Types of institutions
Upper secondary general schools provide general knowledge to students and prepare them for the secondary school-leaving examination and higher education studies.
General secondary education normally starts in grade 9 and finishes in grade 12. If education is provided in two languages - in Hungarian and in a foreign language or in the language of an ethnic minority - the programme starts with a preparatory year, so it is five-grade. Since 1991, longer secondary school programmes have been available covering 6 or 8 grades. These programmes start in grade 5 or 7 (ISCED 2) and finish in grade 12. In the 2021/2022 academic year, 44.7% of the student population studied in upper secondary general schools (KSH).
In 2022, the number of public educational institutions performing upper secondary general school duties was 881 (KSH) This is a network extensive enough for all young people to find an upper secondary general school nearby anywhere in Hungary (within a maximum of an hour’s travelling distance by public transport). Typically, every smaller town with a population of 8,000-10,000 and even some of the smaller towns have an upper secondary general school. There is no transport service for students but commuting is possible for almost everyone as a result of the extensive network of secondary schools and the availability of public transport services, while it is also possible to request a place in a dormitory. The total capacity of upper secondary grammar schools is far in excess of the number of students intending to enrol. One of the reasons behind this is the steady decreasing of the presence of the younger age groups.
Schools can offer dormitory places to most applicants although both demand and supply for dormitory capacities are decreasing.
Admission requirements and choice of school
The 2011 CXC. Act on Public Education guarantees free choice of school for all students. Parents are free to choose a pre-primary school, school or dormitory in accordance with the child's abilities, skills and interests, based on his or her own religious, ideological beliefs, and nationality. From the age of fourteen, if the child is not incapacitated, the parent may exercise that right jointly with the child.
However, with the exception specified by law, every upper secondary general school may determine admission requirements and may organise entrance examinations as determined by the relevant legislation (source: Act CXC /2011/ on public education, § 50). The school must publish the entrance requirements in its notice containing admission information at the time specified in the schedule of the school year. The upper secondary general school may request participation at a central written examination. Students are given the same tasks at this exam in Mathematics and Hungarian Language, which makes the results comparable. Entrance examinations, organised by the Educational Authority, can be taken in a secondary school chosen by the pupil.
In most upper secondary general schools, students are admitted based on their results achieved in primary school or the scores achieved at the written exam organised centrally by the Educational Authority using, standardised, competence-based tests. Students and parents have the right to view the results of the written tests and they may ask for reassessment.
Upper secondary general schools may organise oral entrance exams only if they require that students participate in the centrally organised written exam. The so-called ’oral exam’ usually means a conversation and not the testing of knowledge.
The administration of applications is processed by a central computer programme operated by the Educational Authority. Students may submit applications to several secondary schools indicating the order of priority. Information about admissions is provided by the computerised system based on the scores achieved at the entrance exam, the order of priority indicated by the student and the decision of the schools. Ultimately, the head of the school decides on the admission of students.
Legal redresses for applying to upper secondary schools are provided in the Decree 20/2012 of the Ministry of Human Capacities. In the procedure, pupils are represented by their parents. A complaint can be submitted on the evaluation of the central written exam, which the school is required to evaluate. The school shall reply to the complaint with a duly reasoned decision, within three working days after submission. If the parents disagree with the decision, they can appeal, which shall be addressed to the Educational Authority at the school that hosted the exam.
If application is rejected, the parent of the minor student may appeal against the decision. The request must be submitted to the maintainer of the school whose decision the student or, if he or she is a minor, the parent does not agree with.
Age levels and grouping of students
Students entering upper secondary general school education in grade 9 can start their studies at the age of 14. In practice, however, only one-third of grade 9 students are actually age 14, the larger part of them is generally age 15, those repeating a year are age 16. In 6-grade or 8-grade upper secondary general schools, students start their studies in grade 5 and grade 7 respectively. They are at least age 10 (typically 11) and 12 (typically 13) depending upon which programme they choose. The earliest age for completing the 4, 6, an 8-grade upper secondary general school programmes with upper secondary school-leaving examination is 18 years (typically 19 years) while this age is 19 years (typically 20 years) in bilingual programmes.
Annex 4 of the Act CXC of 2011 on Public Education regulates class size. The minimum number of students per class is 26, the maximum is 34 and the average (recommended) is 28 in upper secondary general schools. The maximum number of students may only be exceeded in a few cases determined by the Act.
The school determines the proportion of compulsory and non-compulsory subjects that can be held by dividing classes into smaller groups. Most commonly, the small group scheme is used for foreign language education (typically dividing the class into two groups). It may also occur that students of the whole year are divided into groups on the basis of their knowledge. Class divisions sometimes occur in other subjects as well.
Schools may also organise individual tutoring and small group sessions. This is typically provided by the school for talent support or to help disadvantaged pupils to catch up.
Schools aim at ensuring that teachers teach classes from the first grade to the last in their subjects. Students usually stay in the same class throughout grades 9-12 in general secondary schools. The grouping of students may vary for certain subjects - particularly on the basis of students’ knowledge - in the case of foreign language classes or on the basis of sex in the case of physical education classes.
Each class is provided a form teacher selected from the ones who are teaching that particular class. The form teacher is responsible for class administration and she/he organises all class-related matters (e.g. extra-curricular activities). He/she maintains the most intensive contact with parents through regular parent-teacher meetings, phone calls, e-mail messages and other paper-based or electronic platforms.
Organisation of the school year
The organisation of the school year is determined by the Minister responsible for education in a decree.
This is compulsory for all schools and for all maintainers. Based on this centrally established schedule, schools are authorised to set out the local schedule of the given school year, which is included in the school’s work plan. Decision on this is made by the school management after consulting the school board, the parents’ organisation and the student council.
The local schedule of the school year has to include the dates and use of workdays without teaching (the number of which is regulated by ministerial decree. In addition, the local schedule of the school year has to include the duration of holidays, the memorial days required by statutory provisions or determined by the school, the dates of national and school holidays, the dates of student assemblies as well as the dates for staff meetings. The school and the dormitory have to inform each other mutually about the local schedule of the school year.
Schools have to organise work in two semesters. The first and last days of the school year are determined by the ministerial decree. As a general rule, the school year starts on 1 September or the first working day of September and ends on 15 June, or if it is not a working day, on the working day preceding 15 June. The decree determines the number of actual school days (these changes between 179 and 182 days). The decree specifies that six or seven school days without teaching may be used for educational purposes. The programme of one day may be determined by the student council after consulting the teaching staff.
In a given school year, pupils must be provided with at least three holidays – two of which must be at least six consecutive days and one of which must be at least four consecutive days. The decree sets the dates for the autumn, winter and spring holidays. The school may determine different dates for such holidays but may not modify the start and end of the school year. The decree also determines the dates of the upper secondary school-leaving examinations and the National Assessment of Basic Competences.
Eurydice's European publication on the subject is available at the following link.
Organisation of the school day and week
Pursuant to law, school years consist of five-day school weeks in all schools (Act on National Public Education, 30. §). There is no teaching on Saturdays and Sundays. Pupils are entitled to school holidays on public holidays also. Following the last day of the school year, students have to be provided with a summer holiday of at least 30 consecutive days. The secretariats of schools are open on all working days during holidays for administrative purposes. On the request of the school board and the student council and in agreement with the maintainer, six-day school weeks may also be organised extending to Saturdays. In agreement with the maintainer, the school head may also order the organisation of a six-day school week but this form of education is rarely used.
The weekly and daily schedule of students is determined by the management of the school based on relevant regulations. This schedule is determined for one school year. During the planning phase, it has to be considered that the length of a class is usually 45 minutes. The school is free to organise shorter and longer classes (up to 60 minutes) but it is rare. Curricular activities may also take the form of project education (in addition to traditional classroom teaching), forest school and visits to museums, libraries or exhibitions.
Upper secondary general school education is typically organised in five-day weeks or, in exceptional cases, six-day weeks. It almost always takes place in the morning, usually between 8.00 and 14.00. However, schools may decide, to have classes starting at 7.15 at the earliest and afternoon classes after 14:00 with the consent of the parents’ organisation and the student council. Non-compulsory afternoon activities usually start after 14.30 with a compulsory lunch break provided before.
Students have to be provided with breaks between classes and extra-curricular activities. The timing of these as well as the start of the school day is determined by the internal regulations of schools. Breaks between classes typically last for 10 or sometimes 5/15 minutes; lunch breaks may last for 30 to 60 minutes.
The maximum number of compulsory classes per day is regulated by the National Core Curriculum. Grade 9-12 students may not have more than eight classes a day. They typically have six classes. It is not uncommon for students to be scheduled for seven classes per day, which can sometimes be eight hours in a day with optional and compulsory classes. The sum of the compulsory and optional teaching hours per week for students - in the ninth to thirteenth grades- may not exceed thirty-four hours.
Schools may also organise extra-curricular activities (afternoon clubs, study circles, sports, choir etc.) according to the needs and interests of students. Such activities are described in more detail in the school’s own pedagogical programme. Besides, homework clubs may be organised which are after-school programmes that provide a quiet, structured environment for students to do their homework.
A typical schedule of a 5-day working week:
Classes in the morning (from - until)
Classes in the afternoon (after lunch)
Monday to Friday
Optional 7.15-8.00 a.m.
8.00 a.m. - 2.00 p.m. (it may start at 7.15 a.m. and it may end at 1.00 p.m. or at 3.00 p.m.)
30 minutes -1 hour between 12.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m.
Optional, 1.00/2.00 - 2.00/3.00 p.m.
Optional, 2.30 - 6.00 p.m.
Typically, secondary schools have special classrooms dedicated to the instruction of a certain subject (such as Physics classroom, Chemistry classroom, Foreign Language classroom, etc.). In these cases, students go to these classrooms. On other occasions, however, they stay in their own classrooms where they spend a high number of hours per week.