Poland Education – matters more than ever

Map of Poland - Kielce

Her husband Tadeusz Kowalski, a former construction worker, has been

unemployed for over eight years. He has had health problems with his back, which cause potential limitations to any job. He receives a preretirement disability pension from the state. Moreover, he finds parttime jobs on the side, which provide him with an additional income. Many middleclass workers such as Mr. and Mrs. Kowalski do not declare their parttime work pay.

Elzbieta and Tadeusz Kowalski are very fond of their daughter Ewa, who is an

excellent Economics student at the local university, and plans to acquire her

diploma in a couple of years. As her parents, they have always stressed education because they believe a university diploma facilitates a higher standard of living.

Ironically, Ewa is a nonsmoker but she advertises and promotes cigarettes in

nightclubs and trendy dinner locations on weekends, a parttime job which gives her pocket money for her personal expenses. She explained, “Since I like going out I can combine my job with some fun. The money I earn from my night job, I mostly spend on makeup and clothes.”

Tomasz has never acquired his university degree. He gave up his studies for an

opportunity to travel to Ireland and work harvesting fruit in an orchard for a season. He said, “I wanted to get out of [here] and see different places. Plus, I was able to make some money, so I don’t regret anything.” With the money he earned he purchased a car, a luxury for most Poles. Today, he takes on a variety of jobs to get by and is still thinking about returning to the university and finishing his degree.

Politechnika Despite a February report from Poland`s Central Statistics Office that confirmed the unemployment rate at 11.5 percent compared to 20.7 percent in February 2003, there is still a large number of young people unemployed. In fact, when visiting Poland last week, the first couple of sentences that I exchanged with people I met always included the question, “Do you have work?” It shows that despite a slow improvement in the Polish economy people are still worried about employment. “When you have work you are well off,” explained a woman who I met at a Polish wedding.

It wasn’t that long ago that most Poles could not pursue high education and

although, people graduated from universities, many of them did not practice jobs in the area they had studied. Others who attended college, and received university diplomas, abandoned their field of studies for better opportunities to work abroad.

“Why attend school for six years and finish with a university diploma if there is still doubt about getting a job to pay the bills?” a Polish man in his early 30`s argued. The reasons for lack of education are evident. A graduate with a law degree in Poland was able to earn more harvesting grapes in Germany for one season than working six months as a lawyer in Poland. This is just one of the obvious reasons why education has not been stressed in Poland in the past.

Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004 doors opened for travel throughout Europe, and many of the young and even highly educated people have tried to find jobs abroad. Most of them travel to Ireland, Germany or France to work in gardening, cleaning or in the service sector, including selling in shops and waiting tables in cafes and restaurants. Many Poles have been performing jobs in the service industry due to the lack of their education.

Language has also been a barrier, but less so today because English was introduced to every schools` curriculum shortly after the communist regime ended in 1990.

Today, there are numerous private language schools in every major city in Poland, demonstrating peoples’ thirst for learning, international communication and cross-cultural understanding. Today, education has become more important and valuable.

Despite the positive changes, many things remain the same. The Polish people are very proud of their history and culture. They are also proud of their homemade foods and handmade products. Religion and cultural tradition play large roles in Poles` lives, although it seems that the younger generation has less concern for these values.

Once the Euro monetary system stabilizes, the Polish economy will improve, and

more people will be able to find employment enabling them to pay their bills, enjoy living in their own homes and the need to work abroad will abate. Poland`s

economy is on a slow road to progress and the people`s optimism is evident,

especially in the recent economic improvements and their daily way of lives.