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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: 9 June 2022
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Compulsory kindergarten education and care starts at the age of 3. Pursuant to the new Public Education Act, kindergartens may also admit children who will turn three within six months from the admission (but only if they provide free places to all those children who are 3 years old and registered in the district). Participation in kindergarten care is obligatory for children of 3 years of age (according to law, the child must go to kindergarten from the first of September of the year, when he/she reached the age of 3 until that year’s August 31st) – however, exemption from this obligation may be requested up to the age of 4. The children attend at least 4 hours a day in kindergarten, but 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 ofJanuary 2020, based on the National Database run by the Educational Authority, the responsible body of the government monitors the enrollment 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 (such as applying for family support).

Kindergartens offer both day care and an education programme. 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 maintenance institution 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 school-age students on 1 September of the same year. Completion of compulsory education commences on the first day of the school year. The new Act on General 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. The parents can apply for the exemption by 15 January of the school year. This regulation entered into force on 1 September, 2019. 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 student has the right:

  • to be educated in accordance with his/her abilities, interests, talents, and to further his/her 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 tot he child’s leisure time, physical activty needs, sports training and dining;
  • to receive an education that includes ther ethnical inheritance;
  • to attend to a government dependent (church) or government independent (private) kindergarten, primary or secondary school, dormitory, and to participate in Bible studies if he/she is a student in a public kindergarten or school;
  • tot he 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 ther 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 tot he 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.

From the 1. tot he 8. grade in schools, in minority education and care institutions and in special education institutions, the state ensures that textbooks are available free of charge to the student.

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. The successful completion of grade 8 provides basic qualification. After completing basic school, students may continue their studies in an upper-secondary school: in general secondary schools, upper secondary vocational schools, vocational schools, technical vocational schools or special vocational schools.

Secondary education

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

Bridge programmes last one or two years. The Public Education and Vocational Education Bridge Programmes help students in joining upper-secondary education, vocational education or entering the world of work, as well as in obtaining the knowledge required for starting an independent life. The Vocational Bridge Programme is a two-year training course, which culminates in a final exam and a compley professional exam with which the student obtains a partial qualification. The Vocational Bridge Programme is open to those who are no longer subjects to compulsory education and who have not reached the age of 23 by the time they enter the programme.

The aim of the General Education Bridge Programme is to help the student with a complex educational, social, cultural, ability and personality development. With this help, students can be admitted by upper-secondary institutions and can aquire the knowledge and competencies needed for independent life. The duration of this programme is usually 1 school year.

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 finish primary education with a lack of competence. Its task is not to replicate primary 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 aquisition of the profession.

The year of key competences – organized under the so-called ’Dobbantó Program’ – aims to provide an opportunity to find a successful individual life path for young people with behavioral and learning disabilities, or who are lagging behind in school system education, or aged 16-25 and have already dropped out of the system. The programme provides an opportunity to return tot he 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.

Young people who drop out of vocational training without a qualification, or who have obtained a primary qualification in the ’Dobbantó Programm’, but are unable to study in a classical school environment, are able to obtain a partial qualification at the so-called Workshop School. Workshop School replaces the low-effiniency Vocational Bridge Programme. In the Workshop School, the learning of the profession takes place at the site of the practical training. In these school, the aquirement 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 tot he partial qualification that the student aquires from his/her master. The teacher supports the education as a mentor.

A Workshop School is a form of training for a student to aquire the knowledge needed to engage in a vocational training or get a job. The programme is open for students who do not obtain a primary education certificate and have already completed the ’Dobbantó Program’, or who have a primary education certificate and have reached the age of 16. Students can aquire 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. Most often it lasts for 4 years, although it may also last 5 or 3 years.

The 3 main educational programmes following the basic education at the moment are: the upper secondary general school, upper secondary vocational, vocational  school and special vocational school programmes – which from September 1, 2020 will expand with the new special function in a phasing-out system. From among the 3 main programmes, the successful school leaving examination certificates obtained in the 4-year or 5-year upper secondary general school and upper secondary vocational school programmes entitles the holder to enter higher education. The 3-year vocational secondary school qualification ends with the school leaving certificate of a state accredited vocational qualification listed in the National Qualifications Register, but such students may not enter higher education. In this school type, students may stay for 2 more years and obtain a school leaving examination certificate for entering higher education. The new vocational training system (came into force in January, 2020 and will be introduced in the 2020/2021 academic year) includes the phasing out system of vocational schools and upper secondary vocational schools. New entrants can choose between two programmes: the 3 year long, differently structured and practiced training; or a 5 year long technical training.

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 and care 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 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 National Qualifications Register, offering professional theoretical and practical training. In the vocational grammar schools, vocational school leaving examination may be taken in relation to the vocational qualifications listed in the National Qualifications Register, and a specific vocational qualification may be obtained. (Upper-secondary vocational school programmes are phasing out from the 2020/2021 academic year.)

Vocational schools have five grades, of which three are vocational grades comprising the general subject training 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. In vocational schools, vocational training may be performed according to the vocational training framework curriculum for the vocational qualifications listed in the National Qualifications Register. The students having obtained a state accredited vocational qualification in vocational schools may decide to stay for the two other grades preparing them for the secondary school leaving examination. (Vocational school programmes are phasing out from the 2020/2021 academic year.)

Special vocational schools prepare the students who cannot keep up with other pupils due to their special educational needs for the vocational examination in order to provide education and training for students with special educational needs. In special vocational schools, vocational education is provided for the vocational qualifications listed in the National Qualifications Register – depending on the type of the special educational need – according to the vocational framework curriculum or the special framework curriculum. Further regulations concerning the preparation for the vocational examination are contained in the Act on Vocational Training. In the special vocational schools, the number of grades are determined in the special framework curriculum. (Special Vocational school programmes are phasing out from the 2020/2021 academic year.)

In the Technicum Schools from the new vocational training system 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 same curriculum from mathematics, Hungarian literature and language, history and 1 foreign language must be accquired in the same number of hours as in upper-secondary grammar schools. The education in these field subjects finishes with an 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 will be 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 exam certificate and a technical professional certificate, and it is even possible to obtain a language exam. Graduates of technical schools will 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 technical school programme.

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. At the end of their studies, students gain a vocational certificate by taking the professional exam. It is also possible to graduate with an upper-secondary grammar school leaving exam after an additional 2 years of studies in evening courses. Since both the new vocational school and the technicum school 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 differentiatial 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 technicum schools.

Adult, who want to learn a profession can apply for the 2-year long programme of the new vocational schools or tot he programmes of the technicum schools, 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 Act jointly stipulate the acknowledgement and admission 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. For instance, students with vocational qualification from a vocational school have the possibility to pursue studies in an upper secondary vocational school in a preparation programme to pass the secondary school leaving examination. At the same time, students with secondary school leaving examination from a general secondary school may obtain an NQR vocational qualification in a programme prolonged by one year. The system of the latter will be launch at the 2020/2021 academic year.

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 blue-collar, and in a larger volume for white-collar 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 in recent years.

Higher education institutions (universities, universities of applied sciences and colleges) offer a variety of tertiary programmes, including higher vocational education, Bachelor and Master or unified trainings, 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.

Besides tertiary vocational programmes, and Bachelor and Master programmes, higher education institutions also offer post-graduate specialisation courses. Doctoral programmes (PhD, DLA) exist as full-time or part-time programmes. Post-graduate specialist courses are mostly part-time programmes.

Vocational training in tertiary education 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 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 lead to the so-called ‘unified’ master’s degree. These include medical training (6 years), architect training (5 years), legal training (5 years), teacher training (5-6 years) 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.

One such programme introduced under the Public Education Act and Vocational Training Act is the Bridge Programme, which helps 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. Vocational Bridge Programmes will be expanded with new functions from September 2020, the detailed description of the new functions is in the sub-chapter on secondary education (2.3).

Those people are allowed to take part in adult education and training who have fulfilled compulsory school attendance. In Hungary, compulsory school attendance 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 grave 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 service centres. 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 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 provides development adjusted to special needs and education suited to school requirements as day-schools or boarding schools. These include schools established for the blind and deaf or conductive pedagogical institutions. These institutions also serve as special education methodology centres providing in-service training courses for special needs 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 general secondary schools, upper secondary vocational schools, vocational schools and special vocational schools. (From the 2020/2021 academic year new vocational schools and technicum 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 Master's degree programs, and at least two Bachelors degree in dual education if its operating license covers the field of technical, agrarian, natural, technical sciences or economics. Former larger colleges with more divided organizations have recently been transformed into universities of applied sciences. In these institutions at least forty-five percent of the educators and researchers have a scientific degree.

College is a higher education institution that has at least one third of its researchers or teachers employed in public service- or labour relationship, and its researchers have a scientific 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, 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.

It is up to the Educational Authority to decide whether the student can fulfil his/her compulsory education through an indicidual work schedule. In the case of an authorized application, the individual work schedule shall be provided.

During the procedure the discharge authority may contact the guardianship authority, the child welfare service, the school headmaster, or, in the case of a student under protection, the child protection guardian.

If an individual work schedule student fails to show up the Classification Examination twice or fails to meet the requirements for study twice, the school headmaster shall notify the discharge 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 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 professional 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.