Polish schools on the top in ranking

Posted on 20. May, 2015 by in Countries, Education

In the biggest international education ranking to date, Poland placed fifth in Europe and eleventh in the world, ahead of Britain and the United States! Great job Poland!!!

Warsaw University main entrance

Warsaw University main entrance

The international study of education systems (międzynarodowe badanie systemów edukacji), authored by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Organizacja Współpracy Gospodarczej i Rozwoju) (OECD), ranked 15 year-olds Asian students as the best performers. Singapore came first in the OECD ranking, followed by Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Next came Finland, Estonia, Switzerland and the Netherlands and just behind them were Canada and Poland. In total, students from 76 countries were assessed for the OECD study.

The results of the study were presented officially during the 2015 World Education Forum (Światowe Forum Edukacji) organised by UNESCO, which took part between May 19-22 in South Korea. The ranking took into consideration the test results of 15 year-olds within the subjects of mathematics and science, with an emphasis on displaying analytical skills and the ability to solve problems as well as argue and interpret accordingly. The questions were put together for the OECD by Eric Hansushek of Stanford University and Ludger Woessmann of Munich University.

The latest ranking is different to those in recent years in that it has a bigger focus on science as well as a higher number of criteria assessing international education systems. These include the results of tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment, Program Międzynarodowej Oceny Studentów (PISA) – long-regarded as the benchmark OECD test – as well as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS), prepared by academics in the United States. It also includes the Tercer Estudio Regional Comparativo y Explicativo (TERCE), applied in the South America.

Poland’s high ranking in the OECD study does not come as a surprise. In recent years, Poland has in impressive style climbed to the top of the PISA classification, which evaluates the knowledge of 15 year-olds within the fields of mathematics and science.

The latest OECD ranking is also to a large extent based on the PISA results, within which Polish students claimed joint first place in the European Union, alongside the Netherlands, Estonia and Finland. The top spots overall were taken by Asian countries.

The very impressive performance by Polish students within education rankings in recent years has in large part been a result of comprehensive changes within Poland’s education system – changes that have allowed it to break free from its Communist mould.

You can find some more information about Polish schools here: The Polish School SystemPolish schoolPrzedszkole i zerówka – Polish kindergarten and “class zero”How school has changed…

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

In Poland’s Booming Craft Beer Culture, Wroclaw’s Kontynuacja Near the Top

Posted on 16. May, 2015 by in Culture, Places to visit, Uncategorized, Vacation

Kontynuacja in Wroclaw.  [Photo courtesy of http://wroclaw.gazeta.pl]

Kontynuacja in Wroclaw. [Photo courtesy of http://wroclaw.gazeta.pl]

Poland, always a country heavy on beer drinkers, is more than Żywiec or Tyskie or Wroclaw’s own, Piast these days.  The craft beer scene from Krakow to Wroclaw is beginning to boom in Poland, and the learning curve is shallow.  In Wroclaw, Kontynuacja, meaning “continuation” or “follow-up”, has an impressive and consistent list of roughly 16 beers that makes it pound-for-pound one of the best craft beer spots in all of Poland.

That’s saying a lot for a region that sets the beer standard high, with everything from Czech to Bohemian to German beer regions a relatively short drive away.  But Kontynuacja holds its own.  Just a couple hundred meters from Wroclaw’s gem of a Rynek Square, it opened in 2013, two years after the city’s first craft beer pub (Zaklad Uslung Piwnych), and immediately became a challenger as the finest craft beer scene.

With Wroclaw set as the European Capital of Culture in 2016, the city is promoting an alternative scene to the more visited Warsaw and Krakow.  Arguably the most underrated city in Central Europe, Wroclaw’s Kontynuacja should no doubt play a role in hosting travelers, more than the touristy Spiz, the city’s first brewery (est. 1992).  The bright interior, high and polished (somewhat) communal tables, vaulted ceilings, and basement gives a vibrant feeling that you are in a beer drinking church.

The range from their small/medium/large batch suppliers is impressive: American and Indian Pale Ales, Belgian and Belgian-inspired ales and wheat beers, amber ale, red ale, Scotch or American or milk stouts, porter, Scotch ale, Polish ale, San Francisco’s Sierra Nevada, and cask beers hand pumped from their two hand pump taps.  The beers range in alcohol content from 3.8% to 10%, with prices ranging from 8zl to 16zl for stronger brews.

Kontynuacja has since expanded to Katowice, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Krakow and Warsaw location too.  The only shame is that it might not spread outside of Poland, because surely it is worth being in any city.

But Kontynuacja does not reign as a mere craft beer portal.  Browaru Stu Mostów (see video below) is a Kontynuacja inspiration and a testament to its influence and expansion of the craft beer scene, which is not only good for the beer drinkers but adds to the respect Wroclaw deserves both as a beer city and a must visit destination.

Na zdrowie!

(Note: the video below is in Polish.)
YouTube Preview Image

‘Polish Lody’ in Wroclaw: The Best Ice Cream in Poland

Posted on 11. May, 2015 by in food, Uncategorized

The long lines at "Polish Lody" in Wroclaw.  [Photo courtesy of behindorangecurtain]

The long lines at “Polish Lody” in Wroclaw. [Photo courtesy of behindorangecurtain]

The last two summers I spent in Wroclaw, I found one of the best kept secrets not only in Poland but all of central Europe.  It is a small ice cream parlor with huge lines in Wroclaw named simply, “Polish Lody” (pl. Bema 3/1B).  I started queuing for ice cream before lunch, sometimes 30 minutes before it opened at 10am–and I wasn’t the only one.  Long lines throughout the day are the norm for Polish Lody, and for good reason.

The homemade, no artificial color or flavor, all-natural ice cream at Polish Lody is what everyone should be doing at one point during their summer.  It can go toe-to-toe with any place in Europe, even the best Italian gelaterias.  But it’s more unique than gelato.  (After all, it is quite proudly Polish lody.  For a Polish language take on it and other ice cream places in Wroclaw, see here.)  The natural ice cream is smooth and melts slowly but surely, a testament of the quality of ingredients and the proper storage temperature.

The standard set of flavors are chocolate, a strawberry sorbet (which is somewhat different in texture and style than the rest), sesame (with crushed sesame seeds), and the now legendary cream, along with up to two other daily flavors.  Polish Lody has surprised me with a (pre-lunch) salted caramel or cinnamon or Snickers.  The shop is quite new, and sits conveniently in Bema Square, walking distance to Wroclaw Rynek.

If the lines are simply too long and you want to kill some time before it dies down (which it won’t), head to the nearby Bema Café, a modern cafe with a small, local bottled beer selection, homemade cakes, and Wroclaw’s best AeroPress coffee.

Here’s a Polish language look at Polish Lody:  YouTube Preview Image