Poland to abolish homework for primary school pupils

Compulsory, graded homework will be abolished in Poland’s primary schools from April, education minister Barbara Nowacka has announced, fulfilling a pre-election election promise by her party. She hopes that in future secondary school pupils will also no longer receive homework.

Nowacka, who took office last month as part of the new government led by Donald Tusk, also reiterated earlier pledges to slim down the curriculum and focus more on “critical thinking, not learning everything by heart”, as well as to reduce the number of Catholic catechism classes and increase teachers’ pay.

❗️Od początku kwietnia koniec z pracami domowymi w szkołach podstawowych, wtedy wejdzie w życie rozporządzenie w tej sprawie, które jest już gotowe. Ogłosiła to @MEN_GOVPL @barbaraanowacka w @wirtualnapolska. pic.twitter.com/G0Cf3RMqZb

— Patryk Michalski (@patrykmichalski) January 19, 2024

The pledge to abolish homework in primary schools was included in the 100 promises announced by Tusk last September ahead of elections and was then included in the coalition agreement his Civic Coalition (KO) signed with two other groups in November, paving the way for them to form a new government.

In an interview today with news website Wirtualna Polska, Nowacka, who is from KO, confirmed that the plans are moving ahead.

“What is needed is a move away from compulsory and graded homework and from the beginning of April such a regulation will be in place,” she said, referring to primary schools, which in Poland children usually attend between the aged of 7 and 15.

Her pledge was also later repeated by Tusk, who shared a video clarifying that for grades 1 to 3 in primary school there would no longer be any homework and for older age groups only those who want to do extra work at home would be given it and it would not count towards their grades.

Tego problemu więcej nie będzie. pic.twitter.com/6Dw3S16s5x

— Donald Tusk (@donaldtusk) January 19, 2024

Nowacka said that currently primary school pupils have “an excess of things to learn, to memorise, also at home, at the expense of free time, at the expense of extra-curricular activities, at the expense of meeting friends”.

The minister also noted that often parents are expected to help with large projects given to their children that have to be completed by the next day.

Nowacka said that, in the case of high schools, which pupils attend from age 15 to 19, homework would be maintained for the time being. But she added her belief “that after a few years of no homework in primary schools, in secondary schools this too will be abolished”.

Her ideas were, however, criticised by former education minister Anna Zalewska, from the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party. Abolishing homework would reduce teachers’ freedom to choose their methods and would fail to prepare students for the realities of the labour market, said Zalewska.

Brak zadań domowych w rozporządzeniu? Wiedziałam, że będzie źle, ale to po prostu katastrofa!Co to ma wspólnego z wolnością doboru metod przez nauczycieli, co z kształtowaniem samodzielności, kreatywności i odpowiedzialności uczniów? Zderzenie naszej młodzieży z rynkiem pracy…

— Anna Zalewska 🇵🇱 (@AnnaZalewskaMEP) January 19, 2024

In her interview with Wirtualna Polska, Nowacka said that other work was also underway to ease the burden on students and teachers, including slimming down the core curriculum because “recent years have seen an exponential overabundance of information”.

“Twenty percent of what has been forced on children to know will be removed, because most of this knowledge is redundant and unnecessary,” Nowacka told Wirtualna Polska. “Critical thinking is needed today, not learning everything by heart.”

Initially, the reduction in the school programme will apply to subjects such as Polish, history, social studies and natural sciences, but the education minister assured that this does not mean a reduction in the number of hours.

She underlined that what would be removed from the core curriculum would be decided by experts, not her. “The days of one-man decisions by the minister are over,” she said, referring to her controversial predecessor Przemyslaw Czarnek.

Poles see the current education minister, Przemysław Czarnek, as the worst in the last two decades, finds a poll by SW Research for @rzeczpospolita.

43.1% chose Czarnek, an ultraconservative figure, as the worst, ahead of Roman Giertych (11.7%) in second https://t.co/UT1klaKdij pic.twitter.com/EY7br4Rf99

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 27, 2023

The burden on pupils is also supposed to be eased by reducing the number of Catholic catechism classes in schools, said Nowacka.

Last month, on the day she took office, the new minister outlined plans to halve the number of such classes, which are optional but taken by most children, from two hours to one hour a week, to ensure they always take place at the start or end of the school day, and to remove them from end-of-year grade averages.

Speaking today to Wirtualna Polska, Nowacka said that she personally is “in favour of a secular state” where religious classes do not take place in public schools.

“But after hundreds of conversations with parents, I am able to accept that it is convenient for some of them that their children can attend religion at school,” she said. “The task of a minister is not to implement all his or her views, but to take care of social dialogue.”

After Poland’s new education minister outlined plans to reduce state-funded Catholic catechism classes in public schools, a senior church official has called on the government to ensure that any such changes are „carried out in dialogue with the church” https://t.co/PSHkYaehQB

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 15, 2023

The minister also said in the interview that teachers would get the promised 30-33% increases, which were included in the government’s 2024 budget, from March, not February as previously planned.

She blamed the delays on the decision by President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, to “toy with vetoing a budget-related law” last month. But she said that once the pay rises are introduced they will be backdated to January.

Raising teachers’ pay was another of the pre-election pledges made by Tusk. Research published by the European Commission in 2022 showed that Polish teachers are among the lowest paid in the European Union, even when taking into account the cost of living.

Teachers in Poland are among the lowest paid in the EU, even when adjusted for the cost of living, new data show.

Both starting salaries and those at the top of the pay scale are in the EU’s bottom four.

For more, see our report: https://t.co/ADlPQ1DFPi pic.twitter.com/1bsVdOqP6R

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 12, 2022


Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Parliament has passed a budget bill with pay rises for teachers and extra funds for cancer treatment

An earlier version was vetoed by the president over public media funding but that part has been removed

All parties apart from far right voted in favour https://t.co/foARuZYABP

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 17, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Joseph O. Holmes/Flickr (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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