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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: 17 April 2024
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Early childhood education and care

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.

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 CXC of 2011 on the National Public Education (2011. évi CXC. törvény a nemzeti köznevelésről))

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. (Government Decree 121/2013. (IV. 26.) on the Educational Authority (Az Oktatási Hivatalról szóló 121/2013. (IV. 26.) Korm. rendelet))

Mandatory school age is between age 6 and 16. Compulsory education commences on the first day of the school year. Under the Act on Public Education  the date of starting compulsory schooling can be postponed by no more than one year. At the request of the parents or the social and child protection authority, the child may attend to pre-school education for a further year based on the decision of the Educational Authority (Oktatási Hivatal), the body granting the exemption. 

However, law allows for children to strat 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.

Basic Education

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, technicums or vocational schools.

Secondary education

The entrance examinations to upper-secondary schools are centrally organised. 

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. 

Upper secondary general schools (Gimnázium)  provide general education preparing the students for the school leaving examination and for commencing higher education studies. They have four, six or eight – or in the case of a language preparatory grade, five, seven or nine – grades. 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 (Szakgimnázium) are educational institutions operating in five grades, providing vocational training in the arts, pedagogy and the cultural sciences, preparing students for secondary school leaving examinations and vocational qualifications, for further vocational education and training, and for employment. In addition to general education, it also provides vocational training, with the fifth year being devoted exclusively to vocational training.

The technicum (Technikum) enables students to obtain an upper secondary school-leaving certificate and a technician-level vocational qualification, and the 5, and in some cases 6-year education combines the advantages of secondary general school and vocational training. In the first two years of the technicum, students acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the sector and then take a sectoral basic examination. At the end of grade 10, they choose a sector-specific occupation and, if possible, continue their studies in a dual training programme. 

In the upper secondary school leaving exam, the fifth subject is the vocational professional subject, which qualifies as an advanced level exam. 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.

Skill development vocational schools (Szakiskola) provide general education adapted to he special educational needs and vocational education and training preparing for a profession specified in the Register of Vocational Qualifications (Szakmajegyzék) or for a partial vocation defined in the programme outcomes based standards and requirements, or training preparing for a vocational qualification. In these schools, vocational education may be provided in accordance with the programme outcomes based standards and requirements or a specific framework curriculum, depending on the type of special educational needs. Vocational training may be provided based on a specific framework curriculum based on the programme requirements.

The Vocational School (Szakképző Iskola) has a 3 (sometimes 4) yearlong 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. 

Basic art schools (alapfokú művészeti iskola) 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 (kollégium) 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.

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. 

Second chance and adult education programmes

Catch-up programmes are organised for young people who have dropped out of full-time education without qualifications or vocational training, as well as adult education programmes.

The Orientation Year is 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 Dobbantó (Springboard) Programme aims to provide an opportunity for young people who are lagging behind in school system education to find a successful individual pathway back into education or work, and to prepare them for learning a profession, through 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 Dobbantó Programme, the preparatory year 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 

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. 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 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. 

Higher education

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.  Doctoral programmes (PhD, DLA) are available both full-time and part-time. 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 lead to a higher education degree. 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.

According to the  Act CCIV of 2011 on the National Higher Education (2011. évi CCIV. törvény a nemzeti felsőoktatásról), 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, at least sixty percent of their teaching and research staff employed directly or on a public service employment basis have a doctoral degree, operate Scientific Students’ Association and are able to provide studies in foreign languages in some of the programmes. 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.

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 Education

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. (Act CXC of 2011 on the National Public Education (2011. évi CXC. törvény a nemzeti köznevelésről))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 the Act LXXX of 2019 on Vocational Education and Training (2019. évi LXXX. törvény a szakképzésről) 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.