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Thursday, May 28, 1998 Published at 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK

World: Europe

Poland to raise school-leaving age to 18

Poland wants to move towards a modern, better-educated workforce

The school-leaving age in Poland is to be raised by two years to 18, in the Polish government's proposed overhaul of the country's education system.

The measures, which include the introduction of compulsory tests at each educational level, are intended to raise standards and develop a post-Communist schools system.

At present, only seven per cent of Poles have a university education and only pupils graduating from high school are obliged to take final exams.

If approved by parliament, the education structure from September 1999 will be divided into three age ranges, primary school until 11, a three-year middle school stage, then a high school or vocational training until leaving.

Poland's plan to reconstruct its school-level education system comes at a time when other eastern European countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union, are struggling to maintain standards of education.

A report from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) recently claimed that for many children in the former Soviet Union, education had deteriorated since the fall of Communism.

Among the reasons for this are the financial pressures placed on countries seeking to liberalise their economies, with the cost of school buildings, staff and equipment proving too much for some emerging economies.

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