ReferNet Poland. The most important plans for 2023

“We are currently working with CEDEFOP to describe the vocational education system and the policies and activities implemented for vocational education in Poland," explains Jerzy Bielecki, IBE expert and head of ReferNet in Poland.

Remind us of what ReferNet does and how IBE is involved in its activities?

ReferNet is a network of institutions cooperating with the EU research agency CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training), operating since 2002. 

The purpose of the network is to collect information and monitor changes in vocational education and training (VET) in the member countries of the European Union, as well as Norway and Iceland. On the basis of this data and analysis, reports are produced, studies are planned, and information is published on the CEDEFOP website, which is then used in the work of the European Commission, in developing and monitoring national policies, and in the activities of organisations and experts involved in vocational training.

What major work/projects are currently underway within ReferNet and CEDEFOP?

In cooperation with CEDEFOP, we are preparing and updating, among other things, a description of the vocational education system in Poland and the policies and activities implemented for vocational education in Poland. We also prepare in-depth analyses on selected topics relevant to CEDEFOP and the cooperating countries. These include analyses on the situation of vocational education teachers or the educational and professional mobility of students and staff of vocational schools. We also prepare articles on recent events and initiatives in Poland: this year, activities relating to the war in Ukraine were particularly relevant.

The last conversation, held in May 2020, took place under specific conditions, because the COVID-19 pandemic had been with us for several months. What did it change? How has the network and society changed, and how can we characterize this new post-pandemic world?

It would seem that the pandemic has permanently changed the level of digitalization in education, but as it turns out, this area still needs a lot of work. Much of the activity was haphazard and forced by the pandemic. Now, however, an ordering and implementation of well thought out solutions is taking place. The Educational Research Institute is actively working to digitalize Polish education by implementing the project. This is an integrated solution for education, consisting of systems that allow all students to be covered by a comprehensive programme of personalized educational paths.

We also see that the employees of many companies have not returned to their offices after the pandemic, or have been given the option to choose where they work, or have permanently introduced hybrid work. It seems that it is still too early to talk about the lasting effects of the pandemic. The war in Ukraine, on the other hand, meant that entirely new challenges had to be faced quickly, such as the reception and adaptation of Ukrainian students in schools, the provision of Polish language instruction, the establishment of preparatory services, and psychological and pedagogical support.

In the conversation two years ago, it was possible to identify the main goals of ReferNet’s subsequent activities. These were career counselling and quality assurance in vocational education. What has been achieved in these areas?

Thanks to cooperation with the Centre for Education Development, the Voluntary Labour Corps, and the Foundation for the Development of the Education System, we were able to obtain data on the activities conducted in these areas, which we used in our current work, including in the preparation of a report on student mobility and the policies implemented in Poland to support and regulate vocational education.

Future plans?

First of all, we will continue our current activities, but also prepare a translation of the publication Teachers and trainers in a changing world (the English version of the report can be downloaded here), support Cedefop in the Skills in online job advertisements project, and obtain a grant for future years.

I would like to traditionally remind everyone that all publications and products are published on the CEDEFOP website and the national ReferNet website. I especially encourage you to follow the News tab at the national ReferNet website, where we post the latest news from Poland and Europe and provide information about publications through which, you can learn about current trends and developments in the field of vocational education and training. I also encourage you to follow our Facebook profile – ReferNet Poland.