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Education in Hungary

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Education in Hungary

Education in Hungary
Ministry of Human Resources
State Secretary for Education
Zoltán Balog
Rózsa Hoffmann
General details
Primary languages Hungarian
System type Central
October 26, 1995
September 1, 1998
Literacy (2003)
Total 99.4
Male 99.5
Female 99.3
Total 1,877,500
Primary 886,500
Secondary 570,000
Post secondary 421,000
Secondary diploma 86
Post-secondary diploma 14

This article is about education in Hungary particularly the organization of the education system which shows similarities with Central European and ex-socialist countries.


  • The social environment of education 1
  • School system in Hungary 2
    • Hungarian education and training programmes (ISCED-97) 2.1
    • Organization of the educational system 2.2
    • Pre-primary education 2.3
    • Primary education 2.4
    • Secondary education 2.5
      • New secondary form until the school year of 2004/2005 2.5.1
    • Higher education 2.6
    • Vocational schools 2.7
  • Foreign students in Hungary 3
    • Preparatory courses 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Sources 6
  • External links 7

The social environment of education

The decline of Hungary's population that started in 1981 has also continued in recent years. According to the 2001 census, the population of Hungary was 10,198,000, about half a million less than the figure of twenty years earlier. By 2005 the population dropped to 10,077,000. The age pyramid of the Hungarian population is among the most irregular ones in Europe. On 1 January 2005, due to the extremely low number of live births in the preceding years the size of the 0-4-year-old population was smaller than the next age groups of five-year increments up to the age group 60-64. There are major differences in the size of the various generations.

The official language of instruction is Hungarian, but a number of ethnic and national minorities (e.g. German, Romanian, Slovene, Serb and Croatian) have minority educational institutions with their own languages as first or second language of instruction at primary and secondary level of teaching. According to the 2003 survey, the rate of Romani children in the population entering school education in 2008-2009 is expected to be around 15%.[1]

School system in Hungary

A special feature of the Hungarian education system is that institutional structures and the structure of educational programmes are not aligned with each other. The system's institutional structure and the presence of programmes allowing early selection show similarities with Central European and ex-socialist countries. The system's content structure, the uniform and general phase of education has extended, and secondary level education may be characterised by increased opportunities for transition. The general phase of education lasts until the age of 16 in Hungary's education system. Participation in secondary education, offering a wide variety of programmes, is fairly high. Within secondary education, the proportion of students studying in programmes leading to a secondary school-leaving certificate and offering transition to tertiary education is around the international average.[2]

Hungarian education and training programmes (ISCED-97)

Institutional setting of programme Programme destination and orientation Notes
Pre-school 0 School-based programme for children aged 3–7. Includes basic skills development, pre-reading, drawing, singing, and school preparation.
General school 1AG General school primary level, Grades 1-4.
2AG General school lower secondary level, Grades 5-8.
Vocational training school (Apprenticeship training) 2BG Remedial programme for drop-outs and low achievers that provides a second chance for further education
2CV Vocational training school programmes preparing qualifications for trades identified in the National Register of Vocational Qualifications that do not require the completion of 10 years of general education for entry
3CG Vocational training school, Grades 9-10. General subject courses with vocational guidance preparing students for entering into programmes that require 10 years of general education
3CV 3-year apprenticeship training programmes according to the Education Act of 1985 starting after grade 8 of the general school. 1997/98 was the last year of new enrollments, because the new law does not allow dualsystem vocational education before age 16.
4CV Post-secondary vocational programmes where the entry requirement is the completion of secondary education
Special vocational training school 2CP Basic skills and labour market oriented development programme for students with special educational needs
General secondary school 2AG Grades 5-8, and 7-8 of the eight-grade and six-grade general secondary school
3AG General secondary education, grades 9-12 preparing students for secondary school final examination
Vocational secondary school 3AP Vocational secondary school programmes preparing students for secondary school final examination with pre-vocational elements, Grades 9-12 (13).
3BP Vocational secondary part-time programmes, Grades 9–12 (13) preparing for secondary school final examination with pre-vocational programme elements
4AG General secondary programme preparing for secondary school final examination for vocational training school graduates (3CV)
4CV Post-secondary vocational programmes where the entry requirement is a secondary school-leaving certificate
5B Non-university higher vocational training programmes leading to non-graduate vocational qualifications with credit courses acknowledged in higher education
College, university 5A College graduate education and post-graduate specialisation programmes, University graduate education, University supplementary (Master) programme for college graduates, Supplementary teacher training programme for engineers graduated incollege education, University post-graduate specialisation programme for university graduates
University 6 PhD courses, research work and dissertation DLA, doctoral degree in liberal arts

Source: Statistical Yearbook of Education 2002/2003, OM, 2003.

Notes: Destination for which the programmes have been designed to prepare students: A=access to further general education, B=access to further vocational education, C=access to the labour market. Orientation category is based on the degree to which content of programme has been specifically designed: G=general, P=pre-vocational, V=vocational.

Organization of the educational system

Pre-primary education

This educational level is considered as a crucially important integrated part of the school system. It caters for children from 3 to 7 years of age. Participation in pre-primary education at this level (kindergarten) is optional, except for the final year (beyond age 5), which is compulsory.

Public-sector institutions may only charge for services additional to their basic tasks, including for example extracurricular activities, meals, excursions, etc. Currently, the attendance rate with regard to the age groups 3-5, is just above 86%. The average duration of participation of children aged 3–7 in pre-primary education is just over 3 years (3.3), which is the highest average value in Europe.[3]

A Hungarian pre-school class having outdoor activities, March 2007.

In Hungary a kindergarten is called an óvoda ('place for caring'). Children attend kindergarten between ages 3–6/7 (they go to school in the year in which they have their 7th birthday). Attendance in kindergarten is compulsory from the age of 3 years, though exceptions are made for developmental reasons.[4] Though kindergartens may include programs in subjects such as foreign languages and music, children spend most of their time playing. In their last year children begin to be prepared to attend elementary school.

Most kindergartens are state-funded. Kindergarten teachers are required to have a diploma.

Primary education

Children start primary school when they reach school-maturity, usually in the year in which they have their 6th birthday (7th if they were born after May 31).

Primary education can last for 4, 6 or 8 years. 8-year education is the most widespread; the other two options were introduced in the early 1990s.

Subjects include literature, grammar, mathematics, music, art, Physical education, environmental studies (from 1st to 5th grade), biology (from 6th grade), geography (from 6th grade), history (from 5th grade), history of art, physics (from 6th grade), chemistry (from 7th grade), one or two foreign languages (usually English, German or French). Before 1990, Russian was compulsory.

Secondary education

Secondary education usually lasts for 4 years. In gimnáziums it can also last for 5, 6 or 8 years depending on how many years the student spent in primary school. Since 1997 the numbering of years in secondary school are following that of primary school (i. e. after the 8th grade of primary school the student goes to 9th grade, which is actually the 1st year of secondary school.)

There are three kinds of secondary schools:

  • Gimnázium (non-vocational; prepares students for higher education; teaches at least 2 foreign languages)
  • Szakközépiskola (secondary vocational school. It also provides a "secondary school leaving examination" opening higher education curriculum. )
  • Szakmunkásképző Szakiskola (vocational school. It also offers "bridge" programs to help low achieving students in primary school to catch up and join the usual vocational school curriculum)[5]

After finishing secondary school, students take a school-leaving exam (Matura or final exam, érettségi in Hungarian). This consists from 2005 of exams on five subjects: written exam in mathematics, oral and written exams in literature and grammar, a foreign language, history, and written and/or oral exam in a subject of the student's choice. These exams also serve as an entry exam to universities and colleges.

New secondary form until the school year of 2004/2005

Many of the gimnáziums have begun to teach a foreign language intensively (usually 12-14 lessons a week) and IT (usually 3-4 lessons a week) in the first year. This is called nyelvi előkészítő évfolyam, literally "Language training class", or simply nulladik évfolyam (literally "0th grade"). After 2005, students will have less foreign language lessons and IT.

At schools where there is no nulladik évfolyam (beginners classes), they may be required to introduce them because the majority of Hungarians do not speak more than one language, or only speak their parents language or dialect. Most students will finish High School at the age of 18 or 19, or when they complete Year 13.

Those who had at least an intermediate level language exam weren't required to pass a language exam at Matura, but has become compulsory since 2006. In language training classes, a student must pass an intermediate level language exam in the second year, and the same level Matura in the third year.

Higher education

Higher education in Hungary dates back to 1367 when Louis the Great founded the first Hungarian university in the city of Pécs.[6][7]

Higher education is divided between colleges and universities. College education generally lasts for 4 years, while university education lasts for 4 to 6 years depending on the course undertaken. Vocational curriculum usually last 2 years: they are opened to secondary vocational school's graduates, and eventually vocational school students (after 5 years of work in the desired field or after a two year program leading to a "secondary school leaving certificate").[5] University PhD courses usually take 3 years to complete.

Before students get their degree, they must pass an intermediate level language exam in the foreign language of their choice. English and German are the most popular. The number of Spanish-learners has been growing in the last few years. Recently a high number of students chose Esperanto and Romani languages. The latter is said to have a relatively small vocabulary and easy grammar.

Vocational schools

This school type (in Hungarian: szakiskola) typically provides general and pre-vocational education in grades 9 and 10, normally followed by three or two years of VET. At the end of their studies, students will acquire a qualification (ISCED 2C or mostly 3C).[8]

Foreign students in Hungary

Hungary attracts foreign students from both EU and non-EU countries. Three quarters of the students arriving to Hungary arrive from just ten countries, while one quarter of the students arrives from another 100 countries. Among the countries sending most students are Germany, Iran, Norway, Israel and Sweden, while the majority of guest students are citizens of the neighbouring countries. In the 2008/2009 academic year, the total number of foreign students studying in Hungary was 16 916, while this number was only 14 491 in 2005/2006.[9] The figures increases because of the following advantages:

  • Hungary offers affordable tuition fees and living costs in European Union and Schengen area;
  • Number of Nobel Prize Winners and scientific inventors got their education here;
  • Easier admission procedure and less documents for getting acceptance;
  • Hungary offers different type of scholarships for foreigners;
  • The cost of student accommodation in Hungary is lower than most Western European Countries and Scandinavia.[10]
  • Lots of education programmes are offered in English and German languages;
  • Hungarian embassies issue education visas easier than other European Union and Schengen Member States;
  • Residence permit issued in Hungary for foreign students allows them to travel to other Schengen countries without any visa;
  • Number of low costs flights connect Hungarian cities to other countries and popular travel destinations;
  • Employment opportunities in European Union during education years and after graduation, etc.[11]

Preparatory courses

Students interested in continuing their studies in Hungary will find preparatory courses in numerous universities from Debrecen to Budapest, from Budapest to Szeged, from Szeged to Pécs.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Medgyesi, M. (2007). The socio-economic environment of education. In Loboda, Z., Lannert, J. and Halász, G. (ed.) Education in Hungary 2006. Budapest: Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Development.
  2. ^ Imre, A. and Györgyi, Z. (2007). The educational system and the progression of students. In Loboda, Z., Lannert, J. and Halász, G. (ed.) Education in Hungary 2006. Budapest: Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Developmen
  3. ^ National summary sheets on education systems in Europe and ongoing reforms. (2006) Brussels: Eurydice.
  4. ^ Hungary lowers mandatory school age to three
  5. ^ a b UNESCO-UNEVOC (27 October 2013). "Vocational Education in Hungary". Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Magyarország első egyeteme. PTE
  7. ^ University of Pécs
  8. ^ Tempus: Studying in Hungary - Education system
  9. ^ An increasing number of foreign students each year
  10. ^ "Student accommodation costs in Budapest"
  11. ^ Why to study in Hungary?
  12. ^ University preparatory courses


  • Number of enrolled students
  • About educational attainment (data from 2000)
  • About the educational budget (Hungarian only)

External links

  • Ministry of Education (in Hungarian and English)
  • Hungary's profile at
  • Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Development (in Hungarian and English)
  • Education in Hungary 2006
  • Hungarian Education (OSEAS)
  • Preparatory programs in Hungary (CBS-CEIC)
  • The social and political history of Hungarian education
  • - Education, culture
  • Information on education in Hungary, OECD - Contains indicators and information about Hungary and how it compares to other OECD and non-OECD countries
  • Diagram of Hungarian education system, OECD - Using 1997 ISCED classification of programmes and typical ages. Also in Hungarian
  • Vocational Education in Hungary, country profile - UNESCO-UNEVOC(2013)
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