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Education and SchoolsBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Hungary - Education and Schools
Hungarian students are eligible for formal education at three years of age. The state requires all students to begin kindergarten by age six. This helps prepare the pupil for the advanced academic demands they will meet in elementary school, high school and eventually university.
The official language in the school curriculum is Hungarian. However, expats can find schools where English and German are spoken as a second language. Remember, expat students in public schools are required to learn and speak Hungarian at least 20 hours a week.
Public Versus Private Schools
Expats have the option to take their children to either public or private schools. State schools and private learning institutions offer the same quality of education to students. The major difference is that public schools are funded by the state, and therefore offer free primary education. However, only Hungarian citizens are allowed to study for free. Expat parents are required to pay for tuition.
All public schools teach in Hungarian, which can create a language barrier for expat students. Fortunately, the same public schools also offer language classes to international students, and will encourage them to speak the local language during their stay in Hungary.
Private schools charge tuition fees to all students. However, the Hungarian government regulates the fees charged by private schools. This makes private schools in Hungary a bit cheaper when compared to international schools from other countries in the world.
Kindergarten Or Nursery?
Nursery or óvoda is mandatory for children aged six years and above. It is also possible to enroll your child at the age of three years. Students spend four hours a day in nursery classes, where they prepare for life in primary school. Hungary has both state and privately owned kindergartens.
Primary schools in Hungary are known as általános iskola. They provide basic education which lasts between eight and 10 years. Primary schools are divided into two sections: the lower level, which comprises of classes one to four; and the upper level, which comprises of classes four to eight. Once a student completes their eight years in primary school, they are free to decide if they want to proceed to high school, vocational training or college. All students in Hungary are required to have completed primary schooling by the age of 16.
Secondary schooling is optional for both expat and Hungarian-born students. Secondary schools teach a four-year curriculum that offers an intensive learning process to students. This is done to prepare students for university. Note that students can join high school after sitting for the fourth-grade exams in primary school.
Some secondary schools in Hungary may require the students to be bilingual. This means that as well as English, students will must also speak Hungarian. At the end of the curriculum, students will sit for a final examination that qualifies them for university education. The exams test three key subjects, which are mathematics, history and Hungarian. Students are then required to choose an elective subject. This can be chemistry, geography, physics, biology or another language.
After secondary school, students are free to pursue university, college, or vocational training. About 70 percent of Hungarian students are admitted to higher education.
Vocational schools or szakközépiskola are by far the best institutions for higher learning in Hungary. They not only provide students with an advanced level of schooling, they also prepare them for the job market. Vocational schools also provide the mandatory university entrance qualification known as matura.
Students spend a maximum of 32 hours a week in vocational classes. About 50 percent of these hours are spent learning general knowledge. Around 30 percent is spent learning the theory side of the job market, and finally 20 percent is spent in job placements, gaining working experience. By the third or fourth year of vocational training, students are qualified to join the job market.
Vocational schools are divided into three categories: technical training schools, skilled worker schools, and mid-vocation education institutions. Technical schools offer diplomas on subjects such as mechanics, biomechanics and energy engineering. Skilled worker schools teach hands-on subjects such as agriculture and the manufacturing industry. Mid-vocation schools teach curriculums that involve the service sector such as transport, trade and postal services.
Trade schools are like vocational schools, but more specialized. These schools train students solely to become skilled workers. Students spend four years in trade school learning both the theoretic and practical sides of being a skilled worker. Trade schools are also more specific in how they enroll new students. They only take students who have excellent grades and for whom they will be able to find job placements. Trade schools also have connections with companies that will help in getting job placements for students.
University And Colleges
There are over 62 higher learning institutions in Hungary. About 26 of these are religious colleges, 13 are state colleges, six are private foundations for higher learning and 17 are state universities. The university curriculum tends to focus more on theory and less on practical work. In contrast, colleges dive more into practical subjects. Students also need less time to graduate from colleges than universities.
The academic year at the university level is divided into two semesters. The first semester starts in September and lasts for 15 weeks. Students are engaged in lectures, seminars and eventually work placements during this period. They will then have six weeks to prepare for the examination period at the end of the semester. The second semester starts in February and lasts until May.
Hungarian universities and colleges now use the European Credit Point System (ECTS) to grade the performance of students. Each academic year has a total of 60 credit points. These points are earned through class attendance and extra-curricular involvement of the student.
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