Krzysztof Konarzewski
Instytut Badan Edukacyjnych, Warszawa

Language and Literacy

Polish, the official language of Poland, belongs to the Western Slavic group of Indo‑European languages. German, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Kashubian are among the languages spoken by national and ethnic minorities in Poland. Polish is the language of instruction in all schools. Children from national and ethnic minorities (1.6 percent of primary school students) also attend mother tongue and culture classes. Bilingual secondary schools, in which instruction in some subjects is provided in a foreign language, are attended by 1.5 percent of students.

Soon after the collapse of communism, Poland entered international assessments of reading literacy. In the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 1994 International Adult Literacy Survey, Polish citizens were at the bottom of the achievement distribution in reading.1 Based on OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results from 2000, 15‑year‑old Polish students read significantly below the OECD average.2 Efforts to improve literacy, which has become the center of attention in Polish schools and national examinations, have consistently been successful. Students’ progress in PISA 2003 may be ascribed, in part, to the increased emphasis on teaching reading in lower secondary schools.3 The 2011 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies showed that Poland has made the most progress in reading since 1994 and that Poles ages 16 to 19 exceeded their European peers in reading.4