The 1999 reform of the Polish education system and its effects on socially based inequalities in scholastic competence
Poland is the only European Union country to have undertaken profound structural reform of its compulsory education system recently. One of the main components of
the 1999 reform was to lengthen the shared curriculum component of general education by one year, thereby deferring the first orientation decision to age 16. This examination of the Polish experience, based on PISA evaluations for 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009, sheds new light on the effects of comprehensive schooling. The analyses suggest that the reform has worked to increase students’ scholastic performances and that lengthening the shared curriculum by one year reduces
inequalities in socially based scholastic acquisition among students who complete compulsory schooling. The overall fall in such inequalities seems due primarily to the homogenization of learning conditions in comprehensive schools where the shared curriculum has been prolonged to the end of compulsory schooling. The Polish experience thus suggests that the changes in teachers’ instruction methods and relations among students induced by the reform have been much more beneficial to socially disadvantaged, scholastically weak students than they have been harmful to more privileged students.
Keywords. SOCIAL INEQUALITIES – EDUCATION SYSTEM – REFORM – PISA– MULTILEVEL MODELING – POLAND