Formal education is the key element in human capital, the economic importance of which is currently on the increase. This article presents selected conditions for changes in the educational levels of the rural population and discusses the significance of this process for the development of rural areas in Poland. It was concluded that during the period 1995 – 2009 considerable improvement could be observed in rural residents’ levels of education. That process was faster than in cities, although it did not contribute much to the lessening of the so-called educational gap. The article highlights the positive impact of improved educational levels as a factor conducive to the progress of rural areas in the social and cultural contexts, and lists selected barriers which hinder the direct translation of these changes into economic advancement.