Topics of coins

250th anniversary of the Commission of National Education

The Commission of National Education (“KEN”) was established at the initiative of King Stanisław August Poniatowski by resolution of the Partition Sejm of 14 October 1773. The Commission was the first educational authority of the State, not only in Poland but also in the whole Europe. The activity of the Commission was financed with assets obtained as a result of the dissolution of the Jesuit order. Initially, the Commission comprised four senators and four members of the Sejm. The commissioners were not salaried.

The newly established authority was given the task of preparing a uniform system of education. The reform was to be based on a new system and order of sciences based on the then-current knowledge, discoveries and achievements of the scientists of the time. Experts devised a three-level system of education. At the primary level, there were parish schools, at the secondary level there were voivodeship schools, whereas the tertiary level comprised universities in Krakow and Vilnius. Not only local specialists but also top European scientists were involved in the work of the Commission. The Commission introduced natural science, physics, an extended curriculum in mathematics, general and national history, geography, elements of agricultural and medical sciences, moral and physical education. Students were to learn practical skills as well. The Commission explicitly stated the necessity to educate farmers and girls from burgher and peasant classes. The teaching of Latin was reduced in favour of the Polish language. The first Polish grammar was developed, an important tool in the struggle to give the language the appropriate status. The Commission proposed supplying every school with teaching aids and expanding the collections of the school libraries.

Unfortunately, some of the far-reaching projects failed to be completed. The Commission faced resistance from the more conservative-minded gentry, but it operated without any major difficulty until 1793. Yet, the authority was adversely affected by a number of factors destabilising the State in the final years of the Commonwealth.

The Targowica Confederation stripped the Commission of some of its powers, divided it into a Polish Crown Commission and a Lithuanian one, but did not liquidate the authority. The last meeting of KEN was held on 14 April 1794, a month after the outbreak of the Kościuszko Uprising.

Over the twenty years of its activity, the Commission of National Education educated a great number of enlightened citizens. Those people, with a sound knowledge of the Polish freedom, sovereignty and culture, passed these values and national consciousness on to the next generations.

Magdalena Ślusarska, PhD

The reverse of the coin shows a composition consisting of books, decorated with a laurel branch, and a quote from the first proclamation of the Commission of National Education of 24 October 1773. The obverse features the stamp of the Commission of National Education. Within the stamp, there is a round escutcheon with five fields containing the emblem of the Polish Crown and Lithuania, with the central escutcheon bearing the Ciołek coat of arms belonging to the family of King Stanisław August. Around the seal there is a circumscription along the rim: Collegium Praefectorum Publicae Institutioni (literally: College of Governors of Public Education). The circumscription refers to the original statutory name: “Commission supervising the education of national noble youth”.