Viktor Orbán’s education system “carries serious political risks”

If Zoltán Balog, minister in charge of education, thought that the teachers, who have had enough of Viktor Orbán’s educational experiments, would be appeased by promises to lift some of the administrative burdens that make the lives of both teachers and students a living hell, he was sorely mistaken. The government is now groping in the dark for some kind of solution. I have the feeling that they still haven’t realized that the government will have to offer substantial concessions to avoid a major confrontation.

The administration is promising to call together representatives of teachers and students to find a common solution to the problems. But how can they trust Balog and his undersecretary, Mrs. Czunyi, when the meeting is supposed to take place at the same time as the demonstration organized by the teachers’ unions? Or when the ministry instructed schools to hold parent-teacher conferences today, when demonstrations were scheduled in several cities? Surely, under these circumstances the good faith of the government can be seriously questioned. Or, adding to their sins, when Pesti Srácok, which 444.hu calls “the revolver newspaper of the Fidesz caucus,” suspects that it is György Soros and Ferenc Gyurcsány who are behind the “teachers’ revolt.” How? One of the organizers was once a member of a group that in 2012 received a grant from the Open Society Foundation. Gyurcsány is implicated, according Pesti Srácok, because one of the members of Oktatói Hálózat (Faculty Net) of university professors that supports the teachers is Zsuzsa Ferge, the “favorite sociologist” of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Incredible, isn’t it?

And if that weren’t enough, András Bencsik, editor of the far-right weekly Demokrata and one of the chief organizers of the Peace Marches that allegedly saved Viktor Orbán from being ousted by foreign powers, accused Piroska Galló, head of the Pedagógusok Szakszervezete (PSZ), of being the daughter of the notorious security chief of the Rákosi era, Gábor Péter (1906-1993). Bencsik didn’t bother to check the most basic facts before he spread this lie all over the Facebook. In reality, Ms Galló’s father was Ferenc Péter, a university professor, and not Gábor Péter, who together with his wife was serving a life sentence at the time of Galló’s birth.

While I was focusing on the brewing teachers’ revolt and the government’s attack on the judiciary, I neglected to talk about another rash announcement by János Lázár. For the sake of efficiency and economy he wants to eliminate thirteen and amalgamate another sixty ancillary institutions. These institutions are a mixed bag, but many of them are important independent organizations supporting the various ministries. The researchers of these institutes are supposed to give objective, honest, professional advice to the civil servants and politicians working in the ministries. If most of these institutions are placed under the direct supervision of the ministries, their independence will no longer be assured.

Let’s take the Oktatáskutató és Fejlesztő Intézet (Educational Research and Development Institute / OFI), which is one of the think tanks destined to be shut down. One wonders whether the decision has anything to do with a report OFI released last year, which can be read in its entirety here. In early January Undersecretary Czunyi talked only about reorganizing OFI. On January 5 she announced that great changes will take place in the ancillary institutions dealing with educational matters. For example, OFI’s role will be limited to the development of textbooks. A month later Lázár was already talking about the elimination of the entire institute.

What prompted this decision? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the criticism that can be read on practically every page of the study. The researchers wanted to assess the results of the nationalization of schools and the creation of the Klebelsberg Intézményfenntartó Központ (KLIK), which is supposed to run 4,000 some schools across the country. The authors’ conclusion is devastating. Those who know the language should take a look at the whole report. Here I don’t want to go into the details, which are pretty similar to the complaints of the teachers and students, but I will call attention to one warning: “The passive-aggressive overcentralized system carries serious political risks.” The researchers of this ancillary institution seemed to have the well-being of the government in mind. They warned the ministry of the political dangers inherent in the system Viktor Orbán and Rózsa Hoffmann created in the last five or six years. What was the government’s answer? Let’s just close the whole institute.

The suspicion is of long standing: Rózsa Hoffmann and Piroska Galló in October 2011

The suspicion is of long standing: Rózsa Hoffmann and Piroska Galló in October 2011

As I said at the beginning, we don’t know how the government will handle this problem. Of course, a lot will depend on the strength of the movement, which local Fidesz authorities are trying to dampen. For example, where Fidesz is very strong, like in Debrecen, the teachers either don’t want or don’t dare to join their colleagues elsewhere.

Piroska Galló, the leader of PSZ who was severely criticized in Magyar Narancs for being far too malleable, is showing her radical side at the moment. PSZ prepared a list of 25 demands, which basically call for dismantling the entire edifice built in accord with Viktor Orbán’s educational vision. Right now she insists that the government accept the package in toto, a demand that most likely will have to be trimmed down. The question is by how much? Given Viktor Orbán’s personality, I suspect that his first reaction will be to reject most of these demands because he finds it very difficult to admit his mistakes. But if I were in his shoes, I would keep in mind what the researchers of OFI predicted already last year–that his educational system carries huge political risks. And after all, for him, staying in power is priority number one.

February 3, 2016
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Member

Wow fantastic research, Eva.

Observer
Guest

The developments also show perfectly Orban’s substance emulated in his regime:
– the timing of the meetings is nothing but trickery and cheating,
– the threats to the teachers is the usual violent reaction,
– the closure of the OFI institute is also typical Orban – striking the messenger of bad news, science and professionalism be damned;
– the nonsensical slander attack against trade union leader Gallo is also a standard tool – character assassination,
– the ridiculous references to the current bogeyman/enemy G.Sorsos and the inclusion of GyF for good measure show the simpleton level of propaganda to the faithful, as no person of any sense would take such nonsense.

Poor Hungarians; everyone has the right to do something stupid, but it’s not for free.

Émile
Guest

86% of Fidesz supporters (by far the biggest constituency) are very optimistic. Why shouldn’t they be? Life is indeed great in Hungary. 43% of all people say Fidesz is doing a good job in government at the mid-point of the cycle when things should be the worst.

Stop the liberal whining.

People love and appreciate Fidesz’s efforts.

Things are great in Hungary because finally there is a leadership that cares about Hungarians.

People just love Orban and Fidesz. I hope they will stay for decades to come.

http://index.hu/belfold/2016/02/04/median_fidesz_jobbik_mszp/

Observer
Guest

@Émile

“86% of Fidesz supporters … People just love Orban and Fidesz.”

People just loved Kádár and MSZMP, even more so – 92%. If you don’t beleiveve me go back read the papers of the time.

Of course they are not exactly the same – the former were communists, Orban is a fascist, but sometimes you can’t tell the difference.

Istvan
Guest
No doubt Émile post will set off some outrage among our regular posters on Eva’s website, but he does sound a lot like some of my own relatives who do not live in Budapest. But even they would not say “life is great in Hungary.” I have my doubts as to whether a revolt of primary and secondary teachers can lead to a crisis in the control of Fidesz over the body politic of Hungary. Now as oppressed as the teachers may be, their problems pale in comparison to those who work in the feeder part industries for the great European companies and even in factories owned directly by foreign multinational firms that exploit the cheap labor of Hungary. Industrial workers (full time) as defined by the International Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities in Hungary using US dollars fixed at the 2005 level are earning just over one quarter those of a relatively low paid Spanish industrial worker and using this same imperfect measuring stick. But teachers in Hungary get paid on average 16% more than Hungarian industrial workers for a significantly shorter average work week based on a different definition of full time employment. But teachers educational requirements… Read more »
Observer
Guest

@Istvan
“sound a lot like some of my own relatives who do not live in Budapest”

This is what the propaganda machine is for. There isn’t a single critical radio or TV station outside Bp. (now some Simicska bits of truth).

Add Hungarian syndrome “You can plow the Hungarian’s back as long as the plow is nemzeti”. The majority agreed with trampling the tótokat (Slovaks), approved the WWI against kutya Szerbia, thought the Vienna rulings were good and final, approved joining the Nazis in WWII and remained the last dumbheads to fight with the Nazis, in Buda ! All wrong.

Now here they go again – the Hungarians from the murky deep (mély magyar) dragging the country down again (see economics). Everyone has the right to be dumb, but at a price.

AnAn
Guest

Istvan, you like to jump on the exploitative multinationals, but what you are missing is that the local Hungarian employers are the worst offenders when it comes to exploiting workers. Pay, work condition, working hours … all worse at Hungarian employers than with multinational firms. No wonder that multinational companies are the most popular places to work for in Hungary http://hvg.hu/karrier/20120301_munkahely_vonzo

Actually, most multinationals bring in a work culture that is a lot less exploitative than what is typical at a greedy new capitalist Hungarian employer.

One thing the Orban regime was very successful at is making the Hungarian workers a lot easier to exploit for the profit of the new Hungarian capitalist class (by changing the Labor Law, for example). At the same time they are kicking the multinationals as hard as they can, as they want get rid of the foreign competition. Both the multinational companies and the Hungarian businesses are capitalists, and yes, both use and exploit cheap labor as best as they can, but out of the two at this point, the multinationals are the lesser evil as their workplace norms, compared to the Hungarian counterparts, overall tend to be more civilized.

Guest

An is absolutely right!
One more thing:
Many Hungarian employers cheat on taxes and social security (of course to the detriment of the workers …) by employing people officially part-time – in reality they work 40 hours a week or even more and get part of their wage as “black money”.
If a a worker you don’t accept that – tough luck, they’ll find another one …

Istvan
Guest

The wage average is of course based on workers meeting the International Standard Industrial Classification as an industrial worker regardless of whether their employer is a Hungarian firm or part of a multinational corporation. Many of the Hungarian owned firms that you correctly note are parts producers feeding into larger firms so there are links there too. No doubt the 20-30% of industrial workers in Hungary who are undeclared workers are likely working in Hungarian owned operations.

Outsourcing contracts in the industrial sector exist all over Hungary. There is even a Hungarian Service and Outsourcing Association (www.hoa.hu ) and some multinationals are not the actual employers of industrial workers in their factories.

I also took it from Eva’s comment above she is indicating something close to a national teachers strike is possible in the near future. I have not seen any public discussion of that, but maybe Eva has. Indeed that would be significant but is Hungary really on the edge of such a strike?

petofi
Guest

@Istvan

“…foreign multinational firms that exploit the cheap labor of Hungary.”

So, this is rather troll-like.
It’s not the multinational firms that exploit, its the government
that goes to multinational firms and demands payouts–often more than millions of euros–for various advantages (cheap labour being only one of them…reduced taxes, etc.).

Why do you think that foreign banks that operate in Hungary have different rules than in their own countries, huh? (Payouts, maybe?)

One reason that there is ‘cheap labour’ is because the government does absolutely nothing to invite and encourage other industry…thereby maintaining a large pool of unemployed that they farm out to select industries who ‘pay the tariff’–compris?

Istvan
Guest

Yes back to the hunt for trolls. Outsourcing is based on wage cost differences and resource availability, also taxation and infrastructure. Hungary as a center for outsourcing began before Fidesz took power, its not just limited to wages. But if you are talking about a sector of the workforce creating a crisis in Hungary is it likely to be primary and secondary teachers Petofi?

The United States is the world expert on outsourcing, the Mexican US border is filled with companies that pay more than the average in Mexico, but far less than in lets say Dallas Texas. Mexican industrial workers have very weak protections against environmental hazards compared to US workers. It is the same reality on a world scale and multinational corporations play a big role in this. Even Chinese multinationals are doing some of this now.

webber
Guest

Istvan
An is right.
You know the laws. The practice is quite different.
If you can, look into the difference in pay and treatment between workers at Lidl, Interspar, or Aldi (foreign owned), and those a CBA (Hungarian owed).

Istvan
Guest

Webber I was discussing average wages here for industrial workers not those specific to each corporation. We know that there are even foreign owned firms that use outsourcing employers that pay more than other firms.

The critical issue here is the incredibly low wages of Hungarian industrial workers that are a critical driver of the Hungarian economy. An seems to think that working for a multinational is an advantage within the Hungarian economy, but if it is then its effect of the average wage is minimal for industrial workers. The Hungarian owned firms are integrated into the European economy and multinationals just as much as the low wage producer Foxconn in China is integrated into Apple Corp. This why its called globalization.

webber
Guest

Istvan,
You are right that international companies pay poorly in international comparison. In comparison with Hungarian-owned companies, the salaries are marvelous and (more importantly) the workers are treated much better.
I have some acquaintances working for Hungarian-owned factories, and some working for Western ones. Those working for international ones are satisfied. Those working for Hungarian-owned ones all want to work for Western-owned ones, OR to leave the country.
There is a huge difference that does not show up in studies or statistics, and the difference is not only in pay. An wrote part of why.
I suggest you read what she wrote again.

webber
Guest

P.S. The AVERAGE salary for a Hungarian worker is lower than the STARTING salary at the Audi plant in Győr for an unskilled worker.
Hungarian employers regularly expect workers to be on the job more than 40 hrs a week for no extra salary (hell, even HOSPITALS expect that of doctors and nurses in Hungary).
Western employers do not.
There are all sorts of rules on worker safety and welfare that Hungarian employers routinely ignore.
I’m not saying Western companies are saints. They are in Hungary because wages are so low, after all. I’m just saying that by comparison, they are better to their workers on avg.

Member

If that’s true, then why do so many Hungarians want to leave their country?

For the past 8 years, emigration out of Hungary has been steadily increasing year by year.

Some reading material for you:
http://index.hu/gazdasag/2015/04/08/kulfold_kivandorlas_letelepedes_nepesseg/
http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/kivandorlo_orszagga_valik_magyarorszag.217534.html

pogácsás
Guest

Hungary, the Hungarian national football team has never been so highly ranked by FIFA as now. It is No. 19th in the world out of maybe 200 teams.

The people can finally be proud of Hungary and this is worth everything.

The liberals can’t understand this. But feeling the unity and pride gives the people immense joy and happiness and so they will vote for Fidesz. There are no surprises here. A lot of work and success will earn rightful popularity for any party. Fidesz delivers that’s all.

webber
Guest

You haven’t answered the question: If Hungarians are so happy and proud about things in Hungary, why are record numbers of them leaving the country?

Guest

Football, while enjoyable as a spectator sport, is an enterprise for the very very very few who are lucky. Better the loud ‘rah rahs’ go into education. And it’s servants. At least there’s a payback to more of the nation’s population.

And anyway if Orban has his way no doubt if football popularity goes up he will probably try to monetize it on the backs of spectators. Happens all the time. The name of the game.

petofi
Guest

@ pogacsas

“…gives the people immense joy…”

Oh for the good old times: nothing gives the populace greater joy than to send his jewish neighbour ‘away’–in 1944, it was Auschwitz–and then put in a claim on his
belongings. For a Hungarian, there is/was..no greater joy.

sandor
Guest

Hungarians love Jews and the Jews love Hungary.

Only the liberal media lies that there’s anti-semitism in Hungary.

http://vampirpillango.tumblr.com/post/138632242620/kumin-ferenc-%C3%A9s-semj%C3%A9n-zsolt-new-yorkban

petofi
Guest

As soon as the country collapses, it’ll be people like Emile who would lead the bloodthirsty hordes in seach of ‘the jews who caused it all’…

Guest

OT The government will ”reorganise” the Hungarian tourist industry. A central body (The Klebelsberg Tourist Adminstration?) will be created which will collect fees from all tourist businesses (congress hotels, village B&Bs and so on) in return for ”coordinating” tourist events. If all goes well riches will be sucked up by the Fidesz vacuum cleaner.

http://budapestbeacon.com/public-policy/government-to-reorganize-hungarys-booming-tourism-sector/31666

Observer
Guest

God save the tourist industry ! Orban is going to protect it.
Of course everyone has to pay protection money, you know… as in Chicago/NYC 1930.

webber
Guest

Instead of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the Fidesz slogan seems to be “If it ain’t broke, take it over.”
Tourism is one of post-1989 Hungary’s greatest successes (or has been, until now).

Geo
Guest

And who is the most well-known, award-winning young expert in tourism, who just finished her degree at a great tourism school?

webber
Guest

Orban’s daughter, of course.

Observer
Guest

But I give you a big red point here.

Guest

Wish they would expand the vote to kulfoldi tourists who have bona fide Magyar parents.
Would be nice for them to get on the board too and speak their mind.

Observer
Guest

I guess it is more like they robbed so much there is no easy prey left (MNB excepted) , Paks is in doubt, so they resort to milking every cow still standing.

petofi
Guest

“…resort to milking every cow still standing.”

Great phrase there.
Message to the last cow standing: ‘Please shut the light as you
leave the country.’

webber
Guest
csipot
Guest
petofi
Guest

Ms Gallo–a woman of class and distinction.
Why wouldn’t she be attacked by the ‘bunko’ Fideszniks?

Bedő
Guest

She’s been actually very subservient. Exactly the kind of trade union chief Fidesz likes and usually arranges to be elected. Even now she isn’t the driving force and certainly she hasn’t protested much.

webber
Guest

Strictly on the topic above:
In Hungary now, parents provide teachers and schools with chalk, marking pens, paper, kleenex, toilet paper, soap, and just about any other item you care to mention. At the start of the school year, teachers inform parents what is needed, and regularly let parents know if more of some item is needed. Parents, naturally, also purchase all the textbooks for their children (unless they have 3 or more kids, in which case books are free).
Moreover, if a classroom needs to be renovated, it is normal for teachers to ask the parents to help – parents paint classrooms, for example.
The school (state) provides four walls, heating, lighting, and – weirdly – some computers (in very few classrooms).
Despite the fact that so little is provided now, the state (KLIK) has accrued huge debts, and some suppliers are no longer willing to provide services. Many swimming instructors and pools, for example, have not been paid.
I don’t know how it is in other places, but in the XIX. district of Budapest, the local council gave students notebooks at the start of the year. This seemed a sort of miracle. The district’s mayor is a socialist.

tappanch
Guest

Why does the Orban government want to nationalize the cemetery on Fiume street and the Jewish graveyard on Salgotarjan road?

Will they give them to friendly real estate people? Do they want to build their own monuments in the cemeteries?

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest

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Istvan
Guest

Eva on a totally unrelated topic I would very much like to see your review of the reaction in Hungary to Obama administration plans for a budget request of more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe in 2017, more than quadrupling the current budget of $789 million. As you can imagine I see this as a tremendous policy victory for the US Joints Chiefs of Staff, security analysts, and retired military officers who have been arguing for a serious response to Russian threats against Central Europe and NATO for almost two years now.

petofi
Guest

Fear not, Istvan (harcos), Hillary will change all that when she comes and hits the ‘reset’ button!

Guest

Re: ‘Tremendous policy victory’ in Europe

Right. Would love to be a fly on the wall on that budget request in those Magyar halls!
Which way will the worm turn?

Istvan
Guest

Lobbyists that focus on military issues generally believe Sec Clinton is not opposed to the increased military budget, Sen Sanders however is opposed. The surviving Republican candidates will all support it, Sen Paul who is an isolationist has withdrawn due to a lack of support. Trump would probably double down on the increase unless Putin offered him a deal, Trump likes deals and no doubt thinks he can out fox Putin which would be a big mistake. But Trump would use our military recklessly and spend lives for PR in my opinion.

There is little if any support for Trump within the military see http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/12/16/pentagon-troops-it-s-us-or-trump.html The national organization I am an active member of the Military Officers Association of America has publicly been outraged by Trump’s attack on Sen. John McCain for his having been captured in the Vietnam War. For Trump who never served a day in uniform to criticize the service and sacrifice of a combat-wounded veteran is in my opinion despicable, If Trump ever came under fire he would piss himself and run for cover.

Guest

Re: ‘If Trump ever came under fire….’

You know with the rhetoric that comes spewing out by Trump et al on military affairs sometimes one has to shake the head as to the off the cuff and on the fly comments on how a country should run military campaigns. Personally I find the candidates , those arm-chair generals , short of inspiring confidence in the appropriate US projection of military power and its use around the world. And a Trump presidency? A disaster woeful to contemplate. He is not a man that generates ‘gravitas’. Come to think of it how many do for that important job?

Anyway things perhaps we’d like to see: Donald trying his hand at Hungarian. Wonder how he would say ‘hogy vagy’ at a summit with Viktor?

Wohveli
Guest
A bit connected to “Lázár struggles to rationalize axing civil servants” topic but more relevant on this one. ”Orbán did mention weaknesses in the public education system. These weaknesses, he said, are precisely what his government has been working to resolve since its election in 2010.” If the last five years are something that Orbán and KLIK think as improvement, then they can go to hell. My wife’s school is now syndicated, one headmaster is overseeing 7 schools. The school has no own budget. If they need something, they make request to distant headmaster. The school has four copy machines. 3 of them are broken. There has been a promise the last six months that those will be taken care off. Until then, 44 teachers share one copy machine. And as Budapest has dictated, there has be to tests basically on weekly basis, so the last remaining machine is doing overtime. When KLIK went on effect, they rationalized school secretaries. My wife’s school had very efficient system with the secretary. She did all the photocopies for the teachers. They emailed the files to her and in the mornings first break she gave them all the copies. Came KLIK, there went… Read more »
Guest

Re: …obstacles to teachers\’…

I can see the deck is stacked against them. And what of the students? Beats me how they navigate the distasteful environment at all. Years on I do wonder who will represent the Magyar government. Will they be capable stewards? Will it be the \’ best and the brightest\’ or an \’educated elite\’ beholden to a few?

Observer
Guest

More correctly: “Everything Orban introduced has only created obstacles to the people”………

Split services between local council and district (járás) offices
Shops closed on Sunday
Ban vehicle Technical inspection done by individuals
etc. etc.

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