New education minister appointed

Polish President Andrzej Duda (R) appointed Przemysław Czarnek (L) as minister of education and science. Leszek Szymański/PAP

Polish President Andrzej Duda appointed Przemyslaw Czarnek as minister of education and science on Monday morning.

Czarnek was originally planned to receive the nomination on October 5 along with the other new ministers, but earlier in the day he tested positive for coronavirus.

The appointment of ministers was then postponed until October 6, when all new ministers, apart from Czarnek, received their nominations.

Prior to the reorganisation of the government, there were two separate ministries - education, run by Dariusz Piontkowski, and science and higher education, run by Wojciech Murdzek.

President Duda said the merger of two the departments - education, and science and higher education - into one ministry, placed a great deal of responsibility on the minister but also provided an opportunity to better coordinate the two parts of the education process.

"It's a very difficult task, because there is a lot of content in the Polish education system today, about which Polish families have huge doubts as to whether they want their children educated that way," Duda said, adding that it was his intention that "families have a real influence on those decisions that are taken - which programme and what other content is passed on to children at school and what families have the right to protect them from."

Duda expressed hope that Czarnek would pay attention to that in his new role.

The president also stated that there was a bill in parliament concerning the "strengthening of parents' constitutional rights to raise their children according to their own convictions." This is a presidential bill amending the education law, under which the activities of all organisations and associations within the school will need parental consent.

He also said that not only primary and post-primary schools needed a lot of work but also the functioning of universities. Duda said that in recent years people trying to achieve higher levels of academic development had been "brutally attacked" for not having "a politically correct world view - that is, liberal-leftist" and argued that differing and conflicting views should be held at universities.

"I would request above all that at Polish universities real freedom of academic research is assured - independence must be maintained, the independence of universities, the autonomy of universities must be maintained, but autonomy cannot rely on autocracy, where people are destroyed," he said.

In a video made available by the ministry on Twitter, Minister Czarnek said he had always been in favour of merging the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

"We have one educational process that starts with kindergartens and ends at universities. All this needs to be compatible. All of this must go hand in hand," said the new minister.

Czarnek said this merger is especially important. "Now, under new conditions, we will be taking care of the entire educational process of our children and young people, from kindergarten to universities," said the minister.