The first day of school in Hungary

Although in the last half an hour several  short news items appeared about the Demokratikus Koalíció’s “offer” to the leadership of MSZP, I would rather wait a day until we know a little more about the details. Instead, I will talk about the beginning of the school year. It was at 8 a.m. this morning that the 2013-14 school year officially began. In most schools there was an opening ceremony, which has become something of a ritual in Hungarian schools.

In my days the beginning of school was not such a big deal. We packed up and went to school. That was all. But in Hungary it is now an all-national affair. Ministers, undersecretaries, mayors, and other politicians feel compelled to give long speeches to bored students and their teachers. This year even the prime minister honored a newly refurbished school with his presence.

One must keep in mind that the coming school year will be drastically different from what students and their parents have become accustomed to. Schools are no longer run by the municipalities but by the state. Teachers are employees of the state and new principals were appointed by Rózsa Hoffmann, the undersecretary in charge of public education.

The very structure of the educational process has also changed. From here on children cannot leave school before 4 p.m. That blanket rule would have made private lessons for children well nigh impossible. However, after some hesitation the ministry allowed principals to grant exemptions if they feel that the request is  justified.

The amount of material teachers have to cover was far too great even before, but from this year on students will have to memorize even more “stuff.” In first grade there used to be only four hours of classroom work, but henceforward six-year-olds will have to spend five periods learning the three Rs. In grade five children used to receive 22.5 hours of instruction, but from here on it will be 28 hours. In grade nine instead of 27.5 hours of instruction the children will receive 35 hours! I think that is horrendous. After listening to a teacher drone on hour after hour, who will be able to actually think about the course material? In addition, daily gym was introduced in grades one, two, five, nine, and ten although apparently there is not enough gym capacity in most schools to offer that many daily classes. And either religion or ethics must be taught in grades one, five, and nine. Why this particular four-year cycle, especially since it coincides in part with the physical education cycle? I have no idea.

There have been a lot of complaints about the newly centralized distribution of textbooks. According to government announcements, all went wonderfully. Critics of the system, however, talk about chaos.  The new distributor often just dumped the books at the gates of the schools, leaving it to teachers and students to sort things out. Apparently, they were not successful everywhere. I heard about a class of 22 where none of the kids managed to get the right books.

I also heard about one school where all the cleaning ladies were fired and the teachers were cleaning for a week to prepare the building for school opening. Naturally, Fidesz politicians and government officials are entirely satisfied with the results.

Here I would like to call attention to two speeches, one by Viktor Orbán and the other by Lajos Kósa. Each would deserve a full post, but I’ll just call attention to a couple of “highlights.”

Orbán, in his speech in Törökbálint, announced that “schools have become over the years no more than repositories.” I wonder how the teachers who have been working pretty hard to educate the children, often under adverse circumstances and with very little pay, must have felt listening to the great leader telling them that they did nothing. They just kept the kids locked up inside four walls. I for one would have been furious.

Those beautiful clouds  Viktor Orbán in Törökbálint

Those beautiful clouds
Viktor Orbán in Törökbálint

I also found some of Orbán’s remarks about physical education amusing. He claimed that daily gym classes are necessary “in order to awaken in the students their desire to be in proper physical shape.” Perhaps the chief football player should go back to school to rekindle his own waning desire for physical fitness.

Lajos Kósa talked without notes for sixteen minutes in one of the best gymnasiums in the country, the Árpád Tóth Gymnasium in Debrecen. According to the Népszabadság‘s stringer from Debrecen, his speech was not exactly welcomed by either the students or the teachers. As is his wont, Kósa made some rather unfortunate remarks. His first slip was: “TÁG [as everybody refers to the school] is one of the country’s best high schools. For that I would especially like to congratulate the school’s principal who has decided not to continue as principal but uhum, uhum, yes, Mr. Szabolcs Szilágyi, who will continue his work as a teacher in this school.”

There are only two high schools in the country that offer what is called “international matriculation.” If a student passes, he or she can attend the 300 best universities “from Oxford to Yale” without any further entrance exams. Under the former principal TÁG managed to achieve this status, but as of this year he was demoted and his place was taken by Mrs. Fenyős, Amália Kircsi. She and her husband Zoltán Fenyős are the authors of textbooks for grades five to seven.

Another Kósa gem was: “Good children perform well if they are beaten, but even the most talented child, if no one holds his hands, will get lost.”

And no one seemed to be amused when Kósa reminisced about his own school years in another Debrecen gymnasium where the students tried to guess how many of their fellow students would faint because they had to stand throughout this joyous occasion. Normally, their number was no more than four. Kósa was happy that no one fainted during his speech. It seems, he continued, that today’s youngsters are in better physical shape. Nobody laughed.

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Member

Also in Debrecen, Zoltan Balog started his speech like this:

“A magic dwells in each beginning” said the famous German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.

Bummer. It was Hermann Hesse. Balog is in charge of the Hungarian education. What do you expect …

Kosa as mayor by the way handed down all the city schools to the state. Also he was never be able to obtain a higher education diploma.

Finally check out this picture. A real Hungaricum. A PR stunt from the police related to the new full time police presence in schools. Isn’t it cute? Blurred faces in the press. Just in case … 🙂

http://bit.ly/1e8jOZ3

James Atkins
Guest

Don’t knock them too hard on the gym lessons. It is a good idea to introduce plenty of gym into the curriculum, assuming that actually translates into exercise and sport.
If Hungary can avoid the horrors of childhood obesity you can see in the UK, for example, it’s not a bad thing.
It’s better the kids spending time doing sport than learning more useless crap in the classroom!

Member

I went to an inner city high school in the 1st district. On the phys ed classes we were always herded out to run a few laps around block. We were always hiding in the hallway of one of the houses, smoking, waiting for the end. Schönen alten zeiten.

Paul
Guest

A little OT, but can I just ask some questions?

We’ve had quite a discussion on the new school times, my Fidesznik wife and myself. She, of course, supports the whole thing, but I was trying to counter her ‘justifications’ (kids need full-time school, teachers should work for their money) from the teacher’s point of view.

However, my wife claims that things are not (as always!) as I understand them. First not all teachers have to stay, only those supervising children. Secondly, the teachers will still have the same time for lesson preparation, etc, they’ll just do it at school.

Does anyone know if this is how it’s supposed to work, or are all teachers supposed to stay and supervise or teach, or do some still go home?

Also, what do the kids do in the afternoon? Are they just doing their homework, as they used to if they didn’t want to do it at home, or are they now doing lessons instead? If the latter, then presumably they are still taking the same amount of homework (or more?) home?

Marcus
Guest
It’s the English language international baccalaureate (IB) which TÁG in Debrecen apparently offers, besides Karinthy and AISB (both in Budapest). IB is an international education metholology which is administered in Geneva. Pretty interesting given that Fidesz has been systematically smothering bilingual education with various new rules and went so far as effectively make the IB worthless in Hungary so IB students had no option but to go to study abroad. In the last 20 years the IB was accepted via a Ministry of Education decree as a Hungarian matriculation so there was no problem, but now Fidesz ‘realized’ that the content and skills one acquires under the IB program, gasp, are different from the state directives from which only 10% divergence may be accepted currently. (Of course special financing for the IB was also drastically decreased). I am not familiar with the current state of affairs, but it is surprising that it still exists in Debrecen. The IB progran is antithetical to the Hungarian rote learning based methods and prepares students for Western, college-style education. I am not sure what kids will learn under the new system, I have serious doubts, but many new rules had demand from among the… Read more »
Bence
Guest

Important article (in Hungarian): the Hungarian Catholic Church is an active instrument of school segregation. Not that it is surprising in any way who knows a thing or two about rural education.

Tip of the iceberg, I am afraid. The church is a reliable instrument for the existing white orderly middle (lower) class and it simply does not want to deal with problems. It would be too dirty.

http://index.hu/belfold/2013/09/03/nem_szoltak_a_ciganygyerekeknek_az_uj_iskolarol/

http://homar.blog.hu/2013/04/01/koldusmentes_unnepeket_kivan_a_pecsi_plebania

Curly
Guest
“In addition, daily gym was introduced in grades one, two, five, nine, and ten although apparently there is not enough gym capacity in most schools to offer that many daily classes. And either religion or ethics must be taught in grades one, five, and nine. Why this particular four-year cycle, especially since it coincides in part with the physical education cycle? I have no idea.” It is just their way of “phasing in” the changes year by year, start with the students just entering a school or school cycle (1st–alsó; 5th–felső; 9th–high school). This way they can draw out the chaos of not having enough P.E. teachers available. They don’t have them now and they won’t in three more years when the new plan will cover ALL students. It is not a bad idea, really, to have more P.E. lessons, but there are few facilities for so many lessons, not enough new teachers coming in to meet the demand, and time is being taken away from other subjects in many cases. But if it is decreed that it will be done, it will be, regardless of the lack of planning clearly evident. And if it is decreed that everyone is… Read more »
buddy
Guest

The idea of gym class every day is good in principle, but as so often the case in Hungary, is not implemented well. At least in my child’s elementary school, most days they don’t go to the gymnasium(tornaterem) but stay in their seats(!) and stretch. Sometimes they go out to the hallway and do this. That’s not exactly going to solve anyone’s obesity.

Apparently the reason they do this is because there isn’t enough gym capacity if every class exercises every day. What I don’t understand is why they don’t use the gym together with other classes if this is the case. But I guess that would take some work in handling the logistics and no one can be bothered to do it…

James Atkins
Guest

Sad. They could shift the desks and chairs to the edge of the room, use a couple of tables on their side as goals and have a kick about. Lack of imagination?

Ron
Guest
Paul: However, my wife claims that things are not (as always!) as I understand them. First not all teachers have to stay, only those supervising children. Secondly, the teachers will still have the same time for lesson preparation, etc, they’ll just do it at school. First: Yes all teachers have to stay (4 days from 8.00am to 16.00pm)., whether or not they have anything to do. Some supervise, and some give extra lessons. Secondly:Yes the teachers have the same time for lesson preparation, but they do not receive compensation for 5 hours. It use to be that teachers were teaching 21 hours, and 5 hours of preparation, for anything extra the received compensation. Now they work 32 hours. Now all teachers were fired by their previous employer and hired by the government. The government does not pay extra out, but in stead gave them all a (small) salary raise, and make them work extra for no compensation. Another problem (like with my kids), they can not do all of the extra curriculum, such as; basketball, English, other language, swimming. Only parts of it. We had to cancel swimming, and the other language, because they do not have enough time or… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Buddy: My kids are going to a school with own gym, and 18 classes of approximately 20 pupils each. The school had three testneveles teachers (all left at the end of last school year), and the school could find only one replacement teacher.

This guy is required to give every day lessons to 18 classes (last year 6 classes per teacher) from 8 am to 15.00pm (5 days per week), as this is not allowed, some of the other teachers will give gym lessons from 13.00pm to 15.00pm. As there is not enough room to change to gym gear they need to do it in the class room.

My girls and their fellow student hate this part of the day, and the fact that they cannot concentrate to make homework, because of other classes having gym in the hallway.

Ron
Guest

Please find a link from a Budapest 10th district teacher thanking VO. (in Hungarian)

http://www.10keruleti-hirhatar.hu/hirek/egy-pedagogus-halas-koszono-levele-orbanhoz

Guest

Eva: “Ministers, undersecretaries, mayors, and other politicians feel compelled to give long speeches to bored students and their teachers. This year even the prime minister honored a newly refurbished school with his presence.”

The message of the political opening ceremonies is that from now on the state owns the children.

Ron
Guest

Please find a thank you note from students.

http://eduline.hu/felsooktatas/2013/9/2/A_nap_kepe_ezzel_a_plakattal_G4JP56

Shit situation, the government spending so much money on propaganda in stead of education. (Free translation).

Btw anyone know who these propaganda actors are, they do not look Hungarian to me.

Ron
Guest

OT Last week and this week the forint hoovered around the 300 mark with tendency to go up. Especially the last month fluctuations are very strange. I expect the forint will hit the 305 somewhere this month.

http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=EUR&to=HUF&view=1M

tappanch
Guest

There is a great deal of confusion in schools. There are places where they think only the first four grades have to stay until 4 pm. We will see whether the Orban government will enforce their own stupid rules.

————-

Lazar plans to lower the price of pork, literally, four months before the elections, by lowering the VAT from 27% to “below” 10%. Cheaper pork is a sure way to win the heart of the Hungarians, and it would not make a too large hole in the budget if it lasted for 6 months only.

http://vasarhely.hir24.hu/vasarhely/2013/09/02/lazar-vasarhelyen-jelentette-be-november-1-tol-ujabb-10-is-rezsicsokkentes-jon/

Another utility cut is also coming.

I am going to the Budapest-owned utility company today to find out why my bills keep getting higher despite all the government propaganda (the company keeps raising a mysterious factor in their mysterious calculations)

Webby
Guest

OT: from the BKV that is Budapest Transport Co. webshop:

http://bkv.hu/hu/ajandektargyak/web_shop
comment image

Ron
Guest

Tappanch only pork? Or also chicken. If it is only pork, has this to do with his friends? in the pork industry, such as Csanyi or the pig farmers with regard to Papai Hus. Btw Fidesz invested into this Company is it not?

Feri
Guest
Ron, Csanyi’s non-grain agricultural business is very heavily loss-making (milk, meat, wine etc.) and has been so for years. (He is also heavily interested in the grain business which is very profitable, I heard rumors that through long-term leases and other contracts he controls 1/3 of the Hungarian maize business, and we talk about million tons here, and I find this a credible estimate). No sane Fidesz investor (whether Orbán or Simicska or whoever) would invest in the Hungarian pork/beef industry, it’s a kind of personal mania or hobby for Csányi. Everybody knows that it is almost impossible to compete with Danish, Dutch, German producers (yes, producers, as we talk about individual factories producing among others more urine and fecal matter than the whole of Debrecen for example). Csanyi might have lobbied for it, but I guess Pápai Hús, Kapuvár, Debreceni Hús etc. (all under liquidation or closure) are more likely sources of a lobby. That said, an extremely high percentage of the meat industry is black or grey, ie. without paying VAT and other taxes, and as a result it will not make a difference at all to the end consumer if the VAT will decrease from 27 to… Read more »
Guest

@Feri:
Thanks for the info on Hungarian agriculture – it’s always been a mystery for me, why they make losses and why their quality is so variable, sometimes really lousy (milk products, butter and cheese) and sometimes outstanding.

For example, we really like the Gyulai and Csabai kolbasz and also bring a lot to our friends in Germany – earlier this year the Hungarian Aldi had them relatively cheap – maybe the company needed money fast …

So we also hope that these companies will recover!

PS:

We get most of our other meat products (mainly chicken or rather some old hens which give a wonderful soup …) from our neighbours just like the wonderful “Bio-eggs” – and also take a lot to Germany. The neighbours get a good price and we get a good quality and sometimes I jokingly ask them if that price includes VAT – and they ask whether we need a receipt …

Ron
Guest
Feri I agree VAT is not a real issue for the slaughterhouses, but for the farmers it is. And as result the farmers are not willing to reduce their meat prices. For example, the VAT is 27%, and by law debtors should pay the agrarians within 30 days. The slaughterhouses are paying on average within 60 to 90 days. And there is the problem. Since these debtors are not paying on time the farmer must finance the VAT payable *the 27%) by taking loans from Raifeissen, OTP and other banks. resulting in extra costs for the farmers, resulting in the aforementioned not reducing the prices. The slaughterhouses, like PICK (Csanyi), Herz (Csanyi), Delhus (Decrecen and Kapuvar) and Papai their need to finance their salami’s (90 days drying sometimes more), cured meats, and other products not able to sell immediately (storage) and small market (not able to sell to the USA, China, Russia),add to this the veterinarian costs (100% charge for the slaughterhouses) and you have together with the purchase price pigs, employees a very high cost price. The pig, chicken business is a numbers and/or percentage game, high turnover and low margins. The Hungarian system is not able to compete… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“…cheaper pork..”–This does very little for jews.

Woe is the old testament followers-

petofi
Guest

Woe are….

tappanch
Guest

Ron :
Please find a link from a Budapest 10th district teacher thanking VO. (in Hungarian)
http://www.10keruleti-hirhatar.hu/hirek/egy-pedagogus-halas-koszono-levele-orbanhoz

Let me translate some of the teacher’s statements.

His/Her net salary went down from 143-155,000 a month to 105.000 HUF ($5,500 a year) from September 1st. She has taught 30 years in school.

There are 110,000 other teachers in the same boat.

His/her required weekly hours went up from 22 to 32 hours.

The government lies about raising the salaries, since it actually went down by 50% (with cancelled bonuses) for a lot of teachers like her.

They learned about these facts only on August 29.

Feri
Guest

Ron, right, I meant my comments in light of Lázár’s latest goodwill package. However Fidesz will do it re pork, it will not be like the electricity prices, so you won’t see your “savings” the government “gave” you. (At least I hope, as far as Fidesz is concerned they would fix the pork and beef prices like under communism). I doubt that the prices for consumers will change significantly, any VAT decrease will help the meat industry somewhat, and whether it will make the difference between survival or liquidation, it remains to be seen. Just because these changes nobody will invest in the meat industry, perhaps some companies will survive in one way or another (Csányi’s companies are another matter than Pápai and the smaller ones, though he will surely benefit). It’s certainly a smaller constituency than the natural gas or other utility users.

But it’s not just the raw economics which are against then Hungarian meat industry, quality also. Try to compare a second rate Spanish or Italian or French product vs. a Hungarian one.

Links to Hungarian sites about kolbász tests by the editors of the Gault Millau Hungary. (Nothing changes since 2009-2010 in this regard).

http://buvosszakacs.blog.hu/2009/12/11/vastagkolbasz_teszt
http://buvosszakacs.blog.hu/2010/06/09/kolbasz_ii

tappanch
Guest

The seven offshore companies that sell Hungarian residence bonds for huge profit:

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2013/09/03/letelepedesi_allamkotveny/

Member

The pieces of the new Hungarian educational puzzle started to fall in place. Let’s collect the nuggets together.

Computer skill are thought only in 9th grade, one hour a week.

I can’t believe it. Is this true ??

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