Criticism and self-criticism of Hungarian teachers

I have written many times about the state of Hungarian education, which in the last 25 years has gone through multiple changes, not necessarily for the better. In the past I usually concentrated on the quality of education and teaching methods and bemoaned the fact that, as far I can see, life hasn’t changed very much in the last 60-70 years in the average Hungarian school. But now I would like to turn to the teachers, who are the focus of the latest drama in Hungarian education.

In 25 years there have been ten ministers of education, and policy has shifted back and forth. Sometimes policy favored modernization, at other times it looked back a hundred years for its models. The socialist-liberal administrations were the modernizers, and the policies they tried to introduce met with resistance from teachers and their union leaders. Although naturally we have no hard data on the political affiliations of elementary and high school teachers, I would guess that they are basically a conservative lot. Therefore, I assume that by and large teachers were quite happy with the results of the 2010 elections.

Since then, however, teachers who might have been supporters of Fidesz have learned what it’s like to be powerless vis-à-vis the state. After 1990 schools, just like in Canada or the United States, were maintained by local communities. School boards were established and parents became heavily involved in school affairs. Faculty, parents, students, and school boards decided jointly on who, among the applicants, would be the school’s principal. All that is gone. The schools were nationalized and all teachers became state employees. The state established a professional association that every teacher had to join. Its structure was determined in a law passed by the Hungarian Parliament. Most teachers didn’t even know they had become members of this association, Nemzeti Pedagógus Kar (NPK), because KLIK (Klebelsberg Intézményfenntartó Központ), the “employer” of all teachers, hid the application form on the back of a page that teachers had to sign to complete their employment contract. From its website it is difficult to ascertain how many teachers actually participated in electing the association’s officers.

The law that established NPK also stipulated that it must propose an ethical codex. And, indeed, the newly elected leadership came up with a 23-page document which includes the precept that one of the most important duties of a teacher is to practice his profession “in the interest of the nation.” For good measure, a teacher will conduct himself “on the basis of the unity of criticism and self-criticism.” The phrase “criticism and self-criticism” sounds ominous to those who lived through the Stalinist times of the Rákosi regime.

guzsba kotve

Source: Körkép.sk

KLIK came out with a 97-page handbook describing the new process of internal self-assessment. Here’s how it works. The principal, who was appointed by the minister in Budapest, will designate three or four teachers whose job, in addition to their regular teaching assignment, will be to assess the work of their fellow teachers. Each teacher must be assessed every two years. Since there are 140,000 teachers in Hungary, this means 70,000 evaluations per year by these self-assessment groups. The evaluations will, of course, be stored centrally. These groups will be called Belső Ellenőrzési Csoportok (BECS), not what naughty internet meme creators called them–Pedagógiai Önértékelési Csoportok, whose acronym is a four-letter word that cannot be uttered in polite company.

Members of these groups will have to conduct interviews and fill out long questionnaires, a relatively onerous task. But the real problem lies elsewhere. The creation of such groups may poison personal relationships within the teaching staff. It rarely happens, but in this case the leaders of the two trade unions agree. Such “self-assessments,” they argue, will be ruinous to the atmosphere in schools. And that’s not all. Parents will also have to fill out long questionnaires, assessing the teachers’ performance. If the teacher gives a child a bad grade, it’s not inconceivable that the parent will write a damning assessment of that teacher. In light of this possibility, a teacher might be afraid to give a bad grade to the child, fearing repercussions. Moreover, it can easily happen that as a result of some subjective criterion (Is she really teaching in the interest of the nation or is she a subversive liberal?) a teacher will be found unfit, which will mean that she will not be able to teach in any school. After all, the teacher is the employee of one central authority, the Hungarian state.

According to TASZ, the Hungarian equivalent of the American Civil Liberties Union, the current Ethical Codex–part of which is the internal self-assessment scheme–is illegal. TASZ has already made suggestions to NPK on how to change the Codex. It is unclear at this point how much of the text will remain intact.

Meanwhile we just found out that on the latest PISA test, designed to measure the digital literacy of fifteen-year-olds, Hungarian students finished dead last among European countries. The results were not made public for a while because the officials of PISA didn’t want to believe the figures. Unfortunately, there was no mistake. Hungarian students obviously have little opportunity to use computers, either in school or at home. As a result, some of the students apparently didn’t even try to answer any of the questions. They just sat there doing nothing. Those who tried had difficulty finding the functions that would allow them to answer the questions. And some of them simply didn’t understand the text about a fictional Belgian village.

But even though Hungarian students have very poor to nonexistent computer skills, we can be happy. They have gym every day, and soon enough they will also have to sing. Every day. Undoubtedly Hungarian folk songs. I wonder how popular this latest brainstorm of the Ministry of Human Resources will be with today’s teenagers.

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Kormos
Guest
Bowen
Guest

In Hungary, of course, kindergarten children also have the opportunity to be tools of state propaganda – sent to the border to sing songs to the brave soldiers keeping out all those illegal immigrants who would destroy Hungarian culture.

exTor
Guest
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26249042 PISA testing is done triennially. The above link shows the 2015 results for the reading [Hungary: 30/40] and the maths [Hungary: 39/40] categories. My ex is a teacher in District XX [Pesterzsébet]. I haven’t talked to her in a long time about her teaching situation. Back then, she had said that there were salary differentials with respect to the 23 districts of Budapest. She said that teachers in Buda were better-paid and that her salary was amongst the lowest in Budapest. She also said that Viktor Orbán promised to equalize all the salaries, which supposedly would have taken place in 2013 or perhaps thereafter. I’m not sure that that actually occurred. I posted on this issue before and a respondent said that the salary equalization had not happened. Given that Orbán had forced a merger of all teachers nationally, which may not be a bad thing, then theoretically all teachers should get the same pay irrespective of location. If teachers got a pay raise, then the merger was positive. The ancillary ramming of performance strictures down the throats of teachers is entirely another matter. Selfawareness is one thing, selfcriticism another. In North America there has been a move toward… Read more »
exTor
Guest

http://hungarianfreepress.com/2015/10/06/can-the-death-of-arpad-goncz-unite-hungarians

Hungarian Free Press has a piece on the yesterday passing of the former manytime President of Hungary, Árpád Göncz. He was 93.

Will be interesting to see how the rightwing press remembers him.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Webber
Guest

English speakers don’t hesitate to speak ill of the dead. Hungarians seem to be more circumspect, in my experience. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum. A halottakról jót vagy semmit.

I suppose the r-wing press will paint a positive picture, despite the fact that the Hun. r. hated Göncz while he was alive. Or rather, I guess there will be a positive depiction, or none at all.

Member

Maybe it is not so specifically relevant but I do agree with teacher’s being “reviewed” by parents. Yes, there would be the parents who will gave a bad report because of their child did not receive the mark they have hoped for, but in general, just like with most statistics, a fair picture would emerge of the teachers. For a long time I am hoping that Ontario would use some form of review system. The teachers union is so strong in Canada that it is impossible to remove teachers who literally threaten a child with scissors, an teachers who opt to not teach a certain subject but provide a B mark for all students so it is fair… Parent review would help to identify certain problems.

petofi
Guest

Parent review is less than useless: it can be troubling.

What do the parents know outside of how their child is graded, and how he reacts to a teacher? So, on what basis will the parent review?

Reviews should be done by professionals who sit in on several classes and can rate teacher performance as well as student activity in that class.

Guest

Re: ‘Parent review is less than useless: it can be troubling’

And skirting the tyrannical. Personally, I became aware here at an earlier time that if some parents acted towards teachers in the classroom as they do when it comes to ‘reviewing’ sports coaches and their method of teaching the state of education would be in anarchy.

As I look at this in US futbol arguably I could say ‘parenting’ on the playing fields of little ‘Etons’ can kill any hope of ascendancy in a sport that is also dear to Hungary. In some cases, it can be said we kill the desire of potential talent when the kids are little!

LwiiH
Guest

Sorry but I disagree. We have conversations with our kids and we know exactly what teachers are or are not up to. The kids know that we consider school their primary focus and responsibility and they have responded. If there is a need to intervene with the teacher, we have and will continue to do so. The kids know this and they know the truth will come out so we tend to get it up front (and we understand we need to strip off the bias). The teachers know that we are not shy in speaking with them in a fair and balanced way and they respect that. In fact, we find that once the teachers know that we will approach them when there is an issue and we aren’t quick to judge, we find that fewer questionable things happen. But then, our school has properly integrated computers into the workflows. We can email any teacher and they generally respond quite quickly. The kids use computers as a learning aid. And we can monitor everything via a portal application. This level of information and communication makes makes a huge difference.

exTor
Guest

Petofi is right on the money, Some1.

Full disclosure: I’m a union person. I’ve been a union member for most of my adult employment. I support the protection of workers that unions (theoretically) afford.

The opinions of parents do NOT belong in teacher evaluations. Parents for the most part have no understanding of the teaching process. Even if they do have some understanding, it is mostly rudimentary.

I have more trust in the fairness of Orbán’s system here in Hungary, whereby teachers evaluate fellow teachers, than I do in any North American school district where the laypublic [read: unprofessionals] is allowed to pass judgement on professionals.

It makes as much sense as allowing Joe Blow/Jill Blow to sit on the bench to adjudicate legal issues just because that person has a vested interest.

Your examples, Some1, concern extrateaching situations. There are mechanisms in place to handle them.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Member
I do not read comments from Petofi, but I can only tell about the above examples that happened in my child’s class that ere are teachers who not belong to the teaching profession. As I said, I am talking about Canada, so this is not a blank statement for all construes, and I can totally see why it would not work in a country like Hungary. I also see that some crazy person would take this too far. Interestingly my teacher friends (and family members) do agree with me, as many of the bad apples in teaching takes away from the achievements of others. In Canada the benefits for teachers are huge (not like in Hungary), so there are teachers who choose this profession not for the love of teaching but for other reasons. There was at teaacher who told students when she went to class that she has the flu but will not stay home as she collects her sick days, so she can retire a year early. She asked the students to stay quite so she could sleep.My daughter was in that class, and other parents told me the same report from their kids. Same teacher gave out… Read more »
exTor
Guest
There was no call to write that you “do not read comments from Petofi”. Regardless of what you think of him, your words were disrespectful. I have had five girlfriends who are teachers and four of them teach/taught in the Toronto area, which is where you live, Some1. Issues like what you raised never arose. There is such a thing as ‘due process’. That means that a person has the right to a defense against charges. Just because a file has been started (as you understand matters) does not mean that your version of the facts of the situation is correct. You likely dont have all the details. Additionally, you may not understand certain procedural actions. You may be an interested party, but you are an outsider, hence your knowledge is likely limited. Your emotional post is precisely the reason that parents should have no say in school matters. Here I am talking generally. There may be specific situations where parental voices may be important. Parents should be concerned about the quality of education, not the day-to-day running of schools. Leave that to the professionals. Dont concern yourself excessively with a specific incident, where you cannot know the whole story.… Read more »
Member
I had to write it I am sorry, since you referred to your answer. I could only reply to what you wrote and not to what Petofi wrote. He hurled many-many insults at me in the past, so I decided not to read anything from him. It would of been disrespectful, and hypocritical to say something that he may or may not mentioned. I have no problem if someone does not read what I have to say, and I would understand why would they choose that. It could be some repetition in comments because of that. I prefer to be honest, and to not pretend. When you say “Issues like what you raised never arose.” are you implying that I am lying? Maybe those issues have not been raised in the schools your friends were working at working at but the issue of teachers “misbehaving” or that parents wish to have some evaluation does exist. I must say that we had some fantastic experience with exemplary teachers, and with a fantastic principal too. In fact I nominated two of those teachers and the principal to various awards. (One won.) Maybe your friends are not aware that parental input was part… Read more »
LwiiH
Guest
My what an arrogant response. I think we are long past the days when people will accept an “eminent authority” knows all and what’s best. You sound like a “mothering” Hungarian politician. If something isn’t right you don’t have to be an expert to see it. That Hungarian schools have been centralized isn’t a good thing. It reverses the chain of responsibility in the wrong direction. The schools, first and foremost are answerable to the students. Teachers not doing their job robs the students of their future. Since kids often lack the maturity to see this parents, have the responsibility to make sure that teachers and schools are doing the job they are helping fund. So yes, I will intervene when some thing isn’t right. We don’t tolerate our kids being disrespectful to their teachers but we also don’t tolerate teachers being disrespect to our kids. I have dealt with only 2 teachers that I considered engaged in unprofessional behaviour, one Hungarian and one Canadian. Guess which one accepted responsibility and changed. Sorry but comments like this annoy me. It suggests the person you are talking to doesn’t have a brain and isn’t able think through problems. Not ageing with… Read more »
exTor
Guest

Centralization is not suigeneris good or bad. Teaching problems and other issues are dealt with neither better nor worse because of this system. For Viktor Orbán, the prime benefit is easier control of Hungary’s teachers. It’s as simple as that. LwiiH.

MAGYARKOZÓ

exTor
Guest
OMG Some1, you mean the reason that I skipped grade 5 was because incompetent teachers at Brown School, Toronto put me ahead for the hell of it? I’m so disappointed. Here I am and for all these decades I thought that I had been some bright little kid in gradeschool. Now I believe that the cognitive impairment that bewraps me is not the result of a quarter century of contact sports, but an inherent condition. Just born that way. I smiled at your ‘lying’ question. I understood it. I believe everything you say. Why wouldn’t I? I didn’t live with my teacher girlfriends, so I didn’t get to hear the dailies. My longtime exGF teaches special ed north of Toronto. I’m on both sides. Were I a parent, I’d be in there perhaps faster than some of the females writing to this forum. Lots of screwups in this world, teachers and otherwise, and that includes parents. Look at the SFB from Sudbury (Darlene Tindell) who is an antivaxer. She refused to allow her 2 kids to be vaccinated against measles, thereby imperiling her community. Parents are not automatically correct just because they are ‘concerned’. There are enough Typhoid Jennies in… Read more »
Guest

You know if NPK and KLIK graded themselves on the approach to education in the Hungarian state I figure it has to be an A++++++ for all their work!! ‘Assessments’ indeed are important in gauging the efficacy of education in Hungary. Thing is is there a possibility that some are overweighted in the curriculum of the state?

I was surprised to see Hungarian kids not doing too good ‘digitally’. Looks like they ‘don’t care’. Sorry I always seem to marry those two words with Magyarorszag. It’s too bad in that particular case NPK and KLIK aren’t ‘cruel’ to be kind in their pedagogical purview of kids. It just appears they are not preparing their youngest generations for the changing world they are about to enter. It would be better to focus on absolute learning rather than worrying about ‘criticism and self- criticism’ which act like leftover chicken eaten in terrible times.

And as for Hungary which apparently has a cagey attitude with certain kulfoldis maybe they might entertain checking out the possible ‘Asian’ contribution to their society. With their apparently rabid attitude to education Hungary’s IQ will rocket within a month….;-)….if anybody cares about education it’s the Asian family.

petofi
Guest

@Some 1

My, my, Some1, take a pill after you see mention of my name–your English falls to pieces otherwise.

(By the way, Some1, my wife still refuses to ‘ouch’ me with a 10-ft pole regardless of how much I beg her! Do you see what you’ve done…?)

spectator
Guest

“The creation of such groups may poison personal relationships within the teaching staff.”

But of course! This is the whole idea about, I believe.
Divide and conquer – otherwise those damn intellectuals may even feel good enough to plot something together, and who knows, what they may figure out..!

spectator
Guest

Otherwise we shouldn’t worry so much about the future generation, they are in good hands, really!
Already in the very early years of their life – age five – there getting indoctrinated, learning nearly all what matters nowadays in Hungary! Pedagogy on the highest possible level, that is!

No, I’m not joking!
With such high intellect and factual knowledge they are ready to be politicians already!

Even in the ruling Fidesz party, would you believe it?

Well, perhaps if I formulate a little bit differently you will, like: “their intellect and factual knowledge already makes them ready to be politicians in the Fidesz..”

Here is the proof:

To those lucky ones who don’t get the whole at once: kids from the nearby daycare has been taken to the border to personally express their gratitude to the soldiers present for “saving their homeland from the migrants!!!”

Webber
Guest

I will be rather surprised if Lázár stays in govt. another week after what he said about corruption in Fidesz. I wouldn’t be surprised if the State Prosecutor charged him with something or another in a year or so. The pot just called the kettle black.

valami
Guest

Nonnonnono, this is not the way it goes. Lazar just like Simicska knows too much. Way to much. Lazar practically knows about everything (ie. Fidesz corruption). He will not be charged with anything. Simicska wasn’t either. Lazar might be asked to leave but Orban always made sure that those forced out get some adequate compensation. Lazar will not talk and and he will not be investigated. In Fidesz top people understand the game all too well.

Webber
Guest

Simicska is having more than a little trouble at the moment.

valami
Guest

Simicska hasn’t been charged with anything (it would be quite difficult because he uses fronts, doesn’t use a phone or email), and neither has been any of his consiglieri.

Simicska has his untold billions stashed away in Singapore, Dubai, wherever, he doesn’t have to worry that much.

He’s only upset because he is not the big player any more, not because Orban’s really after him personally.

I wouldn’t worry about either Simicska or Lazar.

petofi
Guest

@Webber

If I was selling life insurance, Lazar and Simicska wouldn’t be getting any…

Guest

Totally OT but interesting/maybe even important:
I asked already but got no answer – maybe everybody disposed of this paper already …
Or are we the only ones on this site who got the slick coloured brochure?

A Magyar Reformok Működnek

It even has space for an answer – you can give your address, your email or your phone-no.
It would be interesting to comment on the 40 listed “successes” of the Fidesz government and show what really is going on in Hungary …

Webber
Guest

Wolfi – it’s just the latest in a long series of “national consultations” (nemzeti konzultáció). If you send it in, with whatever answer, your data will be collected, because your or your wife’s name and address is on it (just look, you’ll find it). Fidesz is using these things for multiple purposes: 1. to identify strong supporters; 2. to identify people who oppose Fidesz; 3. for propaganda purposes.

If you just throw the thing away they can’t come to any conclusion about you and can’t put you in their files. If you answer, they can.

Member

On previous consultations there were QR codes on the the paper you had to mail back. They said that the consultation is unanimous but when I scanned the QR code, my name and address was attached to it. Very strange coincidences happened to people who did not send the consolation back. My mother after decades of getting treatment for her heart (heart attack, etc.) and other conditions was refused to receive her two weeks of yearly treatment. When my father inquired, they told him that they cannot tell them why was the treatment refused.

Kormos
Guest

@ Wolfi. So please comment on the “successes” as you wish. I am in Hungary right now, and clearly see the results.

Guest

Let’s take just one topic:
4300 new policemen (and women presumably) – where are they?
Some/many people still drive like crazy – with 80 km/h though our village, using the left turn lane to overtake …
And I’m not the only one complaining here – my neighbours whose bedroom is on the side of the road (with old windows, no money for exchanging them …) say they often wake up at night …

And the advances in medical care, you just heard an example.

Even the official stats (number of workers, real wages, number of people leaving etc) look horrible – if you interpret them right.

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