Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting
A child can be admitted to nursery from the age of 20 weeks until 3 years. With the consent of the parent, admission of the child to nursery may be also initiated by:
- the district nurse;
- a paediatrician or general practitioner;
- a social worker or family support worker;
- the child welfare service;
- the guardianship authority (this also requires the consent of the parent).
Enrolment is usually from mid-April to early May each year. In some nurseries, new enrolment is possible throughout the year; the number of children who can be admitted depends on available spaces.
Priority is given to parents who apply for their child’s admission with special circumstances. Daycare must be provided in particular for children:
- whose development requires that they have a permanent place in daycare;
- who are raised by a single or elderly person;
- whose parent or guardian is unable to provide care due to their social situation.
In particular, preference must be given to children whose parents or legal guardians prove that they are employed or otherwise engaged in work and who:
- are entitled to regular child protection allowance;
- live in a family with three or more children;
- are raised by a single parent;
- are subject to state guardianship.
The parent (legal representative) must attach to the child’s application for nursery a certificate from a paediatrician or general practitioner stating that the child’s state of health allows them to be cared for in a nursery.
Parents are requested to provide an employer’s statement or a letter of intent from the employer in order to enrol their child. The information requested from the employer allows institutions to assess need and take into account the family’s situation.
The local operator regulates (through a decree) the procedures for legal appeals in case of the rejection of admission applications. If the applicant contests the decision of the head of the institution, they may contact the operator within the period specified in the local decree. In these cases, the operator makes a formal decision. The application must be submitted in duplicate form to the head of the institution, who then forwards a copy to the operator. The operator must notify the applicant of its decision.
If the child has reached the age of 3 years but is not yet ready for kindergarten based on their level of physical or intellectual development, and the nursery doctor does not recommend enrolling the child in kindergarten, the child may be cared for in a nursery until 31 August in the year the child turns 4 years old.
In the year in which a child reaches the age of 3 years by 31 August, they must attend kindergarten for at least 4 hours a day from the beginning of the school year.
Based on the principle of free choice of kindergarten, a parent can apply for their child’s admission to any kindergarten. In addition to the free choice of kindergarten, there is also a catchment area system in place that ensures that children have a place in a kindergarten. Kindergartens are obliged to admit, or accept the transfer of, a kindergarten-aged child, if their place of permanent or temporary residence is in the catchment area of the kindergarten (kindergarten providing compulsory admission). The local government decides on the catchment areas for kindergartens, which can be one or two settlements in rural areas with small villages, or a smaller geographical unit in larger towns. The entire country is covered by the system of kindergarten catchment areas.
If the kindergarten has fulfilled its care provision obligation (i.e. it has admitted all the applicants from its catchment area) and still has available places, it can enrol additional children. If the kindergarten operator runs several kindergartens, the admission committee addressing the problem of oversubscription is set up by the operator. Thus, taking into account the available kindergarten capacities in various locations, the committee makes proposals for admission, redirection and rejection of applicants.
The parent is formally notified of the admission decision by the kindergarten. Within 15 days of formally receiving the decision, parents have the right to appeal. In all cases, the second-instance decision is made by the kindergarten operator, which can be challenged only in court on the grounds of a violation of the law, within 30 days of the decision.
According to research, 50 % of parents are in a position to take advantage of the principle of free choice of kindergartens (85 % in towns with county rights, 45 % in Budapest, 28 % in villages). The most important aspect for parents when choosing a kindergarten is proximity to home. The research was based on stakeholders’ opinions.
In the year in which the child reaches the age of three by 31 August, the child attends kindergarten for at least four hours a day from the start of the school year. On the basis of a parent's request (submitted by 15 April of the year in question) and taking into account the legitimate interests of the child, the body designated by Government decree may, until 31 August of the year in which the child reaches the age of four, exempt the child from attending kindergarten if the child's family circumstances or special situation justify this. The same applies in exceptional circumstances, on the basis of a new application up to 31 August of the year in which the child reaches the age of five.
Children are admitted to the kindergarten by application after the age of three. The date of application is set by the operator, which is usually April-May for children who start attending the kindergarten from 1 September.
Group size and child-staff ratios
The regulations on the maximum size of groups of children and the staff team structure vary according to the type of nursery.
Up to 12 children can be cared for in a nursery group. If all children have reached the age of 2 years, a maximum of 14 children can be cared for in a nursery group, with two early childhood practitioners caring for the children.
Up to seven children can be cared for in a mini-nursery group.
There must be one early childhood practitioner and one childcare assistant per group. The mini-nursery can operate alongside a kindergarten.
Up to seven children can be cared for in a workplace nursery group.
In order to provide care, there must be either a person providing early childhood care or an early childhood practitioner – based on the operator’s decision – and if more than five children are cared for, an additional person (assistant) must be employed. However, the conditions of employment may be decided by the operator themselves (full time, part time or a supportive in-home caregiver). The working hours of the assistant should be set in line with the children’s daily routine.
Several groups can be created within the workplace nursery.
Type of care
Number of staff allocated to a group of children
Maximum number of children per group
2 early childhood practitioners
Nursery (children all over 2 years old)
2 early childhood practitioners
1 early childhood practitioner
1 childcare assistant
In the case of 5 or more children: 1 assistant
early childhood educator
Staff must be qualified as above or have completed a course stipulated in the ministerial decree specifying the qualification requirements for nursery childcare assistants
Staff must have completed the course set out in the ministerial decree specifying the qualification requirements for persons providing nursery services; the operator may employ core practitioners with higher-level qualifications (see nursery row)
Continuing professional development obligation
Individuals working in daycare for children have an obligation to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). The requirements are different depending on the type of setting.
Continuing professional development obligation for those providing early childhood care
In accordance with Articles 51/D, 51/H(4) and 51/M(4) of the Decree of the Ministry of Welfare 15/1998 (IV. 30.), persons providing early childhood care must participate in professional or special (in the case of caring for children with special education needs) training every 3 years, which is implemented by the MACSKE Magyarországi Családi Bölcsődék Közhasznú Egyesülete, Hungarian Non-profit Association for Family Nurseries, methodological organisation. Participation is verified by the certificate awarded on completion of the training and the records of the MACSKE methodological organisation.
Continuing professional development obligation for early childhood practitioners
Individuals providing personal care in the position of early childhood practitioner are also obliged to participate in CPD (Article 2(1) of the Decree of the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs, 9/2000 (VIII. 4)).
The training obligation can be fulfilled through three types of training.
- Compulsory CPD training. CPD training aimed at acquiring essential core competencies necessary for everyone in the sector.
- Job-related CPD training. Professional CPD training aimed at acquiring specific, method-specific knowledge related to a given job or to a specific group of children receiving care.
- Optional CPD training. Training aimed at developing self-knowledge, individual competencies or other specific knowledge, taking into account the trainee’s individual interests.
The obligation of CPD can be fulfilled by attending qualified training and meeting the conditions of the programme. CPD takes place in periods of in-service training. The duration of a period is 4 years. The start of the training period is the date of commencement of employment for those providing personal care, and the date of commencement of the activity in the case of those providing care as self-employed individuals.
CPD obligations are fulfilled by a person who, during a given period of CPD, in a field related to his/her job, obtains
- a vocational qualification from NVQR, or a bachelor’s degree;
- in the case of higher education, a second or further diploma in supplementary basic higher education or in further vocational training, or
- an academic degree.
Kindergartens in Hungary have an average of four groups, but there is significant variation between institutions. The number of children admitted to each group may not exceed 25, as specified by the Public Education Act.
Children can be divided into different types of groups (on the basis of the age of children: same-age groups or mixed-age groups). The head of the kindergarten decides on the allocation of the enrolled children into groups, after seeking the opinion of the parents and the kindergarten teachers. Kindergarten groups must be set up in such a way that the number of children in each group does not exceed the maximum number specified in the Public Education Act (25 children). One group of children is cared for by two kindergarten teachers and one childcare assistant, and the employment of one pedagogical assistant (full time, 40 hours per week) per three groups is mandatory.
Kindergarten groups and professionals involved in kindergarten education
Maximum group size
Number of kindergarten teachers
2 teachers, with an overlap of 2 hours
1 assistant per 3 groups
A kindergarten teacher must have a higher education degree of bachelor’s level (International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 6). A childcare assistant must have a vocational qualification (ISCED level 3) and a pedagogical assistant must have a post-secondary vocational qualification requiring an upper-secondary school leaving examination (ISCED level 4).
Continuing professional development training obligation
It is the right and the obligation of teachers to participate in CPD training prescribed for them and to develop themselves continuously. The CPD training obligations of kindergarten teachers are identical to the obligations of primary and secondary school teachers working in other public education institutions. In Hungary, the obligation for the professional development of teachers is set out by a government decree. The regulation provides for two basic forms of teacher training:
- compulsory CPD training to be undertaken every 7 years;
- CPD training to prepare for the national teacher exam.
Teachers have a CPD training obligation of 120 hours (in 45-minute lesson-hours) every 7 years. The training obligation can be fulfilled as follows:
- participating in an accredited teacher CPD training programme lasting 30/60/120 hours;
- completing a national teacher exam;
- completing a higher education programme (bachelor’s, master’s or specialised further training, including partial programmes) entitling the candidate to obtain a teacher qualification in another teaching field or subject;
- participating in complex development projects implemented in cooperation with a team of teachers, measured by the increase in student effectiveness;
- training in the field of information and communication technology skills development;
- completing a foreign language course.
In addition, up to 25 % of the CDP training obligation can be met through participation in a research fellowship programme, supporting an intern completing teacher training, self-development (with a minimum of 5 hours and a maximum of 30 hours of non-accredited CPD training provided) and providing a consultancy service to the teaching community.
The national teacher exam was built into the public education system as a milestone in the career path of a teacher. Since the 1990s, knowledge of the operation of the institutional education system has been increasingly expected. In addition, the commitment to the profession, knowledge of the processes of the public education system, the social functions of the institutional system, the administration of education, the rules of legal and efficient operation have been increasingly important. The training for the exam is provided through a specialised CPD training programme offered by a higher education institution, and a diploma is awarded on successful completion, the attainment of which is a prerequisite for certain levels of the teacher career path, for managerial positions and for managing the internships of teacher training students.
Annual, weekly and daily organisation
The statutory minimum opening hours for nurseries are 10 hours a day. The opening hours are determined by the operator, taking into account the work schedules of the parents of the children attending the nursery. According to the Decree of the Ministry of Welfare 15/1998 (IV. 30), the minimum daily duration of a child’s care in a nursery is 4 hours and the maximum is 12 hours. Similarly to kindergartens, the school year begins on 1 September and finishes on 31 August.
The organisation of nursery education
Duration of the school year
Daily opening hours
1 September to 31 August
Up to 5 weeks
Minimum of 10 hours
The duration of the institution’s summer break may be set by the operator, with a maximum of 5 weeks. Institutions typically close for only 2–3 weeks in the summer. In larger settlements, the break is organised in such a way that at least one institution is always available.
The routine of the nursery is continuous and flexible; it strives to satisfy the needs and requirements of the children, creating a sense of security and predictability, and opportunities for activities and independence. The routine of the nursery depends on the age composition, developmental stage and needs of the group, but it is also influenced by the weather and the number of children in the group. Additional considerations when setting up the routine include personnel stability (the individual caregiver system means less change in personnel as children move through groups and phases) and, as far as possible, respect for and attention to the characteristics of the individual children. The routine ensures a varied and healthy diet, and provides a framework for play, exercise, outdoor activities and rest.
Within the routine, the individual needs of each child must be met in a way that fits into a clearly understandable routine for the entire group, so that the children know what to expect and unnecessary waiting time is eliminated. This also ensures the harmony of the group.
Based on the principle of gradation, nurseries offer an acclimatisation period, which lasts an average of 2 weeks. During this time, the time spent by the child in the nursery gradually increases, and the parent’s/relative’s presence decreases.
The kindergarten school year begins on 1 September and finishes on 31 August.
Kindergartens are educational institutions that are open without interruption throughout the year (250–252 working days). Kindergartens can be closed only for renovation (e.g. for painting) or if the building becomes unusable.
The opening hours of kindergartens
The weekly and annual opening times of the kindergarten are determined by the operator.
In kindergartens, the funded time frame for children is 61 hours per week (50 hours for general activities and 11 hours for catch-up and activities for children with special educational needs).
The kindergarten routine should be designed in such a way that parents can bring in and take home their child without disrupting the kindergarten’s activities.
Kindergartens, for example, can only be closed for renovation or clean-up painting.
The organisation of kindergarten education
Duration of the school year
Daily opening hours
1 September to 31 August
Up to 5 weeks
During the entire opening hours
Local governments must provide kindergarten care for children at least on working days, from 7.00–8.00 to 17.00–18.00, based on the needs of working parents.
The routine includes parallel, differentiated activities – primarily integrated into play – planned and carried out by teachers. The gradually increasing duration (5–35 minutes) of group activities as children get older improves their cooperative skills and task-orientated attitude. The daily schedule accounts for various activities and the children’s individual needs, and takes into consideration local culture, customs and needs. Regularity, along with recurring aspects, provides the children with emotional stability.
In terms of pedagogy, the schedule is continuous and flexible, and takes the key role of play into account. It is important to establish a harmonious balance between activities. The daily and weekly schedules are developed by the kindergarten group teachers.