Poorly-prepared teachers and lack of sound knowledge mark Polish drug prevention education in schools, a new state watchdog report concludes.
In most Polish schools, drug prevention fails to deal adequately with drugs and their associated risks, with instruction often provided by untrained staff – this is the conclusion reached in the latest report from the Supreme Audit Office.
The publication, focussing on how Polish schools deal with the subject of drugs and drug education, claims that efficient drug prevention is restrained by fear of damaging the reputation of institutions, and that this leads to an under-estimation of the problems and risks associated with the use of illicit substances.
The Audit Office data, based on 11,500 responses to a questionnaire, shows that more than 31 percent of students have witnessed drug use in their school area, or have heard about it from a reliable source.
Furthermore, almost one in every five pupils has either witnessed dealing in illicit substances first-hand, or has heard about it in or around their educational institution. Among teachers, 28 percent of the respondents admitted to being aware of drug use among pupils.
The general perception of drug prevention programs in schools is an area of even greater concern.
According to the survey, headteacher often underestimate the drug problem in their institution, putting effective prevention and peer education at risk. Below the tip of the iceberg, more than half of all teachers and tutors responsible for holding the prevention sessions have never attended any training in order to acquire basic knowledge of the subject. Furthermore, school prevention programs are often superficial, and are prepared without properly considering the problems related to drug use.
Schools are not using effective and verified prevention programs recommended by European institutions and national guidelines. Headteacher are often not even aware of the existence of such programs. On the other hand, the National Bureau for Drug Prevention and Ministry of Education are making no efforts to effectively promote these programs in schools.
Prevention, within Polish schools, is a kind of ‘black zone’, carried out by various local specialists, based on their own programs and educational tools that lack proper verification and evaluation. The quality and efficiency of these programs are patchy, while on the other hand, many proven programs, successfully operated in other countries, face problems obtaining approval from the Ministry of Education.
Reliability should be the mainstay of drug prevention. Young people need to be made aware of the damage caused by drugs, but without being threatened. This is especially important, since young people are in general well informed about drugs, thanks to an abundance of dedicated websites and information generally available on the internet.
The core aim of prevention must therefore be to provide reliable information comparing the benefits of use with associated harms. This is why threats, and the provision of exclusively negative information, are ineffective.
In spite of the findings of the Supreme Audit Office’s report, however, the Ministry of Education shows no sign of changing its approach. They claim to be already doing everything possible, in terms of preparing informational materials, monitoring school action, organising competitions, cooperating with the police, and providing prevention-training for teachers and parents.
Agnieszka Sieniawska/Polish Drug Policy NetworkWarsaw