Work is underway on the government higher education reform project. During Tuesday's conference in Warsaw, representatives of the Polish Rectors Foundation (whose members include former rectors of public and private universities) proposed that the changes could include the introduction of the so-called short training cycles.
The conference "Level 5 - the missing link. University, society, labour market" concluded the three-year research project of the Foundation and Pearson Central Europe.
The starting point for the changes presented on Tuesday is the Polish Qualifications Framework, the system of levels of knowledge and skills obtained at various stages of education in Poland. "Polish Qualifications Framework consists of eight levels, fifth of which is between the high-school exit exam (fourth level), and bachelor's and engineer's degree (level six) - said project leader, Prof. Ewa Chmielecka of the Polish Rectors Foundation. - No full qualification issued by the universities is currently awarded at the fifth level. Therefore, from the point of view of higher education, it is an +empty+ level. Meanwhile, the results of our study confirm that the fifth level can be an important factor in the development of human capital in Poland".
President of the Polish Rectors Foundation Prof. Jerzy Woźnicki, head of the Central Council of Science and Higher Education, pointed out that the Ministry of Education deals with education, and universities are accustomed to studies. "But here we are dealing with a different type of educational offer. This gap, this emptiness, this discontinuity has become bothersome" - he said.
Chmielecka explained that level 5 education is offered in almost all European countries, and it is extremely popular in the USA (the college system). Abroad, education offered at the 5th level can be a 3-4 semesters cycle, and the diploma obtained after completion of the course is referred to as an "associated degree".
She gave an example that the courses at the 5th level of education could give qualifications to perform such jobs as foreign language teaching assistant in kindergarten or varsavianista guide.
The project leader said that fifth level studies would be of interest to mature adults with professional experience who would like to gain higher qualifications or retrain. Another group of candidates for such courses would be high school graduates still undecided as to further learning paths. Short cycle could be integrated into the engineering or undergraduate cycle - such course would shorten the path to obtaining a bachelor's and engineer's degree.
Chmielecka also mentioned the high school graduates who either failed the exit exam, or passed it with a low score. According to her, such persons could also take courses at universities and obtain certificates. Chmielecka noted, however, that passing the high school exit exam would still be one of the requirements to continue university studies and obtain a bachelor's degree.
President of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland Prof. Jan Szmidt, rector of Warsaw University of Technology, added: "We must help people find their place in life. This place does not necessarily have to be associated with higher studies".
"Sometimes we push our students to pass the bachelor's exam, obtain a bachelor's degree, while violating the principle of quality, violating the principle of credibility of education. If we could offer them a diploma at an earlier stage, after an easier, more practically oriented program, it would be an excellent solution for all" - argued Chmielecka.
Prof. Smidt expressed a similar view when he spoke about the pros of the proposed changes. "On the one hand, we will make people fairly happy, and on the other we will not distort reality, we will award diplomas and certificates that match the level of education on the Polish and European scale" - he said.
PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland, Ludwika Tomala
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