EU put centrestage in lessons
Schools in Poland are enthusiastically embracing their country's new membership of the European Union.
Poland is the largest of the 10 nations joining the EU tomorrow, with a population of 38 million, and the move is changing the face of the country's school system.
EU studies are now firmly embedded in the curriculum and, surprisingly from a British perspective, in after-school clubs too.
Teaching about the EU is not just an add-on but colours Poland's educational spectrum. Civics, an integral part of the timetable, teaches about the structure, functions and membership rules of the EU and its institutions.
However, history and geography lessons now include EUelements. Geography covers the economies of member states and the 10 new nations. History lessons include background on the EU, and cover its post-war origins.
But it is after school that Poles demonstrate their enthusiasm for the prospects they expect from EU membership. Thousands of EU clubs have sprung up in its 15,650 secondary schools, and some primaries, many of them spontaneously generated by the pupils themselves.
One such club was launched more than two years ago in the Zygmunt Krasinski lyceum in the town of Ciechanow, 60 miles north of Warsaw. It has 484 students, aged 16 to 19, studying for the pre-university Matura, Poland's A-levels.
Milena Drzewiecka, a poised, self-confident 18-year-old, was president of the school's EU club for two years. She says Poland's young people are enthusiastic as well as idealistic about their country's EU membership.
She helped organise an EU membership referendum in her school in which more than 70 per cent supported the move, mirroring the national referendum in June last year when 77 per cent backed membership on a 59 per cent turnout.
Milena says: "Young people in Poland feel very positive about the EU. They want to go abroad to work and study, they feel that new frontiers will open.
"Some politicians feel they will lose the young people of Poland. Of course, some do want to go abroad to live. But most want to study, learn new things, meet people, then come back and create modern Poland."
Teachers, too, have shown their support. At the Henryk Sienkiewicz lyceum in Plonsk, 50 miles north-west of Warsaw, headmaster Ryszard Buczynski says: "We organised a referendum before the national one.
"Out of 50 teachers, only one voted against membership, and 80 per cent of the 700 pupils were for it."