New national core curriculum would extend elementary education to 9 years

August 16, 2017

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Photo: MTI/Noémi Bruzák

The new national core curriculum would extend primary education from eight to nine years, reports Magyar Nemzet.

The government decided last year to modify the national core curriculum (NAT), in part in response to the series of protests organized by the Tanítanék (I Would Teach) movement. One of the main questions regarding the new NAT is whether policymakers should seek to improve the existing structure or come up with a completely new one.

According to one of the proposed concepts, the elementary school system would be changed from the current 4+4 class (four elementary and four upper classes) system to a 6+3 class one. Drafters of the new NAT argue that a nine-class model “would strengthen small settlements, strengthen the ties between children and their settlements and would keep the parent society in place”. Many smaller settlements can only provide a kindergarten and four years of elementary education to children, either because there are not enough children in the settlement to maintain a complete elementary school or the settlement lacks the necessary funds to operate the four upper classes as well. Children living in such settlements often have to attend schools many kilometers away from their hometowns. This, in turn, erodes local communities and puts additional burdens on parents.

According to the new concept, children would be able to spend nine years in their local communities by attending kindergarten for three years and six years in the elementary school.  Thereafter they would attend so-called “school-center schools” where they could finish an additional three upper classes. Drafters argue that establishing school-center schools would improve the quality of education and “would ease the burdens of smaller settlements regarding [school] maintenance”. They further claim it “would make entering middle education, vocational schools and high schools easier, and make it possible to channel higher numbers of elementary school students into vocational training”.

The print daily claims the latter is the main motivation behind the planned restructuring of the elementary school system, since government officials have touted plans to decrease the number of university graduates to make way for vocationally trained workers – a fundamental idea of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s so-called “work-based society”.

The draft stresses that the new NAT would not see a further increase in curriculum, something that might be welcomed by pedagogues and parents alike, as according to some of them, the current curriculum already consists of too many subjects and activities that leave little time for play or creative activities. The NAT would also reconsider the “all-day school day”, a concept currently in effect that requires elementary school students to stay in school from 8 am to 4 pm every day.

The new NAT would also change the length of the school year, as Hungarian elementary school children spend much less time in school than many of their European counterparts and supervision of hundreds of thousands of children is not resolved as their parents work. The draft recommends the introduction of a one-week school holiday for students taking their final exams a week before the exam.

Former undersecretary and education policy expert of the Union of Pedagogues János Szüdi told Magyar Nemzet that a new NAT would not mean anything to schools, because according to the current legislation schools have to prepare their curriculum based not on the NAT but the general curriculum that is stipulated by the public education law. Szüdi said schools would only be able to “do something with the NAT” if the government changed the public education law as well.