“Refugee students in Polish schools.” Summary and conclusions from the Centre for Civic Education report

dzieci w szkole

The report “Refugee students in Polish schools. Where are we at the threshold of another school year?” is the result of the second wave of research initiated by the Centre for Civic Education [CEO]. The project, carried out by a Polish-Ukrainian research team, focuses on school communities that include students from Ukraine. The aim was to understand their needs, challenges, and to design support for schools. Below, we present the key findings from the 112-page report. We also encourage you to familiarize yourself with the full text or its summary available on the CEO’s website.

The situation of Ukrainian students in the Polish education system. Conclusions from the report

The report discusses the situation of refugee students from Ukraine in Polish educational institutions. The research aimed to understand the challenges and needs of schools hosting students from Ukraine. The results indicate that although Ukrainian students appreciate education in Poland, they encounter numerous problems. These include an overload of tasks, language difficulties, cultural differences, and manifestations of xenophobia.

These and other key findings from the report are summarized in the list below:

  1. Experiences of Ukrainian students. The previously mentioned experience of overload is influenced not only by the amount of duties in the new system, but mainly by the necessity of studying in two systems, which is a daily reality for many students. Additionally, there is stress related to adapting to a new environment, language and cultural barriers, and unfortunately, experiencing animosity from other children.
  2. Directors’ and Teachers’ Perspective – Pursuing “Normality”. One and a half years after the arrival of the first students from Ukraine, teachers and directors often treat Ukrainian students similarly to Polish students. They aim to subtly accelerate assimilation and return to pre-crisis norms. However, pushing for assimilation may lead to the marginalization of Ukrainian students. There is a need for a more individualized approach and systematic solutions that take into account the specific needs of students from Ukraine.
  3. Separation instead of integration. One of the significant problems is the separation of students, with distinct classes for non-Polish-speaking students. In many schools, Polish and Ukrainian students study separately. Such an approach hinders integration. Mixed classes produce the best results, promoting mutual understanding and respect.
  4. Challenges related to preparatory departments. Although preparatory departments are essential and vital in the integration process, in their current form, they lead to the isolation of Ukrainian students. They lack activities promoting integration, which leads to the division of children and conflicts on a national background.
  5. Learning Polish and other educational issues. The Polish language is a challenge for many Ukrainian students. Although additional language lessons are available, their effectiveness is limited by various factors, such as inappropriate lesson times or the lack of adequately prepared teachers. Simultaneously, learning Polish and studying in mixed classes are crucial for educational achievements. Significant barriers to achieving educational goals, as indicated by the report, include a sense of temporariness, economic difficulties, and the previously mentioned combination of studying in two systems – Polish and Ukrainian.
  6. Challenges for female and male teachers: Teaching staff often do not feel adequately prepared to work with multicultural classes. They perceive diversity as a burden, not added value. Difficulties related to properly assessing students in context, considering their specific needs and cultural backgrounds, were also observed.

Systemic changes are needed

A detailed reading of the report will allow one to become familiar with specific case studies and a range of other issues, such as insufficient access to cultural assistants or fear of increasing diversity in society. The conclusions from the report suggest the need for, among other things:

  • the implementation of systemic actions promoting integration and countering exclusions,
  • better preparation of teachers to work in a multicultural environment,
  • adapting teaching methodologies to the needs of refugee students,
  • establishing a system to monitor the effectiveness of educational actions for diverse groups of children.

We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the entirety of the report (and here the summary). If you are a teacher, parent, school administrator, or simply an interested citizen, reading this report will provide you with important insights on how to support refugee students in their educational journey.

The report titled ‘Refugee Students in Polish Schools. Where Are We at the Start of Another School Year?’ was developed as part of a project carried out in collaboration with Plan International and funded by UKAid. The text in both Polish and English versions, along with a summary, can be found on the website of the Center for Civic Education {Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej].