In the past years, there have been a great number of people of different nationalities (especially Ukrainian, Belarusian and Vietnamese) coming to Poland to live here permanently. This is why, in the past decade, the number of international students covered by the Polish education system went up from 9 610 persons in 2009 to 51 363 persons in 2019. The biggest group in schools for children and youth were students from Ukraine: 30 777 persons. Classes for foreign students were conducted in the school year 2019/2020 in 7 318 schools for children and youth (as compared with 1 571 schools in the school year 2009/2010).

A curve showing the increasing number of international students in Polish educational institutions over 10 years, from 2009 to 2019. Schools for children and youth: from 7790 in 2009 to 41161 in 2019; kindergartens: from 1769 in 2009 to 9639 in 2019; art schools: from 51 in 2009 to 563 in 2019; total: from 9610 in 2009 to 51363 in 2019. Source: NIK’s own analysis based on the Educational Information System of the Ministry of National Education.

On the other hand, Polish people travel abroad for longer, to earn a living. After they return to Poland, their children have adaptation difficulties related to the use of Polish and the need to find themselves in schools and in communities other than abroad.

NIK verified how this process was carried out in school years 2017/18 to 2019/20. The audit covered the Ministry of National Education and 24 state primary and secondary schools. Additionally, a questionnaire was conducted among teachers from the audited schools providing education for children from abroad as well as international students’ parents and parents of students who returned to Poland.

The Minister of National Education, responsible for the coordination and implementation of the state educational policy actually did not plan or organise actions related to the education of children coming from abroad, despite the growing scale of this phenomenon. The Minister had no data concerning such students, s/he did not monitor or analyse those issues, although s/he could use the database of the Educational Information System. Moreover, s/he did not gather data about the number of students – Polish citizens coming back to Poland. That is why the scale of this phenomenon remains unknown. The Minister does not know anything about the effectiveness of those students’ education because s/he did not supervise its organisation and conditions. Particularly, the Minister did not control or evaluate the pedagogical supervision exercised by the superintendents of education.

A positive exception was the public task performed since 2015 “Fostering educational initiatives in a multi-cultural school community”. From 2015 to 2019, 47 projects were subsidised with nearly PLN 1.9 million. The Minister properly granted the subsidy to 26 beneficiaries. NIK underlined, though, that the Ministry almost failed to verify if the projects were implemented properly and what deliverables were achieved.

The state budget earmarked PLN 340 million from 2015 to 2019 for expenditures related to the additional educational support for children of Polish citizens returning to Poland and children of foreigners.  

An infographics showing the structure of expenditures for education of students coming from abroad: over PLN 1.4 million: educational grant for local governments to organise welcome classes in schools (from 2017 to 2019); nearly PLN 1.9 million: public task “Fostering educational initiatives in a multi-cultural school community” (from 2015 to 2019); nearly PLN 337 million: educational grant for local governments for additional Polish classes (from 2015 to 2019); total: PLN 340 million. Source: NIK’s own analysis based on the Educational Information System of the Ministry of National Education

The Minister did not analyse needs related to the professional development of teachers working with students and to the relevant methodological advisory. The Ministry neither planned nor implemented any activities in this area, although PLN 41.2 million was earmarked in the ministerial budget from 2017 to 2019 for central programmes of teachers’ schooling and professional development. Needs have been growing in this area as the number of schools for children and youth attended by international students has gone up almost 5 times within 10 years (from 2009 to 2019 this number has increased from 1 571 to 7 318). Thus, the number of people involved in this process has increased as well. The headmasters also did not notice the constantly growing needs in this respect. The majority of them (20 schools) did not support teachers in their professional development in this area.

The teachers taking part in the survey stated that the basic problem in their work with students coming from abroad is the communication issue (44% of respondents). Diversified levels of Polish language skills among students who use different languages as their mother tongues, often makes it impossible to conduct such classes. The lack of textbooks to learn Polish as a foreign language or relevant didactic materials and poor support of teachers’ work by the school are also problematic (7%). Curriculum differences related to learning in other educational systems, especially when students come from different countries, also make things difficult  (7%). According to teachers, students have adaptation and integration problems (6%). The contact with students’ parents is not easy, either, or there is none at all (6%). These students show low motivation to learn and are reluctant to perform tasks assigned to them (5%). Only 4% of teachers stated that they do not find any problems in their cooperation with students coming from abroad. They even said that foreign students do their school tasks more diligently than Polish students.

According to NIK, not all headmasters of state schools ensured required learning conditions to children coming from abroad. They performed many tasks without due care or not at all, which is a symptom of ineffective supervision. A common problem (in 20 out of 24 schools) was that students coming from abroad were not provided with psychological and pedagogical support, such as educational and specialist classes, tailored to their needs. The reason was that no diagnosis was made at the onset of their education. Hence, adequate measures to support the students could not be planned. Headmasters organised classes in schools without agreement with the school managing bodies. As a consequence, the required weekly number of hours of Polish classes was lowered (in 5 schools), there were no catch up classes in other subjects (in 7 schools) or the documentation of the educational process was not kept as required (in 12 schools). In 5 schools, students coming from abroad were admitted to schools, without adhering to relevant conditions and procedures, e.g. without necessary documents. The procedures of adjusting conditions or the form of external exams to the needs of students coming from abroad were not complied with in 5 schools.

Besides, in 15 schools headmasters improperly kept the database of the Educational Information System concerning the number of students coming from abroad and attending additional Polish classes. That practice resulted in under- or overestimation of educational subsidies for bodies managing the audited schools, where the total exceeded PLN 1.8 million. NIK sent a notification to the Minister of Finance saying that 9 schools submitted unreliable data to the database of the Educational Information System. As a consequence, from 2017 to 2020, school managing bodies were granted undue educational subsidies totalling nearly PLN 755 thousand.

NIK stands in a position that all those irregularities point to the headmasters’ ineffective supervision of the education of students coming from abroad. Headmasters usually do not take account of such issues. The schools’ supervision plans do not cover evaluation, control, observation, and monitoring. Also, the schools do not handle this issue as part of ad hoc supervision.

Over half of the schools did not take any actions related to the integration of international students, considering their specific cultural needs. But in 7 schools such actions were incidental and were not organised. The survey showed that in 4 schools there were documented cases of intolerance towards foreign students. The survey organised in schools during the NIK audit revealed that according to 23% of foreign students’ parents, their children experience intolerant behaviours at school sporadically, whereas 4% of respondents stated that they are frequent. At the same time, the process of adaptation and becoming part of the school community was rated “well” and “very well” by 83% and 91% of parents of students coming back to Poland and parents of international students. On the other hand, “bad” and “very bad” ratings were given by 2% and 3% of parents taking the survey.


to the Minister of National Education to:

  • take actions to use funds earmarked yearly in the Minister’s budget for central programmes for schooling and professional development of teachers conducting classes with students coming from abroad, based on identified needs,
  • consider the area of educating children coming from abroad as part of tasks related to pedagogical supervision exercised by superintendents of education,
  • start cooperation with central institutions and bodies in the area of educating children coming from abroad,
  • strengthen supervision over the implementation of projects subsidised as part of public tasks by carrying out direct inspections and demanding relevant documents from beneficiaries when accounting for tasks.

to superintendents of education to:

identify needs in terms of methodological advisory for teachers educating children coming from abroad and to appoint proper methodological advisors.

to state schools’ managing bodies to:

  • establish with the headmasters of managed schools a method to agree in writing about the organisation of educational classes for students coming from abroad,
  • control the organisation of additional Polish classes (for free) and catch up classes in other obligatory subjects for students coming from abroad, including control of the reliability of data entered in the database of the Educational Information System about the number of students participating in those classes. 

To headmasters to:

  • properly inform school managing bodies about the scope of needs related to the organisation of additional Polish classes and catch up classes in other obligatory subjects,
  • ensure the diagnosis of educational achievements of students coming from abroad after admitting them to school in view of proficiency in Polish as a foreign language and curriculum differences in other obligatory subjects as well as their physical and mental needs,
  • consider applying to local governments to subsidise the participation of Polish language teachers in post-graduate studies in Polish as a foreign language and other forms of professional development referring to the area of educating students coming from abroad, in line with the school’s confirmed needs.

Article informations

Date of creation:
10 September 2020 12:53
Date of publication:
10 September 2020 12:53
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
10 September 2020 12:53
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
A group of kids of different nationalities, smiling, sitting on the floor, possibly in a kindergarten. © Adobe Stock

NIK about educating children of foreigners and Polish citizens returning from abroad

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