There has always been some kind of obbligatory foreign language in Polish schools, but before 1989 it was always Russian, starting from your 5th grade (11 years of age), in total 4 years in elementary school, if you continued your education in a "liceum" (4 years of school - starting when you were 15 y.o.) 2 languages were obbligatory (1st = Russian for advanced, the second foreign language was mostly German, sometimes English, some schools had French, even less had Italian or Spanish, I never heard of any other languages being taught at Polish schools before 1989).
people say they didn't learn much in school
talking generally not about Poland:
I meet/hear of people who can't do some basic (in my opinion) math, and they are even proud of it :)
Yet, they learned math in schools for many years.
Many people can't spell correctly after 12 years of learning their own native
language in schools.
And I can't say the difference between a mushroom and a bird (I know the basics: shrooms ain't animals :), because I never liked biology, so I just learned as little as possible to get by.