The Polish Minister of Education Anna Zalewska at the 3rd European Congress of Local Governments

The 3rd European Congress of Local Governments had the honor to welcome Anna Zalewska, the Polish Minister of Education, as a guest. The topic of the minsters lecture was "Personnel Training for a Modern Economy. The Implementation of Education Reform".

At first, the minister explained the aims and assumptions lying at the foundation of the recent educational reforms and their implications for local governments, providing examples of how the ministry of education takes into account the expectations and thes input of local authorities.

In Poland, several reforms of the education system find themselves currently on different steps of realization. The age of enrolment was raised, the structure of the middle school system has been altered profoundly and also the vocational training experiences changes.

Defending these reforms, which receive a mixed echo in the press, she critizised the media for a one-sided and excessively negative coverage. According to the minister, the reform was well prepared and executed. As one difficulty of the legislation process, the minister named contradictory expectations and the lack of community spirit of local governments and labor unions working together with the ministry. Mrs Zalewska stated that there is a need to work together to improve the Polish school system and the readiness to take responsibility.

According to the minister, the Polish school system needs to be reformed, so that it provides young people better chances on the labor market – for example through improved maths and informatics lessons: "In two years every school in Poland will have broadband access", the minister promised.

The great advantage of the vocational training is its practical relevance. Because of its negligence in the past, the vocational education has a bad reputation in Poland. Therefore, the new teaching programs are developed by employees of ministries in cooperation with representatives of Polish companies, the minister explains. Unfortunately, Mrs. Zalewska points out, Polish firms are less committed than for example German companies, who are willing to invest money in the vocational education system.

Other important issues brought up by the minister of education are an integrated system of lifelong learning, the preservation of small schools and further education of teachers.

In the end of the lecture, Boguslaw Chrabota, Chief Editor of the  daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita, conducted an interview with minister Zalewska. Among others, he asked, whether state-owned companies will be priviliged partners of the government or whether all companies will be treated equally. The minister explained that there will be no preference of public enterprises and drew again attention to the unwillingsness of Polish private companies to engage financially.

The last question aimed at the criticism of Polish media conducted by the minister. Mr Chrabota proposed that the information policy of her ministry was improvable. As an answer, the minister named hundreds of townhall meetings, lists written and presentations to explain and promote the educational reforms to a broader public.