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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Single-structure primary and lower secondary education


5.Single-structure primary and lower secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

The General Profile of Basic Education

In Hungary, the 8-grade single-structure primary school comprises the institution of basic (primary and lower secondary) education. In these schools, basic education is performed according to unified requirements. This type of school is designed to ensure that pupils can prepare, in compliance with their abilities, interest and faculties, for further education at the institutions of secondary schooling.

In Hungary, all children must take part in institutional education and complete compulsory education. Compulsory education starts in the calendar year when the child turns 6 until that year’s 31 August, but not more than one year later, and ends when the pupil turns 16. Children can stay in kindergarten for another year if the expert committee recommends so. In this case the child reaches school-age when the additional year has lapsed. Children begin to fulfil their obligation to compulsory education on the first day of the school year. If a child reaches the stage of development necessary to pass to school earlier than the age of 6, the Educational Authority (on expert opinion) may, at the parent’s request, allow the child to go to school before turning 6.

The basic education phase consists of two stages: the primary phase (grades 1 to 4) and the lower secondary phase (grades 5 to 8). The educational institution is accountable for the arrangement of child and pupil protection, the creation of healthy and safe conditions for education and teaching, and for organising regular medical examination of children and pupils, in particular the medical examination comprising of dentistry, ophthalmology and general examination of children at least once every year, until the end of compulsory education.

Hungary’s public education system is characterised by the fact that, for pupils with special educational needs, compulsory education can be completed in general primary schools in integrated education or in special schools specialising in children with special educational needs, depending on what the child's need for education justifies. The institutional network of special schools functions in parallel with that of “mainstream” schooling. For more information, see Chapter 12.

Legal Framework

Based on the Fundamental Law of Hungary, the principle of shared responsibility applies in public education-related legislation. The Fundamental Law declares that by extending and generalizing public education, Hungary guarantees to all of its citizens the right to education, the freedom of learning, and - in the manner prescribed by law - the financial support of beneficiaries of education and the freedom of teaching. Under the provisions of the Fundamental Law, primary education is free and compulsory.

Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education serves as the principal law of public education in Hungary, covering the most important fields of operation of the public educational system. The Act regulates how and under what conditions children can start primary schooling and also sets the characteristics of the institutional system of public education, the rights and obligations of those participating in education, the possibilities of and restrictions on state and operator’s governance, and it also provides for the issues of financing. The financial regulations for the operation of schools are contained in the current Budget Law.

Acts are followed by government decrees in the legal hierarchy. A part of them regulates the implementation of the Public Education Act, such as Government Decree 229/2012 (VIII.28.) on the Implementation of Act on National Public Education or Government Decree 110/2012 (VI.4.) on the Issuance, Introduction and Implementation of the National Core Curriculum, the main legal instrument to regulate the content of public education.

Strategic and operational regulatory documents (pedagogical program, organizational and operational regulations, work plan, policy) of professionally autonomous public education institutions implement regulation at the institutional level.