The Polish Teachers’ Union (ZNP) has called on the Polish government to ensure that comprehensive early childhood education services are provided to all young children in the country. This would ensure equalisation of opportunities for all young children in Poland and contribute to their physical, social, cognitive and emotional development.
The union sent this message during a debate at a conference held in Warsaw on 6 and 7 March. The conference was attended by the Minister of Education, Members of Parliament, experts from local and external universities, ZNP leaders and members, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.
Currently, only about 30% of young children in Poland have access to early childhood education. This is far below the regional average and the Barcelona targets set in 2002. According to these targets, by 2010 countries in the European Union should provide early childhood education services to at least 90% of the children aged between 3 and the compulsory school age, and to at least 33% of the children under 3.
ZNP is particularly concerned about the closure of many pre-schools, mostly in rural areas, and about the unavailability of these schools in many parts of the country. The provision of pre-school education is decentralised to local authorities. However, these local authorities do not receive sufficient funding for ECE provision from the central government, and they have cited this as the main reason for closing down some of the pre-schools.
The Polish government has also decided to lower the primary school entry age from 7 to 6 years, with effect from 2009. This, and the closure of pre-schools, has caused a lot of apprehension among pre-school teachers. The teachers are worried about losing their jobs or about being forced to move to alternative pre-schools, most of which are private and are not covered by the School Charter.
Education International, represented by Dennis Sinyolo, Coordinator - Education and Employment, supported ZNP in its call for comprehensive ECE services for all Polish children. Education, including early childhood education, is a basic human right secured by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.