Types of institutions
The transformation of the vocational education and training system in 2020 created a new structure with a phasing out system from the 9th grade. The trainings for classes of the upper secondary vocational schools, of the secondary vocational schools and of the special vocation schools for SEN pupils are still working in a phasing out system. In 2022, approximately 56% of each age group study in VET.
Students graduating from upper secondary vocational schools obtain both a secondary school-leaving examination certificate and an ISCED 3 level vocational qualification, which entitles the holder to fill a specified number of jobs. Afterwards, an ISCED 4 level qualification can be obtained in one additional year of schooling if the student continues to study in the same trade and in an additional two years if he/she changes trade.
Vocational training schools (named vocational schools in the new system) end with an ISCED 3 level qualification (but only as a phasing-out programme). After finishing vocational school, students have the option to enter a two-year programme ending with an Upper Secondary School Leaving Examination.
After the completion of primary schools reserved for students with special educational needs, vocational training may be forthwith started in special vocational schools. However, this educational programme usually starts with a preparatory - orientation year. In these schools, students can train for the same qualifications as in vocational schools but these programmes also lead to partial qualifications. Thus, vocational schools for SEN students provide a vocational qualification at ISCED level 3, or a so-called partial qualification of these qualifications.
There are two types of school in the new school-based vocational education system, reformed in 2020:
Techicum: Based on economic feedbacks, instead of the upper secondary vocational school, the name „technicum” was introduced. This name is clearer, for many, it symbolizes quality vocational training even nowadays, this word may be more attractive to parents and students. As the name indicates, its graduates will be technicans. The uniform organization, the duality of training and the stronger connection to higher education justifies the change. The duration of the training in the technicum is 5 years. After the first two years of providing sectoral knowledge, dual training takes place in the second cycle. During the practical training period, the apprenticeship contract transforms into an employment contract, which provides the student the opportunity for income during the training. Students take their upper secondary school leaving examination from the four compulsory basic subjects, and the vocational examination of the technical vocational qualification will be their fifth subject. Thus, after a successful exam at the end of the grade 13, students receive two certificates of education; the upper secondary school leaving examination certificate and the certificate of the technical qualification. The knowledge, skills acquired in the technicums create an opportunity for graduates with good results to continue their studies in a similar sector in higher education taking into account the results of their vocational examination.
Vocational school: Recent periods made it clear that the name of upper secondary vocational school could not be interpreted by the students, parents, employers, so in the following, the name of this type of school is vocational school. The duration of the training in the vocational school is 3 years. After the first year of providing sectoral knowledge, dual training takes place in the next two years mainly within the framework of an employment contract. After graduation, the opportunity to obtain the upper secondary school leaving examination certificate or even the certificate of the technical qualification is open here as well.
In addition to the two new types of institutions, several programmes were introduced in 2020 with the aim to support career choices, vocational training and access to upper secondary education.
Orientation year, the introduction of the opportunity for a preparatory year to develop competences for those young people who are unsure about their career choice or finished basic school with a lack of competence. Its task is not to replicate basic school curricula, but to develop competences based on a previous assessment. The condition of entering a vocational school is that the student must possess the basic competencies, which are essential for the acquisition of the profession.
Springboard Programme is an organized developmental year of the basic competences, which aims to provide an opportunity -for 16-25-year-olds with behavioural and learning difficulties, who are lagging behind in education, or have already dropped out from the system- to find the way to a successful life path, that leads back to the world of education or work.
In the School Workshop Programme, those young people can obtain partial qualification who would drop out and leave initial vocational education and training without qualification, or obtained a basic qualification in the Springboard programme, but unable to study in a classical school setting. In the school workshop, the learning takes place at the site of the practical training. In the school workshop, the achievement of the qualification is not tied to an academic year, but takes at least half a year. There are no general knowledge 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.
In addition to the change in the institutional structure, the rationalization and simplification of the National Vocational Qualification Register is also part of the transformation of the IVET system. The NVQR has been replaced by the Register of Vocational Occupations, introduced in 2020 in a phasing-out system.
In initial vocational education and training, 238 different professions are taught in 381 member institutions within the framework of 46 VET Centres, maintained by the Ministry of Culture and Information. The number of full-time students exceeds 170,000. Considering the proportion of the maintainers, the church involvement in the IVET is 11%, and foundation and other maintenance in the vocational training is 5%. (source: ikk.hu)
This does not mean, of course, that everyone will find a broad range of vocations available in vocational schools in the vicinity of their places of residence. Nonetheless, the sectoral programmes and ‘basic’ qualifications involving the largest numbers of students are accessible in more than one institution in every county in Hungary. Overall, the capacities of vocational educational institutions far exceed demand since the number of students been steadily decreasing for decades.
Those who do not find programmes suiting their preferences near their places of residence may either choose a less attractive programme that is still accessible from home or they might stay in a dormitory (typically from Mondays to Fridays). The schools (or their maintainers) can offer dormitory accommodation for most of those in need although both supply and demand for dormitories is decreasing.
Some of the students oriented towards special vocational schools do not find such institutions near their places of residence so they have to live in student dormitories. There are only few places in Hungary - apart from Budapest - where there is a choice between at least two special vocational schools within a relatively small distance, i.e. a somewhat wider choice for students in need of such education.
Admission requirements and choice of school
The 2011 CXC. Act on National Public Education provides the freedom of choice regarding schools for all students. A student may submit his/her application to any number of courses of any number of secondary institutions (upper secondary general schools, technicums, vocational schools) in an order of priority. Popular vocational educational schools, especially technicums in high demand, may determine the admission requirements and may hold entrance exams in line with legal regulations (decrees) (Act CXC of 2011 on National 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. To the most vocational schools, students are admitted based on their results achieved in single structure school but, in some techicums, the scores achieved in the written examination involving centrally issued, standardised, competence-based tests play a key role in determining admittance. All students participating in the central written entrance exam in Hungarian Language and Literature and Mathematics receive the same tasks, which makes the results comparable. Students and parents have the right to view the results of the written tests and they may ask for reassessment if needed.
The administration of applications and admissions are carried out by a centralised computer system ran by the Educational Authority. The system provides information on admission in view of the order of priority based on the entrance examination results and the schools’ decision. Ultimately, it is the school head who makes the decision on applications.
Legal redresses regarding application to upper secondary vocational schools, technicums and vocational schools are set in the Ministry of Human Capacities Decree 20/2012. In the proceedings, minor pupils are represented the 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, and submitted at the school which hosted the exam.
Although vocational schools may determinate the admission requirements, the majority of families would like to send even their modestly performing children to upper secondary general schools or technicums, only a smaller number of young people submit their applications to vocational schools. Most typically those who have been denied admission to upper secondary general schools or technicums.
Young people are admitted to special vocational schools based on the decisions taken by expert committees establishing special educational needs and/or disability rather than on the basis of individual decisions.
After the completion of single structure school, over one-third of students continue their studies in technicums, nearly one-third of them in vocational schools (Charts (STADAT) yearly data – education).
Suitability for the given trade as well as an adequate health status are among the prerequisites for enrolment to vocational schools.
Age levels and grouping of students
Students entering vocational education and training may start their secondary studies at the age of 14 (in grade 9). In practice, however, since the majority of children do not start single structure school at the age of 6 but at the age of 7 and because quite a number of the students (persistently above 20%) entering vocational education institutions, has repeated a grade or two in single structure school, only about a quarter or a fifth of 9th graders are actually 14 years old. The majority are 15 and some of them are 16 years old.
The placement of the student into a class or group is decided by the specialised professional working group, or if they are not available, by the school head with the opinion of the teaching staff. The class size is maximum 32 students, which can be exceeded by up to twenty percent with the permission of the maintainer. The maximum number of group members of the specialized education in the VET institution is 16. The minimum number is determined by the maintainer.
The school determines the percentages of mandatory and elective classes where class splitting is applied. Foreign language classes are most often organised in smaller groups - dividing classes typically into two groups. The teaching of other subjects may also be organised in divided classes from time to time. Activities may also be organised for individual students as well as for small groups. This may be provided with the purpose of talent support or - particularly in vocational schools - for enabling disadvantaged and lagging students to catch up with the rest of the class.
Organisation of the school year
In the VET institution, the schedule of the school year corresponds with those laid down in the decree of the Minister responsible for education with regard to public educational institutions. Based on that, the VET institution sets out the annual work plan.
The dates of working days without teaching (the number of which is regulated by the Minister’s decree) along with the purposes for which such days are used. The durations of breaks, the dates of anniversary/commemoration days prescribed by law and those specific to the given school, the dates of celebrating national and school holidays, the dates of student assemblies as well as the dates of teachers’ meetings must be specified in the local schedule of the school year. The school and the student dormitory must mutually notify one another about the adopted local schedule of the given school year.
Schools must organise their work in the framework of school years split into two semesters (terms). The first and last school days of each school year are always determined by the Minister’s relevant decree. As a general rule, the school year starts on the first day or on the first workday of September and it finishes on the 15th of June or, if that is not a workday, on the last workday preceding the 15th of June. The decree determines the actual number of school days.
The students – as specified in the schedule of the school year – should be provided with at least three holiday periods of minimum six consecutive days and in certain cases, as specified in the Government Decree, with an extraordinary break should be granted. In the period after the last day of the school until the end of the school year a summer break of at least thirty consecutive days must be granted. The decree sets out the dates of the autumn, winter and spring breaks. Under certain conditions, schools may differ from this but they cannot modify the starting and closing dates of the school year.
The Minster responsible for education has published the dates of vocational and qualification examinations for secondary vocational schools and upper secondary vocational schools on the website of the Educational Authority by the last working day of September 2021.
Organisation of the school day and week
According to a central regulation (Act on National Public Education), school year consists of five-day school weeks. Saturdays and Sundays are rest days with no classes held. Students are also entitled to rest days (with no classes) on public holidays. The last day of the school year must be followed by a summer vacation of at least 30 consecutive days. Schools are open on all weekdays throughout the calendar year - even during teaching holidays and the summer vacation as well when an administrative stand-by type of work schedule is adopted. At the request of the school board and the Student Council, school weeks may be organised on six days a week with the agreement of the organisation maintaining the school. In such cases, school days include Saturdays as well. This solution, however, is not typically adopted.
In the VET institutions, general education conducted according to the general knowledge framework curriculum based on NCC.
The duration of the vocationally oriented training is eight hours per day, and if the student is a young employee, it may not exceed seven hours per day. The student or the person participating in the training may not attend vocationally oriented training exceeding the indicated daily hours. Daily vocationally oriented training must be organised between 6.00 a.m. and 10.00 p.m. There should be a continuous rest period of at least sixteen hours between the completion of the vocationally oriented training and the beginning of the following day's training or general education.
The student or the person participating in the training within the vocationally oriented education, should be provided with an uninterrupted break of thirty minutes if the duration of the education exceeds the four and a half hours, and with an uninterrupted break of forty-five minutes if it exceeds six hours.
Schools organise non-compulsory (optional) classes in line with the interests and needs of their students for a variety of purposes such as catching up, development, talent support, consultation or transferring special or supplementary knowledge elements. Schools may organise extracurricular activities as well (study circles, self-educational circles, sports circles, choirs etc.) in accordance with students’ needs, interests and the school’s own pedagogical programme. Such activities include the so called ‘tanulószoba’, which means an after-school learning activity providing an organised setting for students to do their homework and prepare for classes. Schools can organise it if required by the parents concerned.
Decisions on the students’ daily and weekly time schedules are made by the school’s management board based on the regulations in force. This is reflected in the weekly and daily timetables. Such schedules are always prepared for the given school year. The timetable is to be prepared in view of the fact that the length of a theoretical lesson is usually 45 minutes. Schools may organise shorter or longer lessons as well (not exceeding 60 minutes) but this is rarely encountered in practice. Practical training is comprised of 60-minute classes. In artistic vocational training, the maximum length of classes may as well be 90 minutes. However, when calculating students’ workload, it should be taken into consideration that lessons typically last for 45 minutes. Theoretical training may last from 8.00 a.m. until 7.00 p.m. Artistic vocational training grades are an exception to this rule where theoretical classes may last until 8.00 p.m.
Theoretical education in vocational schools is typically organised in 5-day working weeks, nearly always in the morning hours, generally between 8.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. With the agreement of the parents’ organisation and the student government, schools may add a so-called ‘zero hour’ class to their work schedules which may not start earlier than 7.15 a.m.
A typical schedule of a system based on a 5-day working week – theoretical lessons
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.)
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.