«There is no bullying.» A personal step-by-step experience of how to send your child to a kindergarten, school or university in Poland 2022
«There is no bullying.» A personal step-by-step experience of how to send your child to a kindergarten, school or university in Poland 2022

«There is no bullying.» A personal step-by-step experience of how to send your child to a kindergarten, school or university in Poland

How to send a child to school in Warsaw? How to find a kindergarten and what is Zerówka? What does it take for your son or daughter to go to a university in Warsaw and how can they find a place to live? All these questions are troubling parents who have moved to Poland (or are just about to do so). We decided to collect three different success stories of children in kindergarten, school and the University of Warsaw to show you that everything is possible — you just have to want it enough. Answers to all urgent questions can be found in the Realting.com article. 

«At best, only half of the students enrolled in the course reach the end of their studies.» A personal experience on how to get into a Polish university

We will start our story about Polish education with the most complex case — admission to the University of Warsaw. Elena clarifies at once: the only thing she wanted was for her children to get a European diploma of higher education so that they could be people «of the world», find work and be realized in any country.

— For foreigners, there are two types of admission to Polish universities: admission on a general basis of foreigners or admission with a Polish card (a Polish card makes it possible to receive a special scholarship). If we talk about admission on a general basis, the applicant can enter the university either on the basis of their high school record, or on the basis of the results of testing in their home country. We were traveling from Belarus, and had a high school diploma and the results of centralized testing, all these documents are also valued in Poland. It is better, however, to use tests (if there is a choice of what to give), since a reduction factor can be applied to the marks on the diploma. 

You can choose a university remotely and in advance — all of them have their own website, which describes all the conditions for admission and study for foreigners. There is also information on professional prospects for graduates of various specialties and which faculties are the most popular. Each university has its own admission campaign and its own admission conditions for foreigners. Interestingly, an applicant can submit documents to several universities at once, and choose several specialties in each of them. My daughter Diana and I chose the polytechnic field and applied to universities in Warsaw, Gdańsk and Poznań. By her testing results certificate scores, Diana qualified for all three universities, but finally chose the largest technical university in Poland — the Warsaw Polytechnic University. But here’s what interesting: universities are very interested in really competent applicants and my Diana, even after her official admission to Warsaw, was getting letters of invitation from the university of Poznań until the end of October. 

Each university has a department for working with foreign students, which every foreign applicant must visit before the beginning of the academic year.

— We arrived in Warsaw at the beginning of the academic year, in September, and immediately went to the department for work with foreign students, — continued Elena. — We brought all the necessary documents with us, and here you need to take into account that you must get an apostille on your high school diploma. Next, you need to remember to open an account with a local bank in order to be able to receive a scholarship (if applicable) or transfer money. As for the scholarship, they come in different formats: a Polish card scholarship, a scholarship from a foundation or a social scholarship. If a student receives a scholarship and lives in a dormitory, then, in my opinion, they can cover about 2/3 of their expenses independently.

Dormitories are paid, they cost about $100 per month. Getting a room turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. As soon as my daughter received her decision on enrollment, she immediately registered in the distribution system of the dormitory rooms. In this system, it was possible to see with whom she would share a block room right away. Back in the summer, we found this girl on social media and contacted her. Over the holiday months, the girls became friendly and discussed what things to buy and what else they would need before arriving. Diana took Polish lessons in Belarus, so she had no problems with the spoken language. 

When we arrived at the dormitory, the commandant gave us the keys to the room, the password to the Internet and a desk lamp. That’s it. You get a place to live. The girls’ unit consists of two small rooms, a shared bathroom and a small space where you can put a small refrigerator, a microwave and cut something into a salad. That’s the whole preparatory phase.

In October, her first study year began. And we were shocked to see the enormous load that students have to keep up with. It turned out that we chose the most challenging faculty of this university (the specialty of chemical engineer-technologist), and, at best, only half of the students enrolled there reach the end of their studies. Now that Diana’s in her third year, according to the enrollment lists, there’s still 66 out of 150 enrolled. 

Another surprise was the age of Diana’s classmates — everyone was at least one and a half to two years older, because children in Poland start school at the age of 7 and graduate at the age of 19 (twelve years of education). My Diana was 17 years old at the time of her first year, and the age of her classmates was really a problem at the beginning. But there was also good news: there were students from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia at the faculty, and Diana quickly found common ground with them. 

In general, the system of higher education in Poland is quite structured and easy to understand, but difficult to master. From the very beginning of the semester, students resemble harnessed horses who have no time to even breathe. It is easy to get kicked out of a Polish university, but, nevertheless, the university always tries to help aspirants who try. There are retakes, postponements of exams and even the possibility of retaking a course. There also are, however, students who leave higher education institutions themselves — simply because they get to understand how difficult it is once «in battle». 

In total, the 1st degree (Bachelor’s degree) lasts 3.5 years. Diana graduates in just six months, and now she is looking for a place to undergo a professional practice. A possible option for her is Procter & Gamble. My younger son, now an eleventh grader, will also be going to Poland this year. He chose robotics for himself. He liked this «meat grinder».

«Chess, ethics and religion lessons are right on the schedule.» A personal experience on how to enroll a child in school

The first thing to solve when you come to live in Poland is finding an apartment. It is quite difficult to rent an apartment in Warsaw now (you can read about the situation in the rental market here), but it is still possible. Experienced tenants will learn about the neighborhood before choosing a place to stay: what schools and kindergartens it has, how it works with sports sections, hospitals, and other infrastructure that is so important for a comfortable family life. But for today it is unlikely that you will spend a long time picking and choosing: good apartments are rented within 15 minutes after the publication of an advert.

Alesia couldn’t buy an apartment in Warsaw at that moment, so she was looking for an apartment to rent. Given the situation, she did not know about the schools in advance. After about a week, she had found an apartment, and the documents for registration (MELDUNEK) were already submitted, which means that it was time to think about a kindergarten and a school for her children.

— We have two children: our son was in the first grade in Belarus (born in 2014), and our daughter had just finished kindergarten (born in 2015). I had heard earlier that children, due to not knowing the Polish language on arrival, «lose» a school year and, frankly speaking, I didn’t like that very much. But I’m okay with it. 

I started by just searching Google maps for every school in the neighborhood, and I went to gather all the information. That’s when I learnt that, in Poland, there is a system of recruitment that has parents apply in March for training for the next academic year in this or that school or kindergarten. Everything is done electronically on an official website. The form is quite simple — even if you don’t know Polish very well, you will still be able to fill it out. However, it should be noted that by this time the child and parents must have a PESEL number — this is the identification number of a person living in Poland. Without this number, you won’t be able to apply.

Applications can be made to several schools at once, and then, if you several schools are willing to accept you, you can choose the one that interests you the most. All notifications are sent by email — very convenient. The recruitment system is especially important for first-graders, but as far as I understand, if parents just want to transfer a child from one school to another next year, they also apply for recruitment (regardless of the grade in which the child is studying).

If you cannot participate in the recruitment system and you need to enroll a child in a school or kindergarten in the current academic year, then you will have to go to the secretary of each educational institution and ask if they have places. This year in Warsaw there was a real boom not only in the rental market, but also in schools and kindergartens. When I went to nearby kindergartens, there were no places anywhere — even in private ones. The school closest to our house was also full, and the secretary explained that our house belongs to another school district, and I need to go apply there. However, if I wanted to enroll my child precisely in this school for the next school year (and we came to Poland in February), I could apply through recruitment, but a place was not guaranteed. The circle had thus been closed.

The school to which our house belongs is about a kilometer from us. There, my son’s documents were accepted with no problems at all, because school education in Poland is compulsory, and «your» school by registration can’t refuse to accept your documents. The staff was as friendly as humanly possible and accepted all documents even without a translation into Polish. My children had studied Polish with a tutor for a while in Belarus, so my son was assigned to the first grade (that is, he did not «lose» his year of study). 

There are approximately 15-17 children in the classroom. Now, besides my son, there are three more foreigners in the group: two boys and a girl from Ukraine. The teacher speaks English well, so there are no problems communicating with parents. My son, of course, found it quite difficult at first: without good knowledge of the language, it is hard to feel comfortable in a collective. But there is no bullying either, rather on the contrary: children are friendly and help him to adapt (in many respects this is the merit of the teacher). 

After-school activities are offered, and meals are paid. Something that surprised me: my son has chess, ethics and religion lessons right on the schedule. Computer science and English are also taught from the first grade. At the same time, mathematics, Polish, reading and social studies are indicated in the schedule by one subject. 

For the convenience of parents of schoolchildren in Poland, a special platform has been invented where each parent registers and gets full access to information about the life of the school, the classroom, and the grades of his or her child. There, the teacher or headmaster writes messages if necessary. In personal messages, the teacher can, for example, be informed that your child will not come to school for some reason — this will be considered an official statement. Anyway, it’s pretty convenient. 

Maybe this will be relevant to someone: a paid private school near us costs about $500 a month. However, in order to study there, you need to be perfectly proficient in either Polish or English.

«I was very worried because they could reject us at any moment.» A personal experience on how to enroll a child in a kindergarten

Alesia said that finding a place in a kindergarten seemed more difficult: state-sponsored ones simply had no places.

— I applied through the recruitment system for the next school year for my daughter to go to the same school where my son goes, but I had to think of something with a kindergarten for these six remaining months. The recruitment system also works for kindergartens, but there is one important difference: no one is obliged to take a child to a kindergarten by registration, because preschool education is not compulsory here. However, there is also a nuance. In Poland there are simply kindergartens for small children, but there is also a «preschool», otherwise known as «zerówka». This is like a senior kindergarten group, but it already has classes like school. Every child must go through the «zerówka» and receive the corresponding certificate before going to school. My daughter, it turns out, needed to go precisely to «zerówka», but only for six months. 

When I went to state kindergartens, I got turned away at the gate everywhere, because there were no places. I probably went around about five or six kindergartens, and everywhere I got rejected. Then I began to look for paid «zerówka» groups, but it was also problematic. Even in paid schools, there were no places. By some miracle, there was a place in one of them. I can’t tell you how much I worried while waiting to sign my daughter into her «zerówka»: they could reject us at any moment. Especially considering that our daughter hardly knows Polish (she wasn’t too diligent with the tutor). 

As a result, she is already attending «zerówka»; it costs about $470 per month. It includes meals, various classes (including English and gymnastics) and the daily stay of the child in the school from 7.30 to 17.30. The teachers are also very friendly, many speak English. There are no other Russian-speaking children in the group. 

It also has its own online platform where you can learn all the necessary information or write a message to your tutors. There, you can also pay for tuition (the fee consists of two parts: the cost of tuition is per month and meals are paid separately). At the same time, the contract states that, even if our daughter takes sick days, the cost of schooling does not decrease — only the cost of food is reduced.

There are about 15 children in our daughter’s group, and three educators. Two educators are always present with the children at all times, too. Classes are held in a variety of ways: for example, the children baked cupcakes under adult supervision, and once they were brought live chickens and ducks in a box — words could not convey their delight and joy.

Do you want to buy an apartment in Poland? Go to the property in Poland section and choose the option that suits you the most.

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