Bol, does it mean Polish educational system is not so bad after all?
Well, poor results of some other teams might be caused by the fact that they were under-represented by fewer students than six. For example, Liechtenstein sent only two students. As I mentioned in the introduction, 548 students represented 100 countries. The fair number should be 600.
Next, we cannot project these results on the entire educational system. The PISA (OECD) results from the year 2011 better reflect on the average achievements of average students. See: oecd.org/edu/eag2011 and oecd.org/dataoecd/34/60/46619703.pdf.
With respect to mathematics, Poland is placed at the 25th postion worldwide, with the score 495, slightly below PISA average 496 - out of maximum 600. [In reading overall Poland is 16th (500 points, PISA average 493) and in science - 19th (508, PISA average 501)]. USA, one of the top scorers in International Mathematical Olympics and the home of the best world universities, is ranked only at 31st postion (487 points), behind Poland 25th, in PISA mathematics score.
On the other hand, many European countries are better placed than Poland in mathematics:
6 541 Finland
7 536 Liechtenstein
8 534 Switzerland
11 526 Netherlands
14 515 Belgium
16 513 Germany
17 512 Estonia
18 507 Iceland
19 503 Denmark
20 501 Slovenia
21 498 Norway
22 497 France
23 497 Slovak Republic
24 496 Austria
25 495 Poland
It still leaves a bunch of European countries (17 to be exact) with lower scores and that includes (28 492 UK), (32 487 Ireland), (38 468 Russia - another top scorer in IMO), and (48 427 Romania).
one could argue both (at least when it comes to Math).
In addition to the above, you may want to check this (last month) BBC article entitled Poland scores late goals in education
You understand the things wrong way round, the Polish education system is bad BECAUSE it teaches you how to complete extremely complicated mathematical tasks witch is quite useless ability rather then how to survive in life when you finish your school, and that's quite well known fact.
With all due respect, mathematics is not to teach you how to survive in life. For this you may blame the school system, but not the mathematics, the queen of all sciences.
Let me remind you that significant portion of mathematics fields is all about abstraction, not about the real world. You do not build howitzers with abstract mathematics but without good knowledge of applied mathematics you could not even start dreaming of building the beast. I do not mind listening to the discussions whether or not Polish mathematics is too much abstract and too little application oriented. Some Polish and international mathematicians agree with it, some disagree. But I do not give a damn listening to pathetic statements, which I sometimes hear, that mathematics is useless in real life. I currently make my living as a computer scientist (CS), and the only way I survive in this extremely competitive world is the fact that I know something about mathematics, while many CS graduates do not. And for this reason they are confined to building websites, or something equally boring.
A friend of mine has been involved in that for years. Very specific young people who take part - I would use the term autistic.
Autism, math, music and memory appear to be linked. John Nash suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Kurt Gödel starved himself to death out of fear of being poisoned. There are speculations that Einstein, Mozart, and Galileo had autism or other such conditions.
Mathematicians often live in their own world because this is what modern mathematics is all about: one builds a theory based on a system of their axioms and all one has to do is to prove that the axioms are not contradictory. One does not care if there is any relation between one's theory and the real world. If the theory becomes uncovered by some application scientists and applied to other disciplines then kudos to the inventor and their theory.
Sometimes the task becomes too challenging. One of my early friends, who was able to participate in our trekking activities and took great pleasure in it, suffered by obsessive attachement to his mathematical theory, which eluded him. He was hospitalized few times and ended badly. We could not help him, even though some of his friends were internationally renown young mathematicians.
Another one, a physicist, lost five years of his life, obsessively trying to find a solution to a problem unresolved by the greatest minds of the world. In meantime, his twin brother was pursuing normal scientific development. They are both tenure professors of many years now.
I have a great respect to those mathematical geniuses (autistics?), such as Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan, a self taught mathematician:I have had no university education but I have undergone the ordinary school course. After leaving school I have been employing the spare time at my disposal to work at mathematics. I have not trodden through the conventional regular course which is followed in a university course, but I am striking out a new path for myself. I have made a special investigation of divergent series in general and the results I get are termed by the local mathematicians as 'startling'.