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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of the education system and of its structure


2.Organisation and governance

2.3Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Last update: 27 November 2023
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Compulsory kindergarten education and care starts at the age of 3. Kindergarten is an educational institution that prepares children for school gradually from the age of 3 until the start of compulsory schooling, especially in their final year. The kindergarten may also admit a child who will reach the age of 3 within six months of admission, provided that all children aged three and over residing in the municipality, district or, if the admission area is in more than one municipality, in the municipalities concerned, or, in the municipalities where they are resident, can be admitted. (Act on Public Education)

Participation in kindergarten care is obligatory for children of 3 years of age (from the first of September of the year, when he/she reached the age of 3 until that year’s August 31st). The children attend at least 4 hours a day in kindergarten , In case of a request of the parent, the Body designated by the Government may give an exemption for the child from compulsory participation until the age of 4. This can be justified by family circumstances, the development of the child’s abilities, and his / her particular situation. The head of the kindergarten or the school/kindergarten nurse may involve an expert in the proceedings.

As of January 2020, based on the National Database run by the Educational Authority, the responsible body of the government monitors the enrolment of children over the age of 3 to kindergarten and, if justified, authorizes the exemption. The significance of the National Database is given by the fact that it is the basis of other procedures, the measures and sanctions related to the fulfilment or violation of the obligation to attend kindergarten set in the legislation on public education and family support. The register of kindergarten-aged children is managed by the Educational Authority.

Pre-school education is typically integrated and full-time in Hungary.. Kindergarten care comprises the timeframe of fifty hours per week to be spent on the tasks related to the day care of the child and the activities containing the whole kindergarten life. The maintainer shall organise the development activities of children with social, learning and behavioural difficulties, and the healthcare, pedagogic habilitation and rehabilitation activities of children with special educational needs in a timeframe of eleven hours per week in the kindergarten.

Mandatory school age is between age 6 and 16. Children reaching age 6 until 31 August become compulsory school-age on 1 September of the same year. Compulsory education commences on the first day of the school year. The Act on Public Education (2011) anticipates and tightens the compulsory date for entering school by a new regulation: the starting date may be postponed by not more than one year. At the request of the parents, the child may attend to pre-school education for a further year at the discretion of the Educational Authority granting the exemption. In the absence of a parental application, the social and child protection authority may also initiate a postponement of the start of the child's compulsory education. The parent or the authority, can submit the application to the body granting the exemption no later than January 18 of the year of starting school. The administrative deadline for the procedure is fifty days. Supporting the application, the parent can also attach kindergarten confirmation of the child's development.

However, law allows for children to go to school before the age of 6 if the parent requests so and the child’s development allows it. Compulsory education can be accomplished in a primary school, secondary school and in development education programmes.

Compulsory education ends at the age of 16.

The child, the pupil has the right:

  • to be educated in accordance with his/her abilities, interests, skills, and to participate in basic art education in order to recognize and develop his/her talents;
  • to be educated in a safe and healthy environment in an educational institution and in a system, which pays attention to the child’s leisure time, physical activity needs, sports training and meals appropriate to their age and stage of development;
  • to receive an education that includes their ethnical inheritance;
  • to attend to a general education institution – kindergarten, primary or secondary school, dormitory – operated by a church or a private maintainer, , or to participate in optional religious studies if he/she is a student in a public kindergarten or school;
  • to the freedom of expression, self-determination, freedom of action, freedom for family and private life. These rights shall be respected by the student’s educational institution, however, exercising these rights shall never restrict others in their exercise of the above-mentioned same rights, nor shall it endanger the health and physical integrity of themselves and of the staff of the institution, moreover, it shall not endanger the criterion for the exercise of the right to education;
  • to receive special care or rehabilitation care according to his/her condition and personal capacity, to apply to the institution of the Pedagogical Assistance Services regardless of his/her age, and to contact the Commissioner for Educational Rights;
  • depending on the financial situation of his/her family to receive free or reduced-priced meals and school supplies upon request, moreover to be exempted (in whole or in part) of the costs imposed on students by this Act, to be allowed to defer payment or to be allowed to make payment in instalments;
  • to receive dormitory care, regular health surveillance and care, all the necessary information to exercise his/her rights, and to be informed about the procedures that are needed to exercise these rights;
  • to participate and initiate the work of student’s clubs and to be a member of cultural, artistic, educational, sports and other clubs.

The state ensures that textbooks are available free of charge for pupils in grades 1 to 12 (including for pupils in general and vocational education), and in national minority education and special education.

In exercising student rights, students shall not violate the rights of their peers and the community.

Basic education (ISCED 1 and 2) is provided in 8-grade single structure schools comprising primary (ISCED 1) and lower secondary education (ISCED 2). Primary education (ISCED 1) comprises grades 1 to 4, while lower secondary education (ISCED 2) comprises grades 5 to 8. However, upper-secondary schools are also allowed to offer secondary programmes comprising lower (ISCED 2) and upper secondary levels (ISCED 3), covering grades 5 to 12 or grades 7 to 12 (These called 6-grade or 8-grade upper secondary schools). The successful completion of grade 8 provides basic qualification. After completing basic school, students may continue their studies in an upper-secondary school: in upper secondary general schools, upper secondary vocational schools, vocational schools, technicums or special vocational schools.

Secondary education

The entrance examinations to upper-secondary schools are centrally organised. Until 2020, students who were not admitted to any upper-secondary school or cannot finish grade 8 but were still school-age students could participate in “bridge programmes” which prepared them to continue their studies in a vocational school.

The new concept of the vocational training system, which was introduced on January 1, 2020, rethought the Vocational Bridge Programme, and the professional training is now supplemented with special functions. These functions primarily aim to reduce early school leaving and the lack of competence. The special functions also include the so-called Orientation Year with the possibility of a year of competence development for young people who are uncertain about their career choice or finished primary education with a lack of competence. Its task is not to replicate the basic education curricula, but to develop based on the assessment of competences. The condition for entering to vocational education is that the student has the basic competencies that are essential for the acquisition of the profession.

The year of key competences – organized under the so-called ’Springboard Programme’– aims to provide an opportunity to find a successful individual life path for young people with behavioural and learning disabilities, or who are lagging behind in school system education, or aged 16-25 and have already dropped out of the school system. The programme provides an opportunity to return to the world of education or work, to find a successful individual life path and to prepare students for vocational training. The programme is open for students who have reached the age of 16 by the last day of the previous school year and do not obtain a primary education certificate.

Within the Springboard Class Programme, the preparatory class of vocational school helps to improve core competences. A mentor teacher helps the students to get individual development taking into consideration their own abilities and plans. After that, the student can continue their training in School workshop programmes, where they can obtain a partial vocational qualification in 6-24 months. After acquiring the special professional knowledge, they can achieve a state-recognised completed 8th grade and a vocational certificate, which qualifies them for at least one job. Students attending the programme are granted with a scholarship, which amount is equal to 5% of the national minimum wage.

Young people who drop out of vocational training without a qualification, or who have obtained a primary qualification in the ’Springboard programme’, but are unable to study in a classical school environment, are able to obtain a partial qualification at the so-called School Workshop Programme. School Workshop Programme replaced the low-efficiency Vocational Bridge Programme. In the School Workshop Programme, the learning of the profession takes place at the site of the practical training. In these schools, the acquirement of a qualification is not tied to an academic year, but takes at least half a year. There are no general subjects. All knowledge is linked to the partial qualification that the student acquires from his/her master. The teacher supports the education as a mentor.

The School Workshop Programme is a form of training for a student to acquire the knowledge needed to engage in a vocational training or get a job. The programme is open for students who do not have a primary education certificate and have already completed the ’Springboard programme’, or who have a primary education certificate and have reached the age of 16. Students can acquire a partial qualification only, the training is only available full-time, it must be organized in a workshop or under working conditions, in groups of 1 to 5, with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 24 months, regardless of the academic year.

In Hungary, upper-secondary level education (ISCED 3) starts typically after the 8-grade of basic education (primary and lower secondary education, ISCED 1 and 2), commencing in grade 9.


In the new vocational training system (came into force in January, 2020 and first introduced in the 2020/2021 academic year) vocational upper secondary schools and the remaining vocational secondary school classes are phased out. New entrants can choose between two programmes: the 3 year long, differently structured and practice-oriented training; or a 5 year long technican training. In some cases, vocational upper secondary classes have remained - mostly in vocational education specialised in art.

Upper secondary general schools have four, six or eight – or in the case of a language preparatory grade, five, seven or nine – grades. General secondary schools provide general education preparing the students for the school leaving examination and for commencing higher education studies. The secondary school leaving examination is a state examination, which is also part of the entrance examination to higher education institutions.

Upper secondary vocational schools - which usually have an artistic profile, provide vocational school leaving examination certificate and prepare for obtaining the related vocational qualification, for entering specialised higher education, and for entering a job in a related field. It has 4 grades establishing general knowledge of upper-secondary education and vocational training grades specified in the Register of Vocational Occupations, offering professional theoretical and practical training. In the upper secondary vocational schools, vocational school leaving examination may be taken in relation to the vocational qualifications listed in the Register of Vocational Occupations, and a specific vocational qualification may be obtained.

The former Vocational schools had five grades, of which three were vocational grades comprising the general education required for obtaining the given vocational qualification, as well as professional theoretical and practical training, and two other grades preparing the student for the secondary school leaving examination. The students who obtained a state accredited vocational qualification could decide to stay for the two other grades preparing them for the secondary school leaving examination.

Special vocational schools prepare the students with special educational needs for the vocational examination.

In the new vocational training system the Technicumsprovide quality vocational education and training. The technician qualification - acquired in a technicum - 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. In mathematics, Hungarian grammar and literature, history and 1 foreign language the same curriculum content must be acquired in the same number of hours as in upper-secondary grammar schools, and these subjects are completed by the upper-secondary school leaving exam. The fifth subject in the school leaving exam is the vocational professional subject, which qualifies as an advanced level exam. Professional practical training is available in the programme, these trainings should be completed at companies, preferably in dual training. After 5 years of studies, students receive both an upper-secondary school leaving certificate and a technican professional certificate, and it is even possible to obtain a language exam. Graduates of technicums enjoy a significant advantage in their admission to HE if they continue their studies in the same study field. It is also possible to study a profession after graduating from an upper-secondary grammar school, in this case students should apply for the last 2 years of the programme of the technicum. Edducation in technicums is regulatad by the programme curricula which has replaced the former VET framework curricula. An important milestone in the acquisition of modern professional competencies has been the new definition of the training and learning outcome requirements for the 173 professions. The documents have also been commented on by the ministries responsible for the sector and the economic actors involved in the work of the Sector Skills Councils, so the requirements are professionally sound, up-to-date and reflect the needs of the economy.

Program curricula should be developed based on the training and learning outcomes requirements for each group of professions.

The Vocational School has a 3-year-long programme which aims to prepare students for a profession. After the first year’s sectoral basic exam, in the 9th-grade students choose their specific vocation. In the following 2 years students acquire professional knowledge in the form of dual training at companies and entrepreneurs. At the end of their studies, they gain a vocational certificate by taking the professional exam. It is also possible to graduate with an upper-secondary school leaving exam after an additional 2 years of studies in evening courses.

Since both the vocational school and the technicum provide sectoral basic training in the first stage of the training, there is interoperability between the two types of schools at the end of the 9th grade without a differential examination. The sectoral basic training ends with a sectoral basic examination. The sectoral basic exam is suitable for filling simpler jobs. This programme provides an opportunity for upper secondary grammar school graduates and HE drop-outs. This is the purpose of the 2-year training of the technicums.

Adults, who wish to learn a profession can apply for the 2-year long programme of the vocational schools or to the programmes of the technicums, under 25 even as full-time students. Two qualifications are still available for free of charge, but the second qualification can only be acquired in part-time studies while working.

The Public Education Act and the Vocational Training and Education Act jointly stipulate the acknowledgement and recognition of studies for students following an unconventional education path. These legal provisions improve system flexibility in upper-secondary education and allow students to modify their career in all directions.

Post-secondary education

The 1-2-year programmes of post-secondary vocational education (ISCED 4) were launched in the second half of the 1990s. Training is performed in a smaller volume for the physical professions and in a larger volume for intellectual professions. In the school system, the number of post-secondary vocational qualifications provided in upper secondary vocational schools has exceeded the number of vocational qualifications issued in upper-secondary vocational education and training in recent years.

Higher education institutions (universities, universities of applied sciences and colleges) offer a variety of tertiary programmes, including higher educational vocational programmes, Bachelor and Master or one-tier programmes, as well as doctoral programmes.  Higher education programmes are either offered as full time or part-time (evening or correspondence) courses or as distance education. Tertiary vocational programmes are mostly part-time programmes.

Tertiary vocational programme is a form of education that does not give a higher education certificate. The holder of a certificate or qualification can join the labour market or continue his/her studies in bachelor programmes by taking the credits received in higher educational vocational training. Bachelor programmes are mainly for 3-4 years; this can be followed by a master programme for 1-2 years. Doctoral courses last for 2+2 years. There are some fields, where studies do not follow the cyclic system, these are the so-called ‘one-tier’ programmes leading to a master’s degree. These include medical training (6 years), architect training (5 years), legal training (5 years), teacher training (5years) and some agrarian and art courses.

Second Chance Programmes and Adult Education Programmes

Second chance programmes and adult education programmes are organised for those who dropped out of full-time education without a qualification.

Such programmes are the Springboard Programmes and School Workshop Programmes introduced in the new VET system. These programmes help students who have not completed their lower secondary studies or performed so poorly that they were not admitted to upper-secondary education. These programmes offer targeted development with the aim of guiding students back to upper-secondary education.

Those people are allowed to take part in adult education and training who have fulfilled compulsory schooling. In Hungary, compulsory education lasts until the end of the school year when the person reaches the age of 16.

Adult education programmes provide part-time education for adults who dropped out of lower secondary education or wish to acquire higher level qualification than the one they have. Literacy programmes, programmes aimed at obtaining lower secondary qualification and preparatory programmes for obtaining general secondary school, secondary vocational school or vocational school qualification are also organised. The latter prepare participants for secondary school leaving examination or vocational examination, and the participants will take the examination with the conventional programme students on the same conditions.

Education of Children and Students with Special Education Needs

The education of children with special education needs is provided either in conventional schools or special schools according to the nature of their special needs.

It is a general principle to prefer the inclusive education of children with special education needs in order to enhance their social integration. However, inclusive education can only be successful in an inclusive environment and by developing the skills indispensable for integration.

Therefore, there are several professional services for the assessment and treatment of learning difficulties: e.g. health care network of nurses which supports mothers from the birth of their child and helps to discover early health problems. Also, the expert and rehabilitation committees examining learning abilities from early childhood and decide whether the children need early development, placement in a special institution, prolonged kindergarten education or other special educational care.

This latter task is carried out by a nationwide network of pedagogical assistance services. The major nodes of the network are the county specialized services, which operate smaller, district-wide specialized services. They offer speech therapy services, education counsellors, early development and care services, conductive pedagogical care, physical education, school psychology and kindergarten psychology for children with special needs. Integrated SEN students are provided their “travelling” special needs teachers at the school.

The maintenance centres of school districts carry out the maintenance and operation of the assistance service network.

Children with sensory impairment and certain physical disabilities (e.g. spina bifida) require long-term special development indispensable for their successful integration. Special education institutions are set up for this purpose, which provide development adjusted to special needs and education suited to school requirements as day-schools or boarding schools. These include schools established for children with  visual and auditory impairment or conductive pedagogical institutions. These institutions also serve as special education methodology centres providing in-service training courses for special needs teachers and the development of integrated students is supported by traveling special education teachers.

The development activities for children and young people with severe disabilities are provided at home or in the institution, as requested by the parent, and skills necessary for independent life are also taught.

The System of Educational Institutions

Pre-school education is provided in kindergartens under the guidance of kindergarten teachers holding tertiary qualification. Kindergartens mostly provide full-day pre-school education with day-care. Qualified auxiliary staff (nannies) help the work of kindergarten teachers.

Basic education is provided in 8-grade single structure schools comprising primary (ISCED 1, primary phase) and lower secondary education (ISCED 2, lower-secondary phase). 6 and 8-year general secondary schools are exceptions, because in these schools, education from grades 6 to 8 is performed under lower secondary requirements.

Upper-secondary education is performed in upper secondary general schools, upper secondary vocational schools, technicums, vocational schools and in a phasing-out system, vocational secondary schools and special vocational schools.

Basic art schools are also educational institutions, the aim of which is to develop artistic skills, to enhance artistic talent and to prepare for specialised further education. These institutions are available in parallel with public education for a low tuition fee.

Dormitories established for students of public education institutions also form part of the educational institutions. These institutions not only provide student accommodation, but serve as educational institutions; they are operated separately or by the same management of the upper-secondary school.

There are two types of higher education institutions: state institutions of tertiary education and institutions operated by non-state maintainers. The latter are covered by higher education institutions maintained by churches, companies and foundations. The current Higher Education Act allows non-state maintainers to set up and operate higher education institutions, however they must meet the same input quality criteria as state higher education institutions. This is audited through the accreditation process during the process of the establishment of the institution. Hungarian higher education institutions are listed in Annex 1. of the Higher Education Act in the above mentioned grouping. In addition to the listed institutions other organizations are not eligible to undertake higher education activities or to issue degrees in Hungary.

According to the Higher Education Act, higher education institutions may be colleges, universities, or universities of applied sciences.

University is a higher education institution that has the right to undertake at least eight Bachelor’s and six Master's degree programs, as well as doctoral programs and degrees. The university can undertake trainings in all training cycles.

The university of applied sciences is a higher education institution which has the right to undergo at least four Bachelor's and two Master's degree programs, and at least two Bachelor degree in dual education. Former larger colleges with more departments have recently been transformed into universities of applied sciences. In these institutions, at least forty-five percent of the educators and researchers have a doctoral degree. These institutions can offer part of their programmes in a foreign language and operate Scientific Students’ Association.

College is a higher education institution where at least one-third of its researchers or teachers – employed in public service- or labour relationship –,have a doctoral degree.

In applied sciences universities and colleges programs are usually practice-oriented, first-cycle and short-term programs, also applied researches are prevalent. Whereas universities are more oriented to theoretical training, have a greater number of master cycle programs and basic research activities are dominant.

Home education

Compulsory education can be fulfilled by school attendance.

If justified by the student’s individual circumstances, development and successful continuation and completion of his/her studies, an individual work schedule may be requested for a fixed period to fulfil the compulsory education. This system is now called individual work schedule (this used to be the institution named as ’private student’). The new law regulating the individual work schedule entered into force on 1 September 2019. The parent, guardian or in case of reaching the legal age, the student may apply to the Educational Authority by June 15, prior to the concerned school year. After this date, an application may only be made if there is a circumstance which prevents the student from fulfilling compulsory education.

The Educational Authority  makes the decision whether the student can fulfil his/her compulsory education through an individual work schedule. In the case of an approved application, the individual work schedule shall be provided.

During the procedure the Educational Authority may contact the social and child protection authority, the child welfare service, the head of school, or, in the case of a student under protection, the child protection guardian.

If a student learning in an individual work schedule fails to show up the grading examination twice or fails to meet the study requirements twice, the head of school shall notify the authority, and the student may only complete his/her compulsory education in a school from the following semester.

In the case of vocational training, the implementing regulation of the Vocational Education and Training Act (in effect since 1 January, 2020) assigns requests for an individual work schedule to the school head.

Pursuant to the Public Education Act, if the expert committee (operating in an assistance service) proposes an individual work schedule, the school head is obliged to authorize the individual work schedule without seeking the opinion of the child’s guardian, family and child welfare services.