Report 2020

Poland on the way to SDGs
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Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Access to education in the world

The obligatory age of entering structured education varies worldwide. Nevertheless, the ever-more common practice of introducing children to pre-primary education increases their chances to become successful students in their later school years. Over 67% of children all around the world enter structured education a year prior to reaching the obligatory schooling age by them. Pre-primary education is most common in Latin America and Europe, where over 94% of children attend pre-primary institutions, whereas Africa and Central and Western Asia are the regions with worst conditions for pre-primary education for the youngest. Only less than half of them receive structured education a year prior to reaching the compulsory-schooling age. However, in all regions of the world early education is more common nowadays than it was several years ago. The scope of this type of schooling has increased most considerably (i.e. by 16-25 percentage points since 2005) in: Northern Africa, where presently 54% of children attend institutions offering pre-primary education, Oceania (where 80% of children do so), and South-Eastern Asia (where 91% of children receive pre-primary education).

Intensive development of information and communication technologies as well as increased mobility makes it easier to take advantage of the best available educational opportunities. Since 2005, a significant increase (from 24% to 38%) in the number of young people pursuing higher education has been observed all over the world. Universal access to higher education has widened considerably (by 20-30 percentage points) in countries of Western Asia (where 56% of young people attend higher education institutions), Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (45%) and Latin America (52%). In many regions of the world, however, the ability to pursue tertiary education is still largely dependent on the financial situation of the student’s family. Young people of sub-Saharan Africa have the most limited access to tertiary education, as a consequence of which only 9% of them pursue such education.

Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age) (%)

Concerns childern at various age depending on the education system.

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2005 2018
WORLD 59.8a 67.2
Northern Africa 29.1 53.9
Sub-Saharan Africa 32.3a 42.4
Latin America and the Caribbean 88.8 95.8
Northern Africa 93.1 91.0
Southern Asia . 59.0
South-Eastern Asia 75.1 91.2
Central Asia . 47.2
Eastern Asia . .
Western Asia 42.7 45.2
EUROPE 91.3 94.9
OCEANIA 63.4 79.8

aData concern 2007.

Preparing for compulsory education in Poland

Children in Poland begin their compulsory education with an obligatory one-year primary preparation. In 2016, the pre-primary compulsory schooling age was set at 6, while all 4- and 5-year-olds since then (and 3-year-olds since 2017) have been entitled to a place in a state-owned nursery school. The related legal regulations jointly with the growing number of educational institutions and the steady fall in the number of schooling-age children have all been contributing to the gradual increase of the scope of publicly-accessible pre-primary education. At present, 93% of children over the age of 4 attend pre-primary institutions (compared to 76% in 2010), which is slightly less than the EU average. A considerable growth has been observed in the number of the youngest children entitled to nursery education (i.e. 3-year-olds) participating in this type of education. To sum up, presently 88% of children below the compulsory schooling age participate in the early education and care (compared to 76% in 2013). This is still less than the EU average, however, where 93% of children above the age of 3 receive regular pre-primary education.

Percentage of children aged 4 and over in early childhood education (%)

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2010 2018
PL 76.3 93.0
EU 93.0 95.3

Skills of Polish youth according to PISA

The results of the international PISA test, conducted by OECD, illustrate the level and diversification of students’ skills. Polish 15-year-olds are among the world’s best students in terms of reading comprehension and mathematical reasoning. In both of these areas Poland ranked 10th among nearly 80 countries participating in the 2018 edition of the survey. Polish students’ scores are even higher than that when compared to scores of EU students only. In such a ranking, Polish students are 4th in reading comprehension and 3rd in mathematics. Polish students’ results have improved over recent years, and are currently more uniform across all the tested skills (as opposed to results of students from many other countries, where significant differences between the level of mastering different skills can be observed). Fewer Polish students than in previous years achieved minimum or below-minimum results in reading comprehension and mathematics (less than 15%, compared to the EU average of over 20%). In Poland, as in the majority of other tested countries, girls achieve better results than boys in reading comprehension. Polish girls and boys, however, receive similar average scores in mathematics, while in most world and EU countries boys tend to obtain better results in this field than girls.

Students achieving results below expectations (below level 2) in PISA tests in 2018 (%)

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reading mathematics
PL 14.7 14.7
EU 21.7 22.4

Early leavers from education and training

Young Poles relatively rarely discontinue their education at an early stage. Among 18-24 year-olds, 5% finish their education at lower secondary level. Half of this group work, while most of the remaining half have no intention to undertake any employment. The percentage of those leaving education early has remained stable for several years in Poland and is among the lowest in the EU. In Poland, as in the case of most EU countries, this problem concerns boys to a greater degree than girls. They discontinue their education twice as often as girls (7% compared to nearly 4%, respectively).

Early leavers (aged 18-24) from education and training (%)

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2010 2019 2010 2019
female 3.5 3.6 11.9 8.6
male 7.2 6.7 15.8 11.9

Polish residents in higher education

However, despite the fact that demographic and socio-economic transformations cause a gradual decrease in the number of students in the Polish higher education institutions, still many young Poles pursue tertiary education. In the 2018/2019 academic year, the gross enrolment rate (which is calculated by taking into consideration undergraduate and graduate students, but excluding foreigners from amongst them, and in relation to the total population aged 19-24) at this level of education totalled 46% (in the 2010/2011 academic year it was 54%). Young people in Poland, as in the EU, most often select fields of study related to business, administration and law (22% of all students), engineering, manufacturing and construction (16%), and health and welfare (12%). Women tend to choose education-related studies (females account for 84% of all the students of these fields), health and welfare (73%), and arts and humanities (69%). Women relatively rarely select studies related to Information and Communication Technologies (only 15% of the total number of ICT students in Poland are female) and engineering, manufacturing and construction(36%), although on average, Polish women choose this latter field much more often than women living in the EU (26%).

Increasing numbers of inhabitants of Poland are graduates of higher education institutions. Nearly 47% of persons aged 30-34 have tertiary education (40% in the EU), while at the beginning of the decade it was 30%.

Tertiary education students by broad fields in 2018 (%)

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female male female male
education 8.0 1.5 5.7 1.6
arts and humanities 6.5 3.0 7.8 4.3
social sciences, journalism and information 7.4 3.5 6.3 3.6
business, administration and law 13.7 8.3 11.9 9.9
natural sciences, mathematics and statistics 2.6 1.4 4.1 4.0
information and communication technologies 0.9 4.7 0.9 4.0
engineering, manufacturing and construction 5.9 10.4 3.9 11.1
agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary 1.1 0.9 1.0 0.9
health and welfare 8.9 3.3 9.8 3.8
services 3.9 3.4 1.7 1.9
other 0.3 0.2 0.9 0.7

Adult education and training

Changing needs of the labour market along with technological progress require a constant improvement of employees’ qualifications and skills. As a consequence, adults cannot rely solely on their skills acquired at school. The number of Polish adults aged 25-64 who decide to participate in education and training has not changed significantly over recent years, and have fluctuated around 4%-5%. This is relatively little compared to other EU countries, where the percentage of adults who take part in education or training has been systematically growing, and since 2011 has remained at a twice as high level as in Poland. As in the majority of EU countries, Polish adult women are slightly more willing to participate in education or training than men (5% and 4%, respectively).

Percentage of persons aged 25-64 in education and training (last 4 weeks) (%)

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2010 2019 2010 2019
female 5.7 5.4 10.2 12.4
male 4.7 4.2 8.4 10.2

Digital skills of the society

In the times of ever-progressing computerisation, possessing at least basic digital skills, without which the participation in socio-economic life is increasingly difficult, assumes particular importance. Only 44% of Poles possess basic or above basic digital skills, of whom 21% have reached a more advanced level of digital competency than just basic (it is more than in 2015, when 40% and 15% of Poles, respectively, possessed basic and above basic digital skills). Although Poles have made progress in this field, their digital competences remain lower than those of average Europeans, of which 58% have basic or above basic digital skills, including 33% with above basic digital skills.

One of the groups at risk of digital exclusion to the largest extent are the elderly. In Poland, only 9% of persons aged 65-74 possess basic or above basic digital skills. Nevertheless, seniors in Poland are becoming increasingly interested in using the Internet: the percentage of Internet users in this age group has increased to 37% from 21% in 2015.

Individuals' level of digital skills in 2019 (%)

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aged 16-24 aged 25-54 aged 55-74 aged 16-24 aged 25-54 aged 55-74
basic overall skills 32 28 11 23 27 22
above basic overall skills 48 25 4 59 39 13

Report 2020
Poland on the way to SDGs
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