During 2019, the number of foreign children studying in primary schools in Łódź doubled. They also include to schools in Piotrków, Skierniewice, Zgierz and Pabianice. Most of them are young Ukrainians. According to demographers, this shows that immigrants are taking root in Poland.
Compulsory education in our country also applies to children legally staying in Poland. Those who can’t cope with Polish, can ask for special supplementary lessons financed by local governments (this also applies to Poles from families returning from other counties).
Twice as many applications for additional Polish lessons in Łódź
The City of Lodz Office has publicly provided data for the entire 2018/2019 school year. Primary school directors requested additional classes in Polish for 398 children – there were over two times more such applications than in the 2017/2018 school year (192).
Applications for additional classes are sent by principals throughout the school year. This semester, primary schools in Łódź applied for additional hours from Polish for 279 students. In the vast majority – in as many as 182 cases – these applications related to Ukrainian citizens.
In this semester, 74 applications were also received from high schools, technical colleges and industry in Łódź (65 regarding Ukrainian teenagers).
These figures show a change in the nature of immigration. At least some immigrants are already thinking about integrating in our country, just like Poles sending children to British schools – says prof. Piotr Szukalski, a demographer from the University of Lodz.
Another factor indicating the willingness of some immigrants to remain is the growing number of Polish-Ukrainian marriages.
But in Łódź schools, Belarusians, Spaniards, Russians, Austrians, Syrians, Filipinos, Indians and citizens of Mongolia and the United Arab Emirates also gain knowledge.
There are also more such students in other cities. The municipal office in Piotrków responsible for primary and secondary schools reports that 70 foreigners study there, including 67 Ukrainians. There are 28 such students in Skierniewice, of which 19 are from Ukraine.
The municipalities in Zgierz and Pabianice are responsible only for primary schools. 47 foreigners (20 Ukrainians) study in primary schools in Zgierz, a dozen or so in Pabianice.
Primary School No. 34 is a large primary school in Łódź Widzew. As many as 19 students from Ukraine acquire knowledge at every level (through the first to the eighth grade). Almost half of the foreigners joined SP No. 34 from September 2019.
How about doing summer workshops for immigrant children?
Our experience to date convinces that if a new student first goes to early school education, it is much easier for them than for children starting Polish school from the fourth grade and later – says Agnieszka Błażejczyk, director of Primary School No. 34
Early school education is grades I-III: with one educator, yet without separate mathematics or history, so it’s easier for a child to focus on learning Polish.
A citizen of Ukraine immediately thrown into “deep water” – for example, to the fifth grade – may not cope with the Math tasks: not because he is bad at counting, but because of misunderstanding the content or wording of the command.
Agnieszka Błażejczyk would like even more support from the local government. – Since we know that there are so many immigrant children in Lodz, it is worth preparing intensive summer classes for them to equalize their educational opportunities – argues Director No. 34.
Witold Młynarczyk, director of Primary School No. 206 in Łódź Radogoszcz has been looking at the progress of two especially first graders since September: Sofia from Ukraine and Tomi from Vietnam (in fact he has a different name, but too complicated for his peers at the moment).
Starting education from the first grade is a great help for them: after all, all children will learn letters, colours and the overall basics. The girl’s parents speak Polish, which is why she understands what is being said to her. Tomi does not yet understand the meaning of certain words, but this also happens to young Poles learning the rules of the language – says Witold Młynarczyk.
Tomi went to a Polish kindergarten, where he came into contact with the Polish language, but the director estimates that he will struggle for awhile longer.
Parents are surprised that you do not have to pay for additional classes
Dorota Maciejewska, a German language teacher from another of the municipal primary schools in Lodz, has more insights.
Students from Ukraine are very happy to use many extracurricular activities offered by the school – he says. – Even if they have not yet mastered the Polish language, they already regularly come to my additional German classes for example. At first they are surprised that they are free, because in Ukraine you would have to pay for them.
Possible Ukrainian classes
The Sportowo-Mundurowe high School in Łódź planned to launch a Ukrainian class from September 2019. Its management argued in the spring that such a department is needed for young people from families who do not want to lose their cultural background. Free education was to be based on the Polish core curriculum, uniformed subjects, but also on Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian language classes. The classes are yet to start.
According to ZUS data, from August 2019, about 35,000 Ukrainian citizens legally work in the Łódź Voivodeship.