Education in the mother tongue as well as so called ‘mother tongue subjects’ (Polish history, Polish geography, Polish culture; either appearing separately or together as “Knowledge about Poland”) within Great Britain is known as supplementary education.
If you are planning to return to Poland during the time that your children are in school education; if you think that your child will return to Poland for further education; if you are considering a return to Poland at any time, it is necessary to ensure that your child has a good level of understanding of the Polish language and knowledge of their native country.
This task is, first and foremost, the parents’ responsibility. It is imperative to speak with the child in Polish at home and imbue in them a love for their mother tongue and culture. It is worthwhile to interest the child in Polish books and magazines, to visit Polish bookshops and libraries, to watch Polish films and to listen to Polish radio. The aim is not to present Polish culture as superior, but to make accessible to a child the treasures made available through belonging to different cultures, having strong roots and as equal a familiarity with the culture of their native country as that of the country of residence.
In order for children to maintain a good understanding of the Polish language and culture, parents of Polish children living in Great Britain and organisers of Polish émigré life undertake the hard work of establishing and running Polish Language Saturday Schools.
The enrolment of a child into a Saturday School is voluntary and does not replace daily schooling within the English education system. Polish Language Saturday Schools are not the equivalent of schools in the Polish system. The end of year school completion certificate is not the equivalent of the similarly named certificate in Poland.
A Saturday School is not able to deliver the full national curriculum of the Polish system within just a few hours’ activities per week. It is however able to sow the seeds of a sense of belonging to Polish culture, to raise the level of understanding of the Polish language, to introduce the child to important works of Polish literature, events from Polish history, elements of Polish cultural inheritance and to prepare for Polish language examinations. In this way, Polish Language Saturday Schools help to form a multicultural awareness in the child as well as an attachment to the values and traditions of its heritage.
Children continuing their education within the English system until GSCE exams (the approximate equivalent of “egzaminy gimnazjalne”, or high school exams, in the Polish system) and A Level exams (the approximate equivalent of “egzaminy maturalne”, or matriculation exams, in the Polish system) can choose Polish Language as one of their examination subjects. Saturday Schools classes for young people at this level of education are designed to prepare for these exams. Good results in these exams contribute to the overall set of marks and also are an asset when applying for further and higher education.
Education delivered by Polish Language Saturday Schools is in this way able to ease a future return to Poland, to help acclimatise to a return to the Polish education system or Polish universities or to finding work in Poland.