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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

On this page
  1. Main trends in young people's participation in education and training
  2. Organisation of the education and training system
  3. Main concepts

Main trends in young people's participation in education and training


Main statistics

In Hungary, the proportion of those participating in education has further decreased since 2008, but in 2016 it still exceeded the figure from the turn of the millennium. According to the data, 40% of young people participated in some organised, school-based training. Among them, 86% of 15-19-year-olds, 34% of 20-24-year-olds, and 9% of 25-29-year-olds have been in education. [Hungarian Youth Research 2016 (Magyar Ifjúság Kutatás 2016)]

In the 2019/2020 academic year the number of children/students attending

  • kindergartens is 330.5 thousand (1.2% increase compared to 2018/2019);
  • primary schools is 720.3 thousand (0.8% decrease compared to 2018/2019);
  • secondary institutions is 410.8 thousand (1.3% decrease compared to 2018/2019);
  • higher education institutions (full-time courses) is 203.6 thousand (1.7% increase compared to 2018/2019). [Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 2019 and 2020 (Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, 2019 és 2020) (referred hereinafter to as KSH)]

The number of children in kindergartens and the university students shows a positive tendency.

Public Education

Basic educationis ensured by the Fundamental Law of Hungary (Alaptörvény). According to Article XI:

'(1) Every Hungarian citizen shall have the right to education.

(2) Hungary shall ensure this right by extending and generalising public education, by providing free and compulsory primary education, free and generally accessible secondary education, and higher education accessible to everyone according to his or her abilities, and by providing financial support as provided for by an Act to those receiving education.

(3) An Act may provide that financial support of higher education studies shall be subject to participation for a definite period in employment and/or to exercising for a definite period of entrepreneurial activities, regulated by Hungarian law.' (Fundamental Law of Hungary)

Educational institutions (intézményrendszer) in Hungary are operated by the Hungarian state and include

  • kindergartens,
  • primary schools and
  • secondary schools.

The attendance in these institutions is free of charge (until the age of 18) for Hungarian citizens, and also compulsory between 3 and 16 years of age. (3 years kindergarten and 10 years school.) For more detailed information please see Euridyce, sub-chapter Hungary Overview - Stages of the Education System. [Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education (1993. évi LXXIX. törvény a közoktatásról)]

The laws regulating public education were laid down in the Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (2011. évi CXC. Nemzeti köznevelésről szóló törvény). The state is obliged to provide the right to its citizens to participate in primary and secondary education and to obtain their first vocational qualification. A recent, but important change (változás) is that adults now have the possibility to obtain their first and second vocational qualifications at an evening school or through distance education, without age restrictions. For more detailed information, please see Euridyce, sub- chapter Adult Education - Main Types of Provision.

General government expenditure on education as a proportion to the GDP

General government expenditure on education as a proportion to the GDP was 5.1% in 2017, 0.5% more than the EU average (4.6%). These number were exactly the same in 2018. (Eurostat Referred in Eurostat, 2019)

The rate of early school leavers remained unchanged

The proportion of early school leavers stagnated in 2016, but it shows a very mixed picture according to geographical regions and type of school. The rate of early school leavers was:

  • 12.4% in 2016,
  • 12.5% in 2017,
  • 12.5% in 2018,
  • 11.8% in 2019. (Eurostat, 2020)

Concerning regions, the highest proportion was observed in the North-Eastern part of Hungary, where the poverty rate is the highest. In addition, 65.3% of Roma students are early school leavers. 21% of early school-leavers come from vocational schools in the three most affected counties. (Comission Staff, 2019)

Challenges to young people’s participation in education and training

By accepting the Europe 2020 strategy, Hungary has committed itself to

  1. increase the proportion of those between 30-40 years who have higher or equivalent qualification to 34%, and to
  2. reduce the proportion of early school leavers between the age of 18 and 24 (especially disadvantaged, multiply disadvantaged and Roma students) to 10% by 2020.

In addition, the aims of the measures to be taken in the area of education policy include:

  1. developing the key competencies of students and
  2. making the educational structure more interoperable, supported by non-formal and informal learning programmes, as well as the reorganisation of higher education (Government of Hungary, 2017)

The educational attainment of Roma students

'Hungarian education faces equity challenges. Students' performance is linked to their socioeconomic background, and the participation of disadvantaged groups, in particular Roma people, in inclusive mainstream education needs to be increased.' (European Commission, 2016)

According to the Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey

'the results of the first Roma survey in 2011 were worrying. They showed that only one out of two Roma children surveyed attended pre-school or kindergarten, and a tiny proportion continued school after compulsory education. EU-MIDIS II results show that Roma children lag behind their non-Roma peers on all education indicators. Only about half (53%) of Roma children between the age of four and the starting age of compulsory primary education participate in early childhood education. On average, 18% of Roma between 6 and 24 years of age attend an educational level lower than that corresponding to their age. The proportion of Roma early school-leavers is disproportionately high compared with the general population. School segregation remains a problem in Hungary despite the legal prohibition of this practice and recent case law of the European Court of Human Rights.'

The rate of schools with above 50% of Roma students increased from 9% to 14% in 10 years and the share of Roma in higher education was 0.8% in 2017. (European Commission, 2020)

Inequality of access to higher education

Forms of higher education include:

  • short-cycle higher education, 
  • Bachelor’s degree,
  • undivided programmes offering Master’s degree.

The entrance procedure for the above forms of the higher education system is based on

  • the general knowledge and literacy of the applicants they acquired in secondary school,
  • their secondary school grades and
  • the results of their final exams at secondary school.

There are no particular entrance exams; points are calculated based on the above grades.

In order to enforce the right to education, the Fundamental Law of Hungary ensures the accessibility to higher education and the financial support of participants of higher education depending on their abilities. Secondary school graduation is necessary; points can be collected based on the students’ secondary school results.

In 2013, the Act of National Higher Education was modified, the Government terminated the system of 'frame-numbers'. The entrance procedure is organised centrally, and students are ranked based on the number of applicants for each institution. The decision is made based on the number of available places and the entry requirements (points) achieved by the students.


Based on the statistics (felvételi statisztika) from the previous years, the number of students entering higher education has remained the same for a while. The below figures show the number of students enrolled in higher education each year, including state-financed and fee-based programmes, as well as students enrolled in the supplementary entrance procedure:

  • in 2020, 72 821 students were enrolled out of 97 545 applicants (75%) (without the data relates to the supplementary entrance procedure),
  • in 2019, 89 608 students were enrolled out of 126 625 applicants (71%),
  • in 2018, 84 879 students were enrolled out of 120 937 applicants (70%),
  • in 2017, 82 144 students were enrolled out of 118 766 applicants (69%),
  • in 2016, 85 019 students were enrolled out of 124 982 applicants (68%),
  • in 2015, 82 897 students were enrolled out of 119 714 applicants (69%),
  • in 2014, 86 032 students were enrolled out of 121 446 applicants (71%),
  • in 2013, 83 354 students were enrolled out of 109 271 applicants (76%),
  • in 2012, 92 475 students were enrolled out of 126 574 applicants (73%).

The impact of the students’ socio-economic background on education outcomes

'The impact of [Hungarian] pupils’ socio-economic background on education outcomes is the strongest in the EU. The impact of school type on outcomes is also very significant, reflecting early selection in secondary education. Pupils are tracked into different schools according to their performance starting from the age of 10. Amongst the three types of secondary school, pupils of vocational secondary schools, which have the highest concentration of disadvantaged pupils, performed particularly poorly in PISA. This type of schools shows limited capacity to counterbalance the socio-economic disadvantage that large numbers of their pupils face.' (European Commission, 2018)

In addition, the OECD also reported on the effects of students’ socio-economic background:

'The effects of socio-economic status on student achievement have been widely documented, and research has shed light on specific mechanism linking economic, social and cultural assets in the family context to students’ education outcomes.

For example, students whose parents have higher levels of education and more prestigious and better-paid jobs typically benefit from a wider range of financial (for example private tutoring, computers, books), cultural (for example extended vocabulary, time in active parenting) and social (for example role models and networks) resources that make it easier for students to succeed in school, compared with peers who come from families with lower levels of education or that are affected by chronic unemployment, low-paid jobs or poverty.' (OECD-PISA Result Volume I, 2015)

Organisation of the education and training system


In Hungary, children go to school at the age of 6, and primary education lasts for 4, 6 or 8 years. Traditionally, children go to primary school for 8 years.

The compulsory school age is 16.

'It was just recently lowered from 18 by the 2011 law on public education. The aim of the government was to achieve harmony between the length of compulsory education and vocational training; and offering the choice of studying or working for young people. However, being a young person at this age with low education mostly leads to drifting, uncertainty and low social status.' (Youth Policy Review 2016, p. 13) For more information, see Eurydice report, sub-chapter 2.3. Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure.

ISCED levels and VET

In Hungary,

'compulsory pre‐primary education (ISCED 0-1) begins with the kindergarten at the age of 3.  Pre‐primary education is meant for children from 3 to 7 years of age, the final year of pre‐primary education prepares children for primary school.' 

For primary education (ISCED 1 and 2) there are 8-grade single structure schools, which begin at the age of 6 or 7, after which they choose a secondary school. Students can choose between

  • secondary general programmes (ISCED 2+3),
  • vocational programmes, special vocational programmes (ISCED 3) or
  • vocational secondary programmes (ISCED 3).

'The division of the twelve‐year general education may vary: it can be divided either into 8 years of primary education + 4 years of secondary education, or 4 years of primary education + 8 years of secondary education, or 6 years of primary education + 6 years of secondary education. Some secondary school language programmes (bilingual or language specialised classes) may have an extra preparation year. On the basis of their received points, students gain admission to secondary schools after a central secondary school entrance exam and at the oral / oral + written entrance exam taken at the schools respectively.' [National Office of Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning, 2014 (Nemzeti Szakképzési és Felnőttképzési Hivatal, 2014)]

There are also 1-2-year programmes of post-secondary vocational education (ISCED 4). For more information, see Euridyce, sub-chapter 2.3 Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure.

Adult education

'For those who are not able to complete their education in a regular full-time school, adult education, and adult training outside the school system provide learning opportunities. 16-year-old students or older have the possibility to continue their education as adult education, instead of full-time schooling, in an evening school or distance education form. For years, the number of participants in adult basic education has been very low, about two thousand. While vocational schools continue to grow in numbers, the popularity of vocational training schools is significantly decreasing.' (Unesco, 2015)

Changes in the system of vocational education and training and in the adult education

In 2020, the system of vocational schools changed by the 1168/2019. (III. 28.) Government Decision (1168/2019. (III. 28.) Korm. határozat a „Szakképzés 4.0 - A szakképzés és felnőttképzés megújításának középtávú szakmapolitikai stratégiája, a szakképzési rendszer válasza a negyedik ipari forradalom kihívásaira” című stratégia elfogadásáról és a végrehajtása érdekében szükséges intézkedésekről). The strategy is called 'Vocational Training 4.0' ('Szakképzés 4.0' stratégia).

The main goals of the Strategy are

  • to enable young people to enter the labour market as professionals,
  • to have the competencies required by the modern, changing economy, techonology and industry,
  • to create a vocational and adult education system where young people can acquire creative, flexible and competitive knowledge to fit better to the changing labour market needs.

The Ministry for Innovation and Technology (Innovációs és Technológiai Minisztérium) is responsible for the implementation of the Strategy. The Vocational Training Innovation Council (Szakképzési Innovációs Tanács), as professional decision-making, reviewing and proposing body, assists the Minister responsible for vocational training and adult education in carrying out his duties in relation to vocational training. 

Furthermore, the professional content of vocational and adult training is continuously discussed with the Sector Skills Councils (Ágazati Készségtanácsok), in order to ensure that the sectoral and economic aspects are properly reflected in the regulation. The Innovative Education Support Center (Innovatív Képzéstámogató Központ), with the support of the Minister, also has an important role in the reform, as a methodological center and information provider.

The new vocational training system came into force in September 2020, and only affects those who start their studies in vocational training in September 2020.

Main concepts


Children with special educational needs in Hungary

In Hungary, the Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (a 2011. évi CXC. törvény a nemzeti köznevelésről) mentions the concept of children with special educational needs.

'''Children / students requiring special attention" means

a) children / students requiring special treatment:

aa) children / students with special education needs,

ab) children / students with difficulties in integration, learning or behaviour,

ac) particularly gifted or talented children / students,

b) children / students with disadvantages or multiple disadvantages according to the Act on Child Protection and Guardianship Administration' [Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (a 2011. évi CXC. törvény a nemzeti köznevelésről)]

'''Children / students with difficulties in integration, learning or behaviour'' means children / students who require special attendance and significantly underperform compared to their age based on the basis of the expert opinion of the committee of experts, or face social relationship problems or suffer from deficiencies in learning or the control of their behaviour, or their integration into the community or personal development is impeded or shows special tendencies but do not qualify as students with special education needs' [Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (a 2011. évi CXC. törvény a nemzeti köznevelésről)]

Early school leavers in Hungary

In the documents of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (Központi Statisztikai Hivatal), definitions are included. Early school leavers (korai iskolaelhagyók) are considered to be young people aged 18 to 24 who have no more than primary school education and have not participated in education or training inside or outside the school system during the last four weeks.

Definitions of non-formal and informal education in Hungary

For non-formal and informal education, definitions from 2008 can be found.

'The non-formal education (outside the school system) takes place alongside the main educational and training systems, and does not always provide a formal certificate. It may also be provided by the workplace or through organisations or services which were established in order to supplement formal education. […] The non-organised forms of learning belong to the sphere of informal learning. These are learning activities which might occur in anybody’s life both in the family or in the workplace based on personal experiences or familial or social guidance. Informal learning is a natural part of everyday life.' (Hungarian Central Statistical Office)