Jacek Strzemieczny

Organization: 
Center for Citizenship Education (Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej)
Year founded: 
1994
Country: 
Poland
Website: 

Reaching out to schools throughout Poland, Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej (CEO) promotes civic knowledge and the practical skills necessary for building a democratic state.

Focus: Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Poland, Georgia, Lithuania and Ukraine
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 1,500,000 (2015)
Annual Budget: US$ 5,100,000 (2015)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 12%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, 2001

Background
After the collapse of communism in 1989, Poland underwent a political and economic transformation. Unfortunately, this process did not include education as a tool of change, and today most schools function as they did 30 years ago. There remains a lack of expertise and institutions capable of supporting improvement in the teaching practices and educational quality in Poland, and thus preparing students for the challenges of personal and professional life. Public education needs to teach students social entrepreneurship, provide them with a good understanding of the world, encourage critical thinking and self-confidence, while instilling the abilities required to become leaders and active citizens.

Innovation and Activities
Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej (Centre for Citizenship Education) was created to encourage change in educational practices in Poland. In 20 years the centre has grown into a respected non-governmental organization capable of implementing projects on a national scale. CEO cooperates with Poland’s Ministry of Education in the application of educational reforms, including the development of better school curricula and new teaching and assessment methods, particularly the wider use of project-based learning and formative assessment.

While developing innovative school curricula in the field of civic engagement, CEO also engages in a variety of activities targeting teachers, students and local authorities. It has helped more than 1000 schools become learning organizations that involve the entire school community, students and parents. Teachers are encouraged in peer-to-peer collaboration to effectively improve teaching and assessment methods; school leaders are coached in new skills needed for improving the functionality of their schools. Due to CEO’s involvement, Poland’s new national education policy now requires teachers and schools to transform traditional teaching methods. Assessing students through effective feedback, not just grades, is encouraged to help students learn and build understanding and confidence.

A number of CEO programmes involve student projects focused on inquiry, experiential-based learning and peer teaching, which leads students to a better understanding of key academic concepts. Other projects focus on social skills, active citizen participation and developing creativity and artistic skills. 2015 CEO actively started to encourage discussions on refugees in Poland and climate changes and launched programmes in these areas as well.

In 2010, the Polish Ministry of Education, assisted by CEO, introduced a new law requiring Polish middle schools to involve all students in project-based learning. It offered CEO the possibility of helping schools use Project Based Learning in their daily work, while engaging students in resolving local community problems.

The Entrepreneur
During the communist era in Poland, Jacek Strzemieczny was involved in a number of underground activities, including the creation of several independent educational institutions. In 1987 he became an Ashoka Innovator for the Public Fellow. With the collapse of communism in 1989 he took a leadership position at the Ministry of Education, before becoming co-Founder, Executive Director and President of the Board of Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej in 1994. Since 2000 he has served as Director of the Szkola Uczaca Sie (Learning Schools Project), an initiative run by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the Center for Citizenship Education. In 2006 he received the first Penn Kemble Award for work in civic education, and in 2010, the 20th anniversary of Poland’s Solidarity movement, he received the Komisji Edukacji Narodowej Medal from the Minister of Education. In 2011 the Polish president awarded him the Order of Polonia Restituta.