There are three possible answers to this questions:
- Personnel from Poland educated in the current teacher education facilities.
- Personnel imported from democratic countries of the West.
- A mix of the first two.
The consequences of the first possibility would be the continuation of the current situation simply under a new language. The second possibility would be a great threat to all those who benefit from the status quo, and the efforts to do this would be greatly resisted. The resistance would come under the rubric of “a danger to the Polish identity.” The third solution could have several different versions. It is possible that one version or another could make the reforms real, but who would lead such an effort?
The people who are now in key positions to lead such reforms are in comfortable and safe positions and basically represent an immovable rock from a different epoch. Some reforms currently underway actually support the interests of these groups. For instance, the regaining of autonomy by universities. Thanks to this reform the colleges of teacher education and its personnel actually achieved additional strength and have expanded their influence. Other organizations, which still carry the stigma of the communists, such as the Polish Teachers Association (ZNP) and the Society for the Popularization of Culture and Science are opening their own teacher education colleges. The Solidarity Movement did not develop any new forms of teacher education colleges. Additionally, the possibility of support from Western partners was not take advantage of and has probably been lost. For this reason the remains of a previous era still have a monopoly over education in Poland. Their negative influence on our society and nation is hard to measure.
In conclusion, without radical changes in the system of teacher education all the reforms in education, together with increased funding for education, will miss their target and have no real influence on how young people are educated in Poland. Without resolving this problem of teacher education we can say all our investments will be made without appropriate returns.
With this background information what could be the role of NGO’s? Can we put some hope and trust in them? Do they offer a chance for Polish Education? Do their activities cover the basic problems I mentioned?
Most of them are connected with private schools, and are in the business of getting more financial support for schools, or work as charities. Only a few among them work on issues of teacher education. In addition, some of these were created by supporters of the old system and they concentrate on achieving material support for their personnel and programs. The smallest groups are those organizations that work with Western groups and try to share new ideas with colleagues in Poland. The needs are huge and the potential of these organizations is small. Their activities are made difficult for many financial and political reasons.
They work with a relatively small group of young teachers between the ages of 20 and 25. I would call them outsiders who, through their own initiative, are working to do things differently. They are finding ways to use NGOs, but usually at the expense of their own careers. These NGOs do not create any sort of coherent system of teacher education. They simply deal with the self-improvement of small groups and, because of the lack of interest and support within Government, they have a relatively small impact overall. One can have hope in local self-governments who may see the problem, and work in partnership with NGOs in developing some new forms of teacher education for their schools.
As one can see it is difficult to envision NGOs as a remedy for the problems facing Polish education. They alone are only small patches on huge holes in the entire system. They support individual schools and bodies of students and teachers, and this may slow the degradation of the whole system. They may work as bulwarks trying to save Polish education, and possibly in the future there may be more support and interest in what they are doing.
This document was translated from Polish by Terence and Emilia Ryan.