events called “Letnie Warsztaty Demokracji” (Summer Democracy Workshops) that has been going on in Wroclaw between June and September 2017. What was unique about this series is that they were not organized in event rooms, but outdoors, in main squares and streets of Wroclaw (with a big screen) engaging local people. Equally important as the debate downtown were live streams on Facebook and direct contact with the audience after the actual debate.

    The panel was moderated an expert in the field of education and teacher Maciej Wiśniewski.

    The first panelist, Rebeka Czobor from the Hungarian liberal movement Momentum, presented the education reform in her home country. She mentioned mass protests of teachers and students accompanied by their family members against ill-conceived reforms made to public education following the nationalization of public schools in 2012. Teachers were demanding a substantial reduction in teaching hours and the freedom to choose textbooks. The government introduced a national curriculum, centralized teaching material and eventually put the schools under the control of a state agency known as KLIK.

    She stressed that liberal movement Momentum supported teachers but their programs go further. Momentum believes that schooling should be compulsory till 18 years old, instead of 16 today. Momentum also supports higher salaries for teachers and broad consultations of new curricula with teachers.

    Iwona Dyszkiewicz, teacher and member of the Wrocław county council, focused on the reform of curricula in Poland. The new curricula will be applied to the first, fourth and seventh grades. Textbooks are not yet ready for the other years. As in the past, history lessons begin in grade four, but, aspects related to everyday life and civilization will be removed from the five authorized history textbooks. The lessons will focus on military history and the lineage of Polish heroes (PiS heroes). There are no references to world history; everything revolves around Poland. The sexual education curriculum in biology class will no longer include instruction on contraceptive methods. On the other hand, religion classes will remain in schools and will be still fully paid from the state budget.

    Last speaker, Jacek Iwancz, high school principal in a mid-size town Świdnica, elaborated the topic of structural reform of Polish education system. Known in Polish as „gimnazja“, the junior high schools have been doing well: in 2012, Poland was among top 10 countries in the PISA international education ranking, which measures 15-year-olds’ skills. Ranked 22 out of 72 in 2015 students’ results were above the OECD average. This indicates a steady improvement over the years, as prior to 2000 the country’s education outcomes were seen as below the OECD average. But Law and Justice presented them as increasing disparities between students and being source of all violence. Eventually, the government abolished them leaving all its consequences (financial also) to the school principals and local government.

    By abolishing middle schools and integrating them into elementary schools, the ministry of education immediately put thousands of principals out of work. Now, the ministry was free to appoint new principals for the newly expanded schools. It was a great way of rewarding party members and sympathizers for their loyalty and thus, being able to rely on their obedience.

    The live stream online was followed by almost 7.000 viewers.

     

    The debate was followed by a liberal dinner with the participation of 3 MPs, members of city council, members of county councils and educational experts from Lower Silesia, Warsaw and abroad.

     

    The RDR “Education Deform” was organised by ELF with support of VVD International in Wrocław, Poland, on September 9th 2017. The RDR took place in open space by the Mary Magdalene Church, starting at 4 am.

    The RDR gathered around 50 participants, among them 2 MPs and several city council members.

    It started with a word of welcome and an introduction by Tadeusz Grabarek, regional Chairman of Nowoczesna, Polish liberal party.

    The RDR was organized as part of series of events called “Letnie Warsztaty Demokracji” (Summer Democracy Workshops) that has been going on in Wroclaw between June and September 2017. What was unique about this series is that they were not organized in event rooms, but outdoors, in main squares and streets of Wroclaw (with a big screen) engaging local people. Equally important as the debate downtown were live streams on Facebook and direct contact with the audience after the actual debate.

    The panel was moderated an expert in the field of education and teacher Maciej Wiśniewski.

    The first panellist, Rebeka Czobor from the Hungarian liberal movement Momentum, presented the education reform in her home country. She stressed that liberal movement Momentum supported teachers but their programs goes further. Momentum believes that schooling should be compulsory till 18 years old, instead of 16 today.

    Iwona Dyszkiewicz, teacher and member of the Wrocław county council, focused on the reform of curricula in Poland and that textbooks are not yet ready.

    Last speaker, Jacek Iwancz, high school principal in a mid-size town Świdnica, elaborated the topic of structural reform of Polish education system. By abolishing middle schools and integrating them into elementary schools, the ministry of education immediately put thousands of principals out of work. Now, the ministry was free to appoint new principals for the newly expanded schools.

     

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