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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 2 April 2024
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 continued to fall since 2008, but was still higher in 2016 than at the turn of the millennium. According to the latest data, 41% of young people participated in organised, school-based education in 2020 which means that participation has stabilised since 2016. Among them, 86% of 15-19 year olds, 36% of 20-24 year olds, and 8% of 25-29 year olds have been in education.

In the 2023/2024 academic year the number of children/students attending

  • kindergartens is 324 thousand (1.7% increase compared to 2021/2022);
  • primary schools is 712 thousand (1.2% decrease compared to 2021/2022);
  • secondary institutions is 428 thousand (0.9% decrease compared to 2021/2022);
  • higher education institutions (full-time degree programmes) is 215 thousand (3.7% increase compared to 2021/2022).

The number of children in kindergartens, in secondary institutions and in higher education shows a positive trend. The number of students in non-full-time education has also increased (it was 218 thousand in the 2023/2024 academic year, 42 thousand more than in previous year).

General government expenditure on education as a proportion to the GDP

Government spending on education as a share of GDP has decreased in recent years: in 2017 - 2018 it was about 5% and in 2019/2020 it was 4.7%, slightly under the EU average (which was 5% in 2020). In 2021, it increased again to 5%, while the EU average was 4.8%.

Public Education

Basic education is 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.' (Fundamental Law of Hungary)

The Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education (1993. évi LXXIX. törvény a közoktatásról) states that educational institutions in Hungary are operated by the Hungarian state and include

  • kindergartens,
  • primary schools and
  • secondary schools.

Attendance at these institutions is free of charge for Hungarian citizens up to the age of 18 and also compulsory from the age of 3 to 16 (3 years of kindergarten and 10 years of school). For more detailed information see Eurydice, sub-chapter Hungary Overview - Levels of the Education System.

The laws governing public education were established in the Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (2011. évi CXC. törvény a nemzeti köznevelésről). The state is obliged to provide to its citizens with the right to participate in primary and secondary education and to obtain their first vocational qualification.

Adults also have the opportunity to participate in public education in the form of adult education and could acquire any of the following qualifications:

  • completed 8th grade of primary school,
  • secondary school leaving exam,
  • secondary school leaving exam and vocational qualification. For more information, see Eurydice, chapter 8.Adult Education and Training.
The rate of early school leavers slightly increased

The proportion of early school leavers has stagnated in 2017-2018 and it was about 12% in the recent years. In 2022, it is slightly increased. The rate of early school leavers was:

  • 12.4% in 2022,
  • 12% in 2021,
  • 12.1% in 2020,
  • 11.8% in 2019,
  • 12.5% in 2018.

In Hungary, the proportion of males (12.3%) among early school leavers was higher than the proportion of females (11.6%) in the 2021/2022 academic year.

The situation of Roma children in public education

The dropout rate among Roma students has fallen by 8% since 2018, and was 60.8% in 2021.

In 2021, 65.3% of Roma students were school dropouts and mainly attended vocational schools. In the three most affected counties 10-15% of pupils are at risk of dropping out of school.

The proportion of schools with above 50% of Roma students increased from 9% to 14% in 10 years and the proportion of Roma in higher education was 0.8% in 2017.

Young people's participation in education and training

The European Council Resolution adopted by the Education Council of the European Union in 2021 sets new targets to be achieved in education and training by 2030:

  • at least 96% of children aged 3-6 should participate in early childhood education and care,
  • the rate of early school and training leavers should be reduced to less than 9%, and
  • the proportion of 25-34 year olds with tertiary education should be at least 45%.
Access to higher education

Forms of higher education include:

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

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

  • their grades in secondary school,
  • the results of their final exams at secondary school and
  • extracurricular activities (such as language exams, academic competition, final exams on a higher grade).

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 guarantees access to higher education and financial support to participants in higher education according to their abilities. Completion of secondary school is required; points can be earned based on the secondary school results and other extracurricular activities.

In 2013, the Act CCIV of 2011 on National Higher Education was amended and the government abolished the system of 'frame numbers'. The admission procedure is organised centrally and students are ranked based on the number of applicants for each institution. The decision is made on the basis of the number of places available and the entrance requirements (points) achieved by the students.

Changes in the admission procedure

From 2024, there were some changes in the admission procedure. The aim was to provide universities more autonomy in the admission procedure. The new rules are as follows

  • the university can draw up its own list of secondary school subjects for which it requires grades or final exams (earlier it was a centrally determined list),
  • the universities decide on the points that can be obtained for extracurricular activities, such as entrance exam, art competitions, work experience, competence tests, sport competitions, equal opportunities (the points for these activities were also set centrally),
  • the requirement for a high school diploma for certain courses at university level will be abolished, but the university can require it if it wants to,
  • there is no uniform minimum score, but the universities themselves will decide on the minimum score that must be achieved for certain degree programmes (they can even decide not to set a minimum score).

The last two changes were implemented from 2023 with some restrictions.

The Educational Authority (Oktatási Hivatal) will be the responsible authority for the administration so the management remains centralized.

Statistics for higher education attainment

Based on statistics from previous years, the number of students enrolled in higher education has remained the same over the years. The proportion of students enrolled has risen slightly since 2017. The figures below show the number of students enrolled in higher education each year, including state-funded and fee-paying programmes as well as students participating in the supplementary entrance procedure:

  • in 2023, 110 508 students were enrolled out of 148 775 applicants (74%),
  • in 2022, 84 528 students were enrolled out of 113 215 applicants (75%),
  • in 2021, 87 246 students were enrolled out of 116 680 applicants (75%),
  • in 2020, 79 417 students were enrolled out of 107 267 applicants (74%),
  • in 2019, 89 608 students were enrolled out of 126 625 applicants (71%).
The impact of the students' socio-economic background on student performance

'Socio-economic background is a strong predictor of student performance, and there continue to be large differences between schools in Hungary.

Schools in Hungary are characterised by a similar socio-economic background of their pupils, with a concentration of disadvantaged pupils in certain schools. The achievement gap between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged schools is the largest in Hungary compared to an EU average of 137 points. Performance - based selection in Hungarian schools starts at the age of 10, leading to the separation of underachieving pupils from their high-achieving peers. This is likely to be a factor in the large share of low performers in Hungary.' (European Commission, 2022)

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.

ISCED levels and VET

In Hungary,

'Compulsory kindergarten education and care starts at the age of 3. Participation in kindergarten care is obligatory for children of 3 years of age (...) however, exemption from this obligation may be requested up to the age of 4.' 

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 children can apply for secondary school (ISCED 3).

Until 2019 students could choose between

  • upper secondary general schools,
  • upper secondary vocational schools,
  • vocational schools, or
  • special vocational schools.

From 2020, in the new Vocational Training System, students can choose between

  • Technicum Schools or
  • Vocational Schools.

'In the Technicum Schools (...) quality technical education and training is provided. The qualification - acquired in a Technicum School - provides knowledge for middle management level in a 5 - (some cases 6) year-long training. The programme combines the advantages of both upper secondary general education and vocational training.'

'The new Vocational School has a 3-year-long programme which aims to prepare students for the profession. After first year's sectoral and basic exam, in the 9th-grade students should choose their specific vocation. In the following 2 years students should acquire professional knowledge in the form of dual training at companies and entrepreneurs.'

For more information, see Eurydice, sub-chapter 2.3 Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure.

Adult education

Adults have the opportunity to learn in

  • the public education system,
  • the new Vocational Training System,
  • vocational trainings for adults,
  • other adult trainings and
  • in higher education institutions.

In recent years, especially in 2019-2020, the adult education system has been modified due to changes in the labour market and technology in order to better adapt to new economic and social needs. As a result, currently the Vocational Training System provides more opportunities for adults to participate in knowledge-based practical training and acquire professional skills adapted to today's world in order to facilitate their entry into the labour market based on their learning outcomes. For more information, see Eurydice, chapter 8. Adult Education and Training.

The Vocational Training System

In 2020, the system of vocational schools changed by the 1168/2019. (III. 28.) Government Decision (1168/2019. (III. 28.) Korm. határozat). The Government adopted a strategy, called 'Vocational Training 4.0' ('Szakképzés 4.0' stratégia), that contains the reasons and goals of these changes.

The main goals of the Strategy are

  • to enable young people to enter the labour market as skilled professionals,
  • to have skills needed in the modern, changing economy, technology and industry, and
  • to create a vocational and adult education system where young people can acquire creative, flexible and competitive knowledge to better adapt to the changing demands of the labour market.

From 2022, the Ministry of Culture and Innovation (Kulturális és Innovációs Minisztérium) is responsible for the implementation of the Strategy. The Council for Innovation in Vocational Training (Szakképzési Innovációs Tanács), as professional decision-making, review and proposal body, supports the Minister responsible for vocational training and adult education in fulfilling its tasks in the field of vocational education and training. 

In addition, the professional content of vocational and adult education is continuously discussed with the Sector Skills Councils (Ágazati Készségtanácsok), in order to ensure that the sectoral and economic aspects are adequately reflected in the regulation. The Centre for Innovative Education Support (Innovatív Képzéstámogató Központ), supported by the Minister, also plays an important role in the reform, as a methodological centre and information provider.

The current vocational training system came into effect in September 2020, and affects only those who start their studies in vocational training after September 2020. In the new system students entering secondary education can choose between Technicum Schools and Vocational Schools (for more information see above sub-chapter 'ISCED levels and VET').

The Action Plan for the 'Vocational Training 4.0' strategy

In 2023, the Government has adopted the Action Plan effective until 2030 for the 'Vocational Training 4.0' strategy (‘Szakképzés 4.0’ stratégia 2030-ig tartó cselekvési terve). The document lists all the objectives to be achieved and the associated measures planned in the strategy with their description, the actors responsible for implementation, the deadlines, the financial sources, the key indicators and the status of the measure (not started, in progress, implemented, implemented and in operation). There are 58 measures for the 11 overall objectives and many of them are already implemented and in operation or implemented or in progress.

In accordance with the action plan, several measures have already been implemented and are currently in operation, such as 

  • the new structure of the professions (less fragmented but adapted to international standards),
  • introduction of a scholarship programme to promote talent for students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds in vocational training,
  • skills assessments for students in the 9th grade at the beginning and end of the school year to reduce the number of school drop-outs and support learning through a mentoring system,
  • creation and operation of a labour market forecasting system to determine which vocational training courses need to be further developed in terms of quantity and quality. 

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. Those are students/children

  • with difficulties in integration, learning or behaviour;
  • who are particularly gifted or talented; and
  • students/children with disadvantages or multiple disadvantages according to the Act on Child Protection and Guardianship Administration.

'''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

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

Definitions of non-formal and informal education in Hungary

Definitions for non-formal and informal education (from 2008) are the following:

'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.'