Studying in Hungary
In Hungary, schools and kindergartens are established and maintained by the state, local governments, minority local governments, legal entities (foundations, churches, etc.) as well as natural persons. The state provides maintainers with a budget subsidy for the performance of their services. About 90 per cent of children attend public sector institutions.
Administrative control related tasks and management responsibilities are shared among the central (national) government, local (county and district level) authorities and the education institutions. Overall responsibility lies with the Ministry of Human Resources, which is in charge of education, culture, social affairs, health care, youth and sport. However, school-based VET and adult training is within the competence of the Ministry for National Economy.
Participation in education is mandatory between the age of 5 and 16.
Pre-primary schools (in Hungarian: óvoda)
In Hungary, most parents regard pre-primary schools as an essential part of education. In spite of the fact that attending pre-primary school is optional (except beyond the age of 5), more than 80 per cent of children between the age of 3 and 7 attend such institutions. (From 2014, pre-primary school will become compulsory from the age of three.) Public and private pre-primary schools both make an effort to meet the growing parental demand for extra courses, such as computer use, language learning or sports activities.
Primary schools (in Hungarian: általános iskola)
All children start their education in a primary school. Traditionally, the primary school has 8 grades, but there are some with 4 or alternatively 6 grades, after which pupils continue their education in another 8-grade or 6-grade secondary school of a type of their choice.
General secondary schools (in Hungarian: gimnázium)
Most pupils who plan to continue their studies in higher education pursue their secondary education in a general secondary school, which provides general education and concludes with the so-called maturity examination. General secondary schools offer four, six or eight-year-long courses and have diverse curricula.
Secondary vocational schools (in Hungarian: szakközépiskola)
Secondary vocational schools currently provide general and pre-vocational education at upper secondary level in grades 9 to 12 (or 9 to 13 in bilingual and other programmes starting with a ‘language preparatory year’), and lead to a secondary school leaving examination, which qualifies for higher education entry (ISCED level 3A). After passing such exams, students can also choose to stay in vocational education and training (VET) to pursue further studies in post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED level 4C).
Pursuant to the new VET Act of 2011, as of September 2013, secondary vocational schools will provide VET parallel to general education from grade 9, leading to a ‘vocational secondary school leaving examination’.
Vocational schools (in Hungarian: szakiskola)
This school type typically provides general and pre-vocational education in grades 9 and 10, normally followed by three or two years of VET. At the end of their studies, students will acquire a qualification (ISCED 2C or mostly 3C).
At the same time, three-year ‘early VET’ programmes providing VET from grade 9 were introduced in 2010.
The new VET Act of 2011 provides for the introduction of a new, uniform three-year (grades 9-11) programme. This was launched in some schools in 2012, and as of September 2013 vocational schools can only offer this type of training. As this school type does not award a secondary school-leaving certificate, graduates can currently continue their studies at post-secondary non-tertiary level or in higher education only if they complete three more years of a full- or part-time general education programme in order to pass the secondary school leaving examination. In the new structure of vocational education, which is to be introduced from 2013, graduates will be able to obtain the secondary school leaving certificate within two years, and even those who do not have this certificate but have passed the master craftsman examination (in Hungarian: mestervizsga) and concurrently have five years of work experience will be allowed to enter post-secondary VET.