Constitutional & Legal Foundations
Constitutional Provisions & Laws Affecting Education: An understanding of the laws and regulations that currently guide Hungarian education requires an understanding of the changes wrought by the imposition of the socialist system in 1948. The socialist government in the years following 1948 placed a great emphasis on education and significantly increased the number of schools, colleges, scientific institutes, and universities. They also made all the institutes of higher education separate and distinct from other institutions within the higher education community. Thus, for example, medical schools were separate institutions from law schools, which in turn were separate from technical schools, schools of veterinary medicine, teacher training colleges, art colleges, and physical education colleges. Yet all of these could be located in the same city and often on the same campus. At the highest level of the system were the Academies of Sciences that functioned as supreme educational, yet predominantly research institutes.
Reform of this system commenced in 1993 with the Law on Higher Education (Act LXXX). All education was placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (previously education had been the responsibility of five ministries). Two advisory bodies were formed to guide, and in some cases control, institutions and their curricula. These bodies were the Hungarian Accreditation Committee (HAC) and the Higher Education and Scientific Council (HESC). The law also established budgeting procedures for student support, facility support, program development, and research.
In 1996 the Law on Higher Education was amended to integrate postsecondary vocational institutions into an overall system of higher education. In addition the law proscribed what constituted a higher education degree namely:
- A 3- or 4-year degree (equivalent to an undergraduate degree)
- A 3-year doctoral program (The Ph.D.)
- A further 2-year program for a specialized postgraduate degree
This amendment also initiated the integration of the universities. The goal was to reduce the number of state institutions of higher education from 55 to 30 (17 universities and 13 state colleges). However many of the existing colleges refused to forgo their autonomy, and the process of integration was slow and resented.
Further amendments were made in 1999 (Act LII) to expedite this consolidation, and further proposals to amend the Act in 2000 were produced that would affect quality assurance, admissions to higher education, distance learning, the credit system, and regional cohesion.
Educational Philosophies: Since 1990, the Hungarian educational philosophy has been concerned with access, equality of opportunity, quality (or, given the standard of excellence prior to 1990, maintenance of quality), and applicability to the needs of the twenty-first century workforce and in particular to its integration into the European Union philosophy of educational development. The Ministry of Education in 2000 enunciated the following goals:
- To provide the opportunity of having access to educational institutions of guaranteed quality to every child and youth
- To make the standard and efficiency of the educational work visible to all partners and interested parties
- To improve the quality of the professional work of maintainers of schools and kindergartens
- To enhance the flexibility of the structure of training and its orientation towards the labor market in secondary vocational education
The educational policy of the Ministry of Education is based on three pillars, namely: strengthening the role of the state in the field of financing (increasing the ratio of state funding to local funding), supplementing the regulation of content by framework curricula, and developing the national system of assessment and quality control. As part of the latter, the COMENIUS 2000 Program for Quality Improvement in Public Education was launched in 2000.
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