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More Than A Tutor - In Poland, Training The 21st Century Governess

Pillow fight in Warsaw
Pillow fight in Warsaw
Justyna Suchecka

WARSAW - Children’s education used to be in hands of educated women – for whom it was the only way to make a living – or less well-off students. Many famous writers and scientists have held this position at some point in their life.

The governess may seem like a thing of the past, but they are coming back in vogue – with their new male incarnation alongside.

“There will always be a demand for people who have teaching skills and who are also able to develop a child's artistic and linguistic talents,” says Professor Miroslaw Smialek, Dean of the Faculty of Pedagogy and Fine Arts of The University of Adam Mickiewicz, Kalisz, in central Poland. That’s why in October the university will inaugurate its first bachelor’s degree for qualified governesses and full-time tutors.

The creation of the new specialization was spurred by a survey of parents, which revealed a strong demand for a professional, home-based education for their children, and that parents were willing to pay a good price for it.

The new bachelors’ degree combines a variety of academic fields like pedagogy or courses for teaching music and visual arts. “Our graduates will also be able to teach English, because we work with the language department,” says Smialek. “After the three-year diploma,” he adds, “if you don’t find work as a governess or a tutor, you will be qualified to work in a school or kindergarten.”

What do the parents look for when hiring a governess? According to Monika Jakubiak, the owner of the MJ Governess Agency: “A pedagogical and a psychological preparation are mandatory. There’s a demand for first aid certification and knowledge of English. Any other language is a plus.”

Three times the average wage

In Poland, the market for nannies and tutoring is traditionally dominated by women. However, the new diploma is also aimed at men: “Being a male full-time tutor is not a profession but a vocation,” says Smialek. “I used to have a student, a very athletic man who didn’t really match the stereotype of a nanny. When I asked him where he wanted to work, he replied: only in a kindergarten. That’s what he’s doing now and I know that children love him.”

Monika Jakubiak has 56 families on her books. Two of them have male full-time tutors. One of them is Swedish, a native speaker who has many artistic talents. The second studied sports and physiotherapy. He was recruited for a child who needed some additional stimulation for physical activity. They really get along.

How much does a governess or a tutor make? Native speakers with some very specific skills have wages up to 10,000 zlotys (about 2,400 euros) whereas the average pay is about 880 euro a month. In Warsaw however, one can hire a live-in tutor for 2,300 zlotys (about 550 euros).

According to Jakubiak, there are no parental demands that cannot be fulfilled. “I’ve just recruited a girl who matched the profile of being both a native Russian and graduate in visual arts. Some governesses have to be wiling to move to another city. I refuse only when parents want somebody for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re not supposed to replace them. We’re only there to help.”

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