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Poland: Children of asylum seekers will continue attending public schools (Unofficial translation)

The Ministry of the Interior and Administration initiated the process of amending regulations which would have given local authorities the mandate to decide whether children of asylum seekers should attend classes at public schools or at refugee centres. Following strong opposition from various stakeholders, the ministry is now stopping this process.

In the explanatory memorandum accompanying the bill, the ministry wrote that the need for new solutions stemmed from the lack of knowledge of Polish language among foreign children, especially upon arrival, and cultural differences among young foreigners and Polish children, which could lead to delays in the implementation of school curricula, on the one hand, and conflicts. Moreover, the reluctance of foreign children to attend school due to the difficulty to catch up with school material could have a demotivating effect on both foreign and Polish children. The new regulations were meant to relieve the local school system and to prepare foreign children for inclusion in the Polish education system.

Refugee children access to mainstream education is covered by several actors. The bill has been strongly criticized by UNHCR, UNICEF, the Ombudsman for Children, NGO activists and other experts who argued that it could lead to isolating foreign children and creating educational ghettos for refugees. Separating them from their Polish peers could make integration much harder, they maintained. The opponents of the new regulations were supported by an unexpected ally – the Ministry of National Education. Anna Zalewska, the head of the ministry argued that school authorities can open welcome classes for foreign children who do not know the Polish language so there is no need to organise preparatory classes at refugee centres to support foreign children before their school admission.

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