Contemporary Polish education faces a rapid change connected with the expansion of schooling on the secondary and the tertiary level. Right after this process there arises an illusion of democratic schooling. Secondary schools, till these days perceived as a pathway to university as well as elite professional and social positions, are open for pupils from the entire social spectrum. Looking at the social composition of secondary schools it seems that the community of this type of schools reflects social structure. Similarly, tertiary education is not any more the level for 'the chosen'. Every graduate from secondary school with 'matura' (secondary school-leaving examination) can enrol in one of over 400 higher-education institutions. Education has changed its function. Neither 'matura' nor a university diploma is any more a credential which opens the way to elite social positions. Do we really have democratic schooling in Poland? A closer look at the structure of secondary education shows that such a belief is a naive one. Secondary schools differ - next to those gathering students with outstanding results and originating from a high social status we can find schools dealing with pupils with a very low competence and from a rather low social background. The same is observed on the tertiary level. In the area of a seemingly democratic secondary education we can notice trajectories of a different social origin and destination. The elitism of certain pathways does not disappear. This paper is an attempt to answer the question of the mechanism of the indelibility of social inequalities in education by focusing the attention on the processes of social closure and the usage of social capital by families. Taking as a starting point the concept of Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu, the author tries to show how middle-class families deploy strategies of social segregation and closure to facilitate better circumstances of schooling and a better social future for their children.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.