Why the Vocational Guidance in Polish Schools Should Be More Effective

Although the law introduced in 2003 made the vocational guidance obligatory in Polish schools, this kind of a course is not taken seriously by Polish teachers and decision makers. Unfortunately, they do not realize that the role of school is not only to deliver knowledge on specified subjects, such as literature or mathematics, but also to help a student to choose the future education and profession that would be adequate to his or her talents, abilities and passions.

Only 8 per cent of more than 14,000 post-primary schools in Poland employ their own vocational guidance counsellor. In the majority of Polish schools, vocational guidance does not exist or is very irregular. Moreover, if this kind of a course exists anyway, then it is conducted mainly by teachers of other subjects, which makes the guidance unprofessional. According to studies carried out in West Pomeranian Voivodeship, two thirds of secondary school students have never had an opportunity to take part in this kind of a course.

As a consequence of lack of awareness about the importance of school vocational counselling among decision makers and teachers, Polish young people do not have a possibility to consult with a professional and talk about their plans related to future education and profession. This leads to severe labour market troubles. In 2005 there were 152.4 thousand of unemployed graduates of universities or higher schools. In 2010 there were 225.8 thousand of graduates who did not have any job.

If vocational guidance in Polish schools was more effective, the number of frequent inconsiderate educational and vocational choices of students would decrease. This would help to reduce the inadequacy of young people’s qualifications and education to employers’ needs, which is a serious problem of Polish economy. In countries where school vocational counselling is more professional and more interesting to students, the unemployment rate among young people is much lower than in Poland. In Finland, Sweden, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Iceland it is approximately 14.2 per cent for 20-24-year-old people and 9.0 per cent for 25-29-year-olds. In Poland, it is 24.9 per cent and 12.0 per cent respectively (based on OECD database for 2011).

Polish schools should hold these foreign school systems as an example. In Finnish schools, 14-16-year-old students have a right to two hours of conversation with a vocational guidance counsellor once a week. In the Canadian province Quebec, students prepare their Individualized Educational Plans and take part in many activities helping them to develop their skills and passions – for example, organizing school cafes or meeting representatives of different professions. In Great Britain, students have a right to individual consultations with a guidance counsellor. Moreover, unlike Poland, western educational systems put emphasis on students’ individual choice making. How could a Polish student make a good decision about his or her future profession if he or she is very rarely allowed to choose between different school subjects or even between ways of preparing their homework?

Employing a vocational guidance counsellor in every Polish post-primary school would be very costly. Thus, regular vocational counselling could be provided in each school by e.g. cyclic visits of a counsellor – for example, once a month. Moreover, law should oblige schools to allocate a certain part of their budgets for vocational counselling activities. But most of all, Polish teachers and politicians should be aware that helping students in choosing their future education and profession is one of school’s most important tasks. If they do not understand this need, it will mean that their respect for young people is not very deep.