Pre-school education is all too often the ‘Cinderella’ of the system; this is certainly
the case in Britain where state provision of pre-school education does
not keep up with the demand. However, in Poland there is a very well-established
network of state pre-schools which children can attend between the ages
of 3-6 (7). Formal school education before the age of 7 is not compulsory
in Poland, but in practice many children attend pre-schools, if not from
the age of 3 then at least when they are 6.
We paid a visit to Poznan’s Przedszkole Nr 44 im. Janusza Korczaka
where we met and talked to school Director Jolanta Rekucka and teacher
Aniela Konieczek . They spoke to us about their work and the philosophy
Before you read what they have to say, try to answer the following
Now read the first section below to find out about what is happening
in the pre-school.
Did you go to pre-school? What can you remember about it?
What do you think children should learn at pre-school?
Jolanta has been working with pre-school age children for over 25 years,
whilst Aniela has some 17 years experience of teaching in the school.
Both of them quite clearly enjoy their work and take their responsibilities
“We don’t consider our job as simply teaching these children,” says Aniela.
“We consider ourselves responsible for ‘bringing them up’ whilst they are
in our care. In this school we try to help the children become independent
and confident in themselves and their abilities. We treat every child as
an individual VIP; we take them seriously, we listen to their problems,
and their joys! We work at helping them to develop communication and social
skills so that they can cope with any situation. Preparing them as autonomous,
responsible individuals is very important to us.”
“Education is a process”, adds Jolanta. “We’re at the very beginning of
this process; it’s not just about knowledge but it’s about developing and
building skills. We like to think of pre-school education as the first
step en route to a PhD!”
“Learning should be fun” says Aniela. “Children are naturally curious.
They want to explore and understand the world around them. At pre-school
we structure their play and games so that they become a learning experience.
Children learn a lot through play”.
Aniela’s class of 4-year-olds are certainly a lively group. The sounds
of busy, happy chatter fill the room and small children are working together
in little groups on a variety of different activities. Aniela prepares
a new scheme of work for the children every month. She bases the work around
a topic or theme which she chooses herself following the approved Ministry
of Education (MoE) Pre-school Syllabus. Her priorities when developing
the scheme of work, she explained, are the needs of the youngsters. “I
help them to explore the world around them, their environment.” Last
month the class worked on the theme of transport. They learned about road
safety, they explored the local railway station and they role-played ticket
buying and selling (and practised counting and numbers into the bargain!).
This month Group 2 are working on projects connected with textiles and
clothing; they have already staged a fashion show and there is a tiny sewing
machine in the class that the children have been learning to use. They
even had a visit from a tailor who brought along a life-size sewing machine
and gave a demonstration of how to make a blouse. Counting, getting to
know colours and exploring textures are all integrated into the work but
so too are manual skills such as coping with shoe laces and managing buttons!
Aniela is working specifically to develop literacy and numeracy amongst
the children. Jolanta takes up the story: “Aniela studied for a special
licencjat under the guidance of Professor Bronisław Rocławski
and now, with the approval of the parents, she is using his method with
her class... and getting good results already! You can see the children love
it, they are really fascinated. It has never been the responsibility
of pre-schools to make children literate, but we should at least make them
interested! These children are interested, and by exploiting their
natural curiosity, the method is helping the process of acquisition.”
Professor Rocławski’s method is the result of 11 years of research which
yielded excellent results; it maintains that the teaching of reading
and writing can begin even with very small children. The Professor
has devised a number of techniques and teaching aids which Aniela uses
to good effect. “Aniela is passionate about her work with the children
on this” adds Jolanta. And this is clear for all to see; there are colourful
pictures of dwarves and other creatures transporting letters around the
room, the children practise ‘active listening’ with sound
recognition and production games every day, and each child has their
own set of alphabet blocks to play with and manipulate….the world of letters
and sounds is no stranger to this classroom!
Reading for the main ideas
Reading for specific details
In one or two sentences try to summarise the attitudes expressed by Jolanta
How would you explain the difference between ‘teaching children’ and ‘bringing
Reading for vocabulary
Name 2 ‘practical’ skills the children have learnt.
Name 2 skills more traditionally connected with education in schools that
the children have learnt.
How do the children practise ‘active listening’?
Find words or phrases in the text which have similar meanings to
the following. (Paragraph numbers are given in brackets)
Before reading section 2 consider the following questions:
having the ability to take care of oneself (2)
the most important things(5)
the ability to read and write(6)
a basic knowledge of maths(6)
getting or obtaining knowledge(6)
to use or control something with skill(7)
Now read section 2 to find out what Jolanta and Aniela think.
What effects do you think the new reforms will have on pre-school education?
Do you think pre-school education will ever be made compulsory in Poland?
And what of the reforms? Do they believe the reforms will have much
effect on their work?
“Yes” answers Jolanta, “the reforms are sure to affect us too, but I
think it likely that it will be to a much lesser degree in the pre-schools
than in other environments. Actually,” she adds “ some of the proposed
reforms we’ve heard about are nothing new to us! We’ve been working this
way for years, we’ve always had an integrated, holistic approach, with
the childrens’ needs as paramount!“
Do they believe education from the age of 4 or 5 will ever become
compulsory in Poland, as it is for example in Britain?
“I don’t think so” says Jolanta. “Although, I think it’s possible the
so-called zero-year for 6-year-olds might eventually become a compulsory
requirement. All pre-schools were given the opportunity to voice their
opinions about the coming reforms and in this school we took advantage
of that chance. We suggested that the 6-year-olds are left as the responsibility
of the pre-school because we don’t believe the schools are yet ready to
cope with these youngsters. We aim at helping these children make a fluent
transition from pre-school to primary school at the age of 7. But we can
see a huge difference in skills development, in social development and
in self-confidence between those children who come here at the age of 3
or 4 and who stay with us, and those children who arrive at the age of
6 for the zero year. In fact our 4-year-olds are often more confident,
self-assured and skilful than some of those 6-year-olds!”
“In my opinion” adds Aniela, “4-year-olds need a pre-school education.
Children need to learn how they fit in to the world around them,
they need to develop social skills and they need to mix with other children
to do that.” A glance at the busy, happy, well-adjusted 4-year-olds in Aniela’s
class certainly adds weight to her words!
So do they think their school is special?
“Special?” they say in surprise?
“Not at all!” says Jolanta. “We’re just a typical Polish pre-school”
she adds modestly.
Vocabulary development: grouping words.
Do you agree with Aniela that “4-year-olds need a pre-school education”?
Why? Why not?
Do you agree with Jolanta’s speculation that the new school starting age
may eventually be 6? Do you think this is a good or bad thing? Why? Why
Do you think this is a ‘typical’ example of a Polish pre-school or is it
Did you attend pre-school? If so, what was it like? Did it resemble Pre-school
44 or not? In what ways was it the same or different?
The words below all relate to education. Can you group them into
the following categories: types of course, types of school, types of teacher, verbs connected with education?
What are the differences in meaning between the words in each category?
Use a dictionary to help you if necessary.
For answers refer to teacher's notes
Anyone interested in learning more about Professor
can contact him at: Zakład Logopedii w Wyższej Szkole Pedagogiki Specjalnej
w Warszawie. Teaching materials can be obtained from: Glottispol-Roclawski