MSZP’s new strategy: Public education reform

I would like to talk a bit more about Attila Mesterházy’s article in yesterday’s Népszabadság where he outlined changes that in the party leadership’s opinion are vital in order to rectify Viktor Orbán’s mistakes.

There are so many problems with Viktor Orbán’s vision of the future that one doesn’t even know where to begin. But here let’s focus on education. It is a well established fact that in today’s society, especially in countries that are poor in natural resources or are not flush with ready capital, the best investment a government can make is in education. It is also becoming evident that old-fashioned teaching methods are ineffective in the twenty-first century.

Viktor Orbán has definite ideas about the role of education in Hungarian society. He envisages a small, highly educated elite, let’s say 12-15% of the adult population. The rest of the population ought to be satisfied with a high school education or even less. In Viktor Orbán’s view of the world, everybody has his place. “Mediocre” students, even if they could be admitted to university on the basis of entrance exams, shouldn’t even bother to apply because only the very best deserve a degree. That kind of thinking led the current administration to lower the compulsory school age from eighteen to sixteen.  I don’t think they ever asked what the sixteen-year-old “drop-outs” will do after they leave school. Surely, they will add to the unemployment rolls.

In Orbán’s Hungary less money is spent on education than during previous administrations, which is a real disaster because even in previous years only about 5.2% of GDP went to education. The number of students entering college this year dropped considerably because of the introduction of very high tuition fees. All in all, Orbán’s Hungary is marching in the wrong direction in education as in so many other areas.

Although some of Mesterházy’s 15 theses enumerated in the Népszabadság article are vague, the section dealing with education is quite explicit. The persons in charge of party policy on education are István Hiller, former MSZP minister of education, and Ágnes Kunhalmi, an energetic and self-possessed young woman. Hiller, a former university professor, is mostly interested in higher education. He is normally the spokesman of the party when the Orbán government’s policies affecting higher education are being discussed in the media. Kunhalmi specializes in the equivalent of K-12 education. When I say she is young, I don’t exaggerate. She graduated from high school in 2002. She’s a new face in MSZP and a bright one, as is clear from an interview with her a few months ago in 168 Óra. I assume that the ideas Mesterházy shared with his readers on questions of public education come at least in part from Ágnes Kunhalmi.

As I said, Mesterházy is quite specific about trying to equalize educational opportunities in Hungary and to improve the overall quality of teaching. Currently there are huge differences among schools. A few are excellent and produce students who year after year receive prizes in international competitions. Most schools are mediocre. But then there are those whose graduates can barely read and write. For the most part teaching in Hungary is uninspired and uninspiring. In order to overcome this, it seems that MSZP is ready to adopt an interactive approach to teaching. At least this seems to be the message of Mesterházy’s reference to the Hejőkeresztúr model.

The model is actually an adaptation of a method of teaching that was developed at Stanford University. Thanks to the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, the principal of the school had the opportunity to get acquainted with the method and was so impressed that she decided to try out it out in her own school. Hejőkeresztúr is a very poor village a few kilometers from Miskolc where 90% of the adult population is unemployed. A great number of the children attending the Hejőkeresztúr elementary school are Roma. While we often hear about serious behavioral problems elsewhere, in Hejőkeresztúr children love going to school and do very well. They all eventually attend high school and actually matriculate. There is an article about this by now famous school in Népszabadság. Several private firms and individual donors help the school financially.

The children playing interactive games in Hejőkeresztúr  elementary school

Children playing interactive games in the Hejőkeresztúr elementary school

The idea behind the Stanford method is to replace ineffective passive learning with engaged learning. Actively working on a problem, especially in teams, has all sorts of benefits.

In the past the majority of teachers resisted change. Now it seems that MSZP is ready to stand behind a thorough educational reform. Mesterházy is quite explicit: “We will break with old-fashioned retrograde methods of teaching and will move on to the modern, child-centered interactive teaching that has been successful in other developed countries.” That is a real commitment that I haven’t heard before from MSZP politicians. I do hope they mean it.

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Ivan
Guest
I m delighted by these announcements. Mesterhazy has been an increasingly impressive figure since his speech outside parliament denouncing the bloodthirsty attempt to compile a list of Jews last year. The main reform needed in schools, though, is to stop ordering children what to think. Certain subjects obviously involve facts, grammar rules, historical documentation, heights of mountains, depths of oceans etc. But other subjects – the humanities – should be about encouraging creative but critical thinking and research: nothing is wrong if you can prove it, or at least argue it well and then back it up. This latter approach is currently frowned upon in Hungarian schools (where you’re marked down even for wearing the wrong formal clothing in the stifling heat, and then marked down further for not giving the examiner his chosen slant of answer), meaning that many able star students who go on to study abroad become either confused by the onus suddenly placed on their own individual conclusions, or delightfully enthused by the new academic freedoms suddenly granted them. This not thinking for oneself starts, I’m afraid, with the school ‘celebrations’. Patriotism is undermined, I would have thought, in a school and in a wider society… Read more »
Lutra lutra
Guest

I wish I could be as optimistic. Making these kinds of changes is a long term project, far beyond the electoral term of one government. That’s one of the reasons for there being cross-party consensus on the goals and objectives of education and public health (among others) in most developed countries. Fidesz doesn’t believe in building consensus and I therefore truly believe that, for as long as Orbán is in politics, strucrural reform of the economy, health and education are not going to happen.

Vinnie
Guest
Lutra, completely agree. Orban does not care about policy the slightest, he will kill any new government and his policies, just because that is his nature. To inflict damage. In a way he must be a kind of sadist, I think. You do any policy change and Fidesz will in five minutes revoke it after they get to power just to show how is in charge. When the left gets to power, however, they always leave almost everything in place. They are not agressive at all and in any case much slower so that when they finally decide to do something it’s too late politically (too close to the next elections) so nothing changes fundamentally, but you get the resistance to the already diluted change (which resistance Fidesz can hype up easily, but not the left). So you end up with Fidesz-concieved policies everywhere. But his sick aggressiveness has worked excellently so far, after all he is still there after 25 years in politics, stronger than ever and is poised to continue to exercise the real power for another twenty (even from opposition) years. (For some foreign readers: Fidesz is Orban’s personal property, just because Orban might lose an election,… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

@Lutra lutra

“as long as Orbán is in politics, strucrural reform of the economy, health and education are not going to happen”

Au contraire, there have been big, “structural” changes in all three fields. Orban has taken out huge sums of money from education and health care and nepotism has become much stronger in the economy.

tappanch
Guest

Orban declared in 2010 that his government would become “slimmer” than Bajnai’s.

Here are the results of his promise.
The sum of ministers, secretaries and undersecretaries was

85 in 2010 (Bajnai government)
132 in 2013 (Orban government)

http://www.blikk.hu/blikk_aktualis/masfelszeresere-nott-az-allami-vezetok-szama-2205323

Ron
Guest

tappanch :
@Lutra lutra
“as long as Orbán is in politics, strucrural reform of the economy, health and education are not going to happen”
Au contraire, there have been big, “structural” changes in all three fields. Orban has taken out huge sums of money from education and health care and nepotism has become much stronger in the economy.

And not only money.

He added an extra layer on top of the Okmany Iroda structure.
All school books per school need to be purchased from one publishing company. Surprising government publishing companies are beneficiaries of this structure.
Teachers need to be a member of a special teachers trade union.
Limitation of the number of students at the universities.
Doctors and nurses (young ones (the future)) are going abroad.
etc.,etc.

Guest
A bit OT (not too much I hope): Today’s Fidesz approach to education reminds me of the German school system 60/70 years ago! We had segregated schools – for Catholics and Protestants … I remember very well how eager I was to start school with my friends – only to hear that they would be going to another school – because they were Catholics. The crazy thing was: Both schools were in the same building – the old schoolhouse of that small town where I grew up – but separated by a wall and of course during breaks we had to stay in our part of the school … Later at the gymnasium we tried to discuss this with our headmaster (ho also was our Latin teacher and a member of the town council) – and he defended that vehemently! Since the twown was small, the Cathoilc school had five classes (for 8 years) and the Protestant only three – so 4 years of pupils had one teacher, because many left after the first year for the gymnasium. But he said that teaching Christian (or rather Catholic vs Protestant) values was more important than having smaller groups of pupils in… Read more »
Guest

Sorry, a correction:

Of course some pupils left after 4 years of “Grundschule” for the gymnasium.

Btw our Catholic Fascist headmaster tried everything to keep the number of pupils at “his” gymnasium as small as possible – another similarity to Fidesz.

I remember very well when he told one of my classmates:

Du bist zu dumm zum Scheißen – geh doch zu Pfannkuch als Verkäufer!

Loosely translated:

Your as thick as a brick – should go to work at a CBA!

PS:

This guy later became a high ranking officer in the German Navy – headmaster of the Navy Officer’s Academy …

He often told this “joke” which obviously motivated him a lot – show this bastard of a teacher that he was wrong.

Ron
Guest

Breaking:
Csatary passed away.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23664226

LwiiH
Guest

@Lutra lutra, you are quite right that without some consensus there will once again be a yet another flip flop in policy. It is these huge swings in policy that make long term planning in this country almost impossible.

I’m now looking at kids that have had decisions made several years ago for their futures now have those futures ripped out from underneath them because of the ignorance and arrogance of a few people. Shame on them!!!

LwiiH
Guest

tappanch :
@Lutra lutra
“as long as Orbán is in politics, strucrural reform of the economy, health and education are not going to happen”
Au contraire, there have been big, “structural” changes in all three fields. Orban has taken out huge sums of money from education and health care and nepotism has become much stronger in the economy.

We’re hearing about more and more people having surgery postponed because they hospitals have run out of money for that month.

tappanch
Guest

Lazar, who is Orban’s chief of staff called Csanyi, who is the chairman of the biggest bank in Hungary a usurer [a shark] today.

http://www.klubradio.hu/data/files/lazar_janos_visszaszol_csanyinak.mp3

Guest

Our neighbour’s wife which urgently needed two artificial knee joints just returned from the hospital and told my wife she was so lucky that her son in law offered to pay for them – so she went to some hospital in Budapest.

The local hospitals in Hévíz, Keszthely and Zalegerszég have long waiting lists …

Clubber
Guest

Wolfi: the problem was thus solved so she can vote for Fidesz again. What you describe is the norm if you get close to the state health system, but people are used to that. They will solve the problem some smart way – as they did. It’s not a priority. Defending the country against foreigners, banks and the EU are.

tappanch
Guest

@Clubber

The priority would be for the country to defend itself against its Fidesz enslavers.

Guest

@Clubber:

No, she is one of the few people I know outside my wife’s family who would never vote for “the Fidesz mafia” as her late husband was wont to say – he used so many swear words on Orbán, Pinter etc I was really astonished!

She is not so interested in politics but they could talk about the Orbán family and its sudden riches and also others from the same ilk – so at least some people know what’s going on …

But the vast majority of Hungarians seems to be just interested in getting enough money for a new flat screen tv or a new (second hand) car or they just worry how to make ends meet. That these people still vote for Fidesz makes me wonder …

Ron
Guest

Eva: It seems that the Romanians have had enough of Orbán and Fidesz.

I believe they they had enough of Hungarian politicians in general, and specifically of a right signature.

http://www.politics.hu/20130811/jobbik-calls-romanian-foreign-ministry-statement-provocation/
http://www.nineoclock.ro/leader-of-hungary%E2%80%99s-extremist-party-jobbik-makes-bellicose-statements/

Joe Polish
Guest

OT: No media outlet is small for Fidesz. Századvég, one of the main partizan Fidesz “think thanks” just bought Napi Gazdaság (Daily Economics). Mind you, from the owners of Index.hu, who are also Fidesz leaning, but until now CEMP at least tried to operate Napi as a market-oriented outlet, but obviously given the size of the market (the paper is perhaps sold in 6,000 copies), it was impossible.

It will be another Fidesz propaganda tool, since they don’t have to care about profitability – only reach.

Fidesz and co. will purchase each and every media outlet, especially as the print media is suffering from the shrinking of the already small market and the dearth of advertizers so literally eveyrthing is up for sale.

Lack of advertizers is also an issue for internet sites, so prepare for Fidesz investments in internet sites.

They are preparing for decades, with a detailed strategy. And they execute.

Member

OT: “Ding dong the witch is dead…”

“Laszlo Csatary, a former police officer indicted in June by Hungarian authorities for abusing Jews and contributing to their deportation to Nazi death camps during World War II, has died.
“With his actions, the accused wilfully assisted in the illegal killings and torture carried out against the Jews deported from Kosice to the concentration camps in areas occupied by the Germans,” the indictment said.”
(http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/ex-canadian-charged-with-nazi-era-war-crimes-dead-at-98-1.1407234#ixzz2blMbcM6j)

Unfortunately justice was not served before his death, thanks to the Fidesz supporting judaical system of current Hungary. It is certainly not he interest of the current Hungarian government to punish a killer, a murderer or war criminals if it comes to gain financial benefits (Azeri axe-murderer released by Orban) or it would cost some votes at the polls (pleasing Jobbik members who hate Jews and gypsies is one of the priorities of Fidesz).
THis man served no time in jail, and spent his last few months in great comfort in Hungary protected by Jobbik members, and by the police. Shame!

Member

@Ron: I apologize. I did not see that you already posted the Csatary news.

Member

Ron :
Eva: It seems that the Romanians have had enough of Orbán and Fidesz.
I believe they they had enough of Hungarian politicians in general, and specifically of a right signature.
http://www.politics.hu/20130811/jobbik-calls-romanian-foreign-ministry-statement-provocation/
http://www.nineoclock.ro/leader-of-hungary%E2%80%99s-extremist-party-jobbik-makes-bellicose-statements/

Well, maybe Orban’s plan to give voting rights to Hungarians across the border will backfire. At this point the interest of people in Transylvania would be to vote for Jobiik that would fight for the autonomy.

spectator
Guest

The only hope regarding the Transylvanians is that – hopefully – not all of them living in a dreamland, and sooner or later they will recognise, that each and every “liberation” attempt only make their life harder. I don’t think, that they really wish to go into open confrontation, none any sober person in her/his right mind will.

While beating the nettle with someone else’s organ you shouldn’t expect honest cooperation from the owner, do you?

LwiiH
Guest

Some1 :
OT: “Ding dong the witch is dead…”
“Laszlo Csatary, a former police officer indicted in June by Hungarian authorities for abusing Jews and contributing to their deportation to Nazi death camps during World War II, has died.
THis man served no time in jail, and spent his last few months in great comfort in Hungary protected by Jobbik members, and by the police. Shame!

Yet another shame.. and not just OV’s he’s been in Hungary for quite some time which means previous governments had plenty of opportunities to do the right thing and they didn’t.

tappanch
Guest

If you met corruption, would you report it? Yes %

Germany 94%
UK 91%
Slovenia 80%
EU average 71%
Romania 59%
Slovakia 50%

Hungary 30%

If you did not report the corruption, what is the reason?

It would not change anything 41%
I am afraid of reporting 21%
I do not know where to report it 7%

http://www.transparency.hu/GCB2013

Member

tappanch :
If you did not report the corruption, what is the reason?
It would not change anything 41%
I am afraid of reporting 21%
I do not know where to report it 7%
http://www.transparency.hu/GCB2013

I’m involved 90%

Guest

Rwe corruption:

That might be one reason why the EU is withholding money from Hungary
http://www.bbj.hu/economy/suspended-eu-funds-hungary-could-lose-eur2-billion_67678

Ron
Guest

wolfi :
Rwe corruption:
That might be one reason why the EU is withholding money from Hungary
http://www.bbj.hu/economy/suspended-eu-funds-hungary-could-lose-eur2-billion_67678

I am reading this article. These guys VO and Lazar are really something.

First VO stated that the system needs to change http://www.bbj.hu/business/govt-to-establish-new-system-for-eu-funding_63684 (date July 20).
Second Lazar is stating that EU suspended the money, but they are not correct to do this. Hungary is violating one of the main the EU rules about Competition Rules (Engineers need to be part of the Hungarian Engineer Chambers).http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/12/us-hungary-eufunds-idUSBRE97B0EH20130812
Third He is calling Csanyi names, and now he want Csanyi to get the chestnuts out of the fire.
Fourth Other Ministries are losing budget if they are sloppy or incompetent. I did not explicit read this, but not his Ministry (see first point.)

Guest

here’s more info:
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/hungary_could_lose_huf_500-600_bn_eu_funding_lazar.26477.html
We just saw Lázár on the news – he looked very, very nervous …
Maybe Orbán will “kill” him, especially after Lázár called Csanyi the “No1 usurer in the country” …
So will the EU fight against Fidesz the roundabout way by taking away their most important asset i e their money ?
On pol.hu I compared this with the way the US got Al Capone via unpaid taxes …

spectator
Guest

Mutt :

tappanch :
If you did not report the corruption, what is the reason?
It would not change anything 41%
I am afraid of reporting 21%
I do not know where to report it 7%
http://www.transparency.hu/GCB2013

I’m involved 90%

Then it isn’t corruption, you see!
It is only when you’re left out of it 😉
Otherwise business as usual – that’s the way to looking at, in Hungary, anyway.

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