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In Hungary, the proportion of those participating in education has continued to decline since 2008, but in 2016 was still higher than at the turn of the millennium. According to the latest data, in 2020, 41% of young people participated in some organised, school-based training which means that the participation is 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. [Hungarian Youth 2020 (Magyar Fiatalok 2020)]
In the 2020/2021 academic year the number of children/students attending
- kindergartens is 322.7 thousand (4% decrease compared to 2019/2020);
- primary schools is 725.8 thousand (0.8% decrease compared to 2019/2020);
- secondary institutions is 398.3 thousand (3.1% decrease compared to 2019/2020);
- higher education institutions (full-time degree programmes) is 204.8 thousand (5% increase compared to 2019/2020). [Hungarian Central Statistical Office, 2020 and 2021 (Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, 2020 és 2021) (referred hereinafter to as KSH)]
The number of children at the university students shows a positive tendency.
'(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)
- primary schools and
- secondary schools.
Attendance at these institutions is free of charge for Hungarian citizens until the age of 18 , and also compulsory between the ages of 3 and 16 (3 years kindergarten and 10 years school). For more detailed information please see Eurydice, sub-chapter Hungary Overview - Stages of the Education System.
The laws governing public education were established in the Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (2011. évi CXC. Nemzeti köznevelésről szóló törvény). 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. A more recent, but important change (változás) is that adults now have the opportunity to obtain their first and second vocational degrees without age restriction at an evening school or through distance learning. For more detailed information, please see Eurydice, sub- chapter Adult Education - Main Types of Provision.
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 it was 4.7%, but it is still about the EU average (4.7%) (Referred in Eurostat, 2021)
The rate of early school leavers slightly increased
The proportion of early school leavers has stagnated since 2016, but shows a very different depending on geographic regions and school type. The rate of early school leavers was:
- 12.4% in 2016,
- 12.5% in 2017,
- 12.5% in 2018,
- 11.8% in 2019
- 12.1% in 2020. (Eurostat, 2021)
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
- increase to 34% the share of 30-40 year olds who have tertiary education or equivalent qualification, and to
- reduce to 10% by 2020 the share of early school leavers between 18 and 24 (especially disadvantaged, multiply disadvantaged and Roma students).
In addition, the objectives of the measures to be taken in the field of education policy include:
- developing the key competencies of students and
- improving the interoperability of the educational structure, supported by non-formal and informal learning programmes, and reorganising 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 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. (European Commission, 2020)
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 process 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 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 and other extracurricular activities.
In 2013, the Act of National Higher Education was amanded and the Government abolished 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 during the years. The proportion of enrolled students slightly increased since 2017. 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 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%),
- 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%).
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)
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
'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.
'The 1-2-year programmes of post-secondary vocational education (ISCED 4) were launched in the second half of the 1990s'.' For more information, see Eurydice, sub-chapter 2.3 Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure.
'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)
The new 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 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 skilled professionals,
- to have skills needed in the modern, changing economy, technology and industry,
- 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.
The Ministry for Innovation and Technology (Innovációs és Technológiai 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 new vocational training system came into effect in September 2020, and affects only those who start their studies in vocational training in September 2020. In the new system students entering secondary education can choose between Technicum Schools and Vocational Schools (for more information please see above sub-chapter 'ISCED levels and VET').
Children with special educational needs in Hungary
'''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
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 more 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.' (Hungarian Central Statistical Office)