Textbook distribution in Hungary to undergo yet another overhaul

April 10, 2015


Hungarian schools can now start ordering textbooks for the 2015-16 school year but the textbook ordering and distribution will change . . . again.

Virtually every aspect of Hungary’s textbook industry was nationalized in 2013 following the government’s centralization of textbook ordering and distribution the previous year. A Hungarian state-owned enterprise was made responsible for packaging and distributing textbooks to schools but its first year proved to be full of headache. Many students did not get their textbooks on time and the centrally compiled textbook bundles often did not contain all the books they needed.  Furthermore, there was no way for students to officially order missing books directly from the publisher.

The government’s intention in 2013 was to centrally plan and distribute the textbooks for each student at every Hungarian school.  The textbook system will now change in a way that runs counter to this.

Zsolt Tőczik, president of the state-owned enterprise responsible for planning and distributing the books, announced at a press conference Wednesday that the responsibility for assembling the textbook bundles would once again be assigned to the schools themselves. The bundles will be ordered for each student, but instead of being delivered separately to each student, the textbooks will now be shipped directly to each school where they are to be compiled for each student.  Those doing the work are to be paid HUF 300 (USD 1.09) for each bundle of books compiled.

Tőczik said the goal of the new plan was to ensure the proper count, quality and timely distribution of textbooks.

Instead of charging the students in advance for the books they have ordered, the national textbook company will only charge for books that have been delivered. (Since 2013, one of the many problems with the nationalized textbook industry is that students ended up paying for books they never received).

Judit Czunyiné Bertalan, state secretary for public education, says the newest system will have the following benefits:

  • Schools will have more time, specifically 30 days, to order textbooks.
  • The online system for ordering textbooks has been simplified.
  • Textbooks will be 20 percent cheaper. The average price for a student’s textbook bundle will cost HUF 12,000 (USD 43).
  • The first three grades of elementary school will get their books for free and low-income families with children in grades four and higher will be entitled to receive a discount.

The Education and Development Institute will allow for new textbooks to be used for free, which teachers will then critique.

Unlike last year, this year’s textbook list will not feature a list of “state recommended textbooks”. Czunyiné Bertalan says the online textbook ordering system will have a list of books that are compatible with the national curriculum. The number of books from which teachers may select has decreased from 4,000 last year to 2,700 this year.

Ordering the mandatory faith studies and ethics studies books was complicated last year and caused numerous problems, so the national textbook company simplified the process and now indicates which books are supported by which nationally recognized church.

Referenced in this article:

Újra az iskolák állítják össze a tankönyvcsomagokat, Index.hu; 8 April 2015.