Object structure

Polish lower secondary schools in the face of social inequalities


Sawiński, Zbigniew


Educational Research Institute




The need to reduce social inequalities in the transition to upper secondary school was one of the arguments for introducing lower secondary schools in 1999 in Poland. The new lower secondary schools extended the common comprehensive curriculum by one year and, in consequence, shifted the decision on choosing an upper secondary school, which was a crucial decision for continuing one’s further educational career in Poland. Three hypotheses were formulated on the impact of the reform on inequalities in Polish schools. The first two concern the importance of social origin for student performance and for the choice of upper secondary school, while the third addresses the effects of growing differences among lower secondary schools, especially in large cities. In order to test the hypotheses, PISA data were used from 2000–2012, which coincides with the period of introducing lower secondary schools in Poland. The PISA results demonstrate that after the reform, there was no decrease in correlations between school performance and socio-economic status of students. Likewise, the hypothesis of a persi-stent impact of social origin on upper secondary school choice also cannot be rejected. However, the increasing diversity of lower secondary schools did not lead to an increase in inequality in Polish education. The latter result has been confirmed by PISA data from eight European countries where the 15-year-old PISA students attend schools which are not divided into tracks. Between 2003 and 2012, the differences in performance among schools increased in most selected countries, but none of these countries saw an increase in educational inequality. The conclusions support the prominent hypothesis of Hans-Peter Shavit and Yossi Blossfeld about the persistence of inequalities in education. School reformers are helpless against stratification in society, which determines the educational attainment of children from different social classes.

Bibliographic citation:

Edukacja. 2015, 4 (135)

Subject and Keywords:

social inequality ; inequality in education ; persistent inequality ; school reform ; lower secondary schools ; PISA


21st century




Creative Commons BY 4.0

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