The education of Polish society was a goal of rulers as early as the 12th century, and Poland soon became one of the most educated countries in Europe. The library catalogue of the Cathedral Chapter of Kraków dating back to 1110 shows that in the early 12th century Polish intellectuals had access to European literature. The Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364 by King Casimir III in Kraków, is one of Europe's oldest universities. In 1773 King Stanisław August Poniatowski established the Commission of National Education (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej), the world's first state ministry of education.
The first university in Poland, Kraków's Jagiellonian University, was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kraków. It is the oldest university in Poland. It is the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world. The idea to found the university was first conceived when Poland's King Casimir III realized that the nation needed a class of educated people, especially lawyers, who could codify the country's laws and administer the courts and offices. His efforts to found an institution of higher learning in Poland were finally rewarded when Pope Urban V granted him permission to open the University of Krakow.
The wearing of traditional academic dress is an important feature of Polish educational ceremonies.
Since changes made in 2009 education in Poland starts at the age of five or six for the 0 class (Kindergarten) and six or seven years in the 1st class of primary school (Polish szkoła podstawowa). It is compulsory that children do one year of formal education before entering 1st class at no later than 7 years of age. At the end of 6th class when the students are 13, they take a compulsory exam that will determine to which lower secondary school (gimnazjum, pronounced gheem-nah-sium) (Middle School/Junior High) they will be accepted. They will attend this school for three years for classes, 7, 8, and 9. They then take another compulsory exam to determine the upper secondary level school they will attend. There are several alternatives, the most common being the three years in a liceum or four years in a technikum. Both end with a maturity examination (matura, quite similar to French baccalauréat), and may be followed by several forms of upper education, leading to licencjat or inżynier (the Polish Bologna Process first cycle qualification) , magister (the Polish Bologna Process second cycle qualification) and eventually doktor (the Polish Bologna Process third cycle qualification.
There are currently 18 fully accredited traditional universities in Poland, these are then further supplemented by 20 technical universities, nine independent medical universities and five universities for the study of economics. In addition to these institutions there are then nine agricultural academies, three pedagogical universities, a theological academy and three maritime service universities. Poland's long and history of promoting the arts has led to the establishment of a number of higher educational institutes dedicated to the teaching of the arts. Amongst these are the seven higher state academies of music. All of these institutions are further supplemented by a large number of private educational institutions and the four national military academies (two for the army and one for each of the other branches of service), bringing the total number of organisations for the pursuit of higher education to well over 500, one of the largest numbers in Europe. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Poland's educational system as the 23rd best in the world, being neither significantly higher nor lower than the OECD average.