I’ve recently had an interesting conversation with my colleagues about the school-time memories. As all of them were Brits, the conversation made me think of how that compares to my memories of school and notice many differences in between the English and Polish schooling system. I think that if we combined some aspects of English with some aspects of Polish system, we would come up with quite amazing schools 🙂
Here are some of my thoughts about the two systems.
This is something that we’ve been dreaming of for quite a while before the lockers actually appeared in my school. We didn’t have them until my penultimate year at high school. It was something I’ve always seen in the American movies and wanted to have! In practice, it turned out to be not that commonly used, because there is still so much to do with the rest of the system for the lockers to actually work. I don’t know. Maybe it has changed already – it has been I while since I’ve been at school.I like the English way here. You can actually leave the books at school, you don’t have to take them home to be able to do your homework. That would probably be the main argument for having them at schools. If there was a way not to use so many course books at home, just exercise books, it would make our students lives much lighter.
On the other hand, the lockers are not that perfect either – they take up so much space on the corridors, they’re usually full of rubbish – not necessarily books, they’re an additional reason for school pranks.
Now a few words about the subjects themselves. I think the Polish system gives a wider exposure to a variety of subjects. This has its flaws too, of course, because it means that you have to learn eeeeverything, even the things that you don’t have talent for or the things that you’re not interested in. But at the same time it equips the students with a good level of general knowledge.
I generally think that education systems tend to push us into specialisations too early in time. In middle school, aged 13-15, you already need to know what to do in the future and work towards that. Polish schools give you more flexibility when it comes to the final exams choice – you can make your decision even on your final year. In my mind it’s better, because it gives the flexibility to the ones who are not yet sure what to do with their lives, and is equally good for the ones who’d like to specialise already – they still need to learn everything, but are free to focus on their preferred subjects (no one needs to have A grades straight from all 13 subjects, right?)
What I would like to take from the English system and implement in the Polish one is more practical assessments. From the conversations I’ve had I get the impression that in England the assessments are more fair, your opinion matters more, essay-questions are more widely in use. And – no way you can cheat! In Poland on the contrary, there are lots of multiple-choice tests, even during language classes. This makes it easier to cheat as there is no ‘personality’ in the answers, easier to learn (and equally easy to forget quickly) and easier to just guess the answers. Of course not 100% of assessments look like this, but that’s the general tendency. I could see the same kind of difference between the two countries on a university level education, where I believe the practical classes and specialisations should be a priority.
Well this is truly something I’d like to have in Poland. My longest breaks were 25-minute long in one of the schools. An hour-long break? – impossible in Poland. In England – it’s the culture. How great is that to be able to spend the whole hour with your friends, to have fun, eat together, talk and build relationships? I’d be interested to hear more opinions about that, especially of the people brought up within this system, but at this point I find it really a cool thing to have at school. Another thing is what to eat during the lunches – here is where my point of view is not a hundred percent consistent with the British one haha
Single-gender education vs. mixed-gender education
Last but not least, the thing I have most mixed feelings about, maybe because it’s a psychology-related topic. In Poland the idea of single-gender schools is not very popular. For sure there are some, but I don’t know anyone who went to such a school or I never heard any of my friends talking about their friends going there. The situation is much different in England. In the past, the single-gender schools were for elites. Now, it is just a part of the system, it is normal, every other person I speak to went to a single-gender school at one point in their education. In addition, boarding schools are much more popular here than in Poland as well, with a different purpose too.
Why is this causing mixed feelings in me? The reason is that I can see a lot of pros and a lot of cons of both. I read a couple of articles about that, taking different points of view on the two types of schools and I can’t really make my mind about it. My personal experience from being in mixed-gender schools is really good. I think I could learn a lot from boys in my class and at a certain age even push myself a bit out of my comfort zone, to show off in front of them a little bit. The dynamics in the group is always different when the group is mixed-gender. I don’t know if it’s better, but it’s for sure different. At the same time, in single-gender schools it is possible to tailor teaching style to boy or girl learning styles. This argument appeals to me to some extent as in fact the pace of development of the two genders is different. However shouldn’t it be done in mixed-gender classrooms as well anyway?
I would love to hear more stories from the two perspectives and keep comparing these two types of schools to finally make up my mind objectively! Here is an interesting Telegraph article about that.