Despite increased state funding of the education system, the performance of Hungarian students is getting worse, reports abcug.hu.
According to a recent European Commission report on Hungary’s public educational system, despite the government spending significantly more on education in the past three years than before, the number of dropouts and under-performing students increased.
Choosing work over school
Based on the report, while in 2013 the rate of dropouts (in the 18-24 age group) was 11.9 percent, in 2016 this rate increased to 12.4 percent. During the same period, the EU average decreased from 11.9 percent to 10.7 percent. The report found that the principal reason for the deteriorating Hungarian tendency is that the second Orbán government lowered the compulsory school age from 18 to 16 years in 2012. As a result, underprivileged youth tend to drop out of school in order to take public work instead, since the public worker wage is higher than the family allowance to which the unemployed parents of children in school are entitled.
Deteriorating performance and segregation
According to the report, in reading and natural sciences the performance of 15-year-olds has deteriorated. The rate of under-performing students increased from 19.7 to 27.5 percent in the former, and from 18 to 26 percent on the latter field respectively. Although the EU averages show a similar deteriorating tendency, they are still 4-6 percent ahead of the Hungarian result.
The report also finds that the Hungarian education system is getting more and more segregated. Despite the government centralizing the operation and control of schools with the establishment of the Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Centre (KLIK), the vast majority of Roma children still attend segregated schools. The failure of segregated education is shown by the high dropout rate among the Roma, at 59.9 percent, compared with 8.9 percent for non-Roma. The report adds that excursive education paths among students can part as early as the age of 10. The negative effect of this is clearly illustrated by the fact that 10th-grade vocational school students have on average a lower competency level than elementary school 6th graders.
The report welcomes the lowering of compulsory kindergarten age from 5 years to 3 and it argues that in the long run, this move will increase the children’s future school performance. The document also welcomes the fact that 91 percent of Roma children between the age of four and six are participating in pre-school education. This, the report adds, is the highest rate in the region.
The report acknowledges that the government has been increasing its education spending, from 4.6 percent in 2013 to 5.2 percent in 2015, which is higher than the EU average of 4.9 percent. However, it is worth noting that the government statistics on spending on education include EU grants.
Although the government does acknowledge the problem, the European Commission finds that it is still a major issue that the salary of Hungarian teachers is on average 30 percent lower than those with other degrees. On the other hand, the report states that the recent increase in the number of pedagogues who fall into the higher payment rating might encourage more people to become teachers.
Abcug.hu notes that the summary of the report published on the Hungarian government’s official website only lists the positive aspects. The Ministry of Human Resources interprets the findings in a way that suggests the conclusion is that the lives of children and teachers alike improved as a result of educational reforms undertaken during the second and third Orbán governments. For some reason, deteriorating performance of students and segregation are not mentioned in the government communiqué.