The Orbán government’s penchant for religious educational institutions

As I was browsing through local Pécs news sites yesterday, I happened upon an article about the beginning of the school year. It wasn’t so much the article that caught my eye but the accompanying photo, which I recognized as a Protestant church service for school children. (The tipoff was the way the kids were clasping their hands in prayer.) From the article I learned that indeed the photo was taken at the Pécs Református Kollégium, which was the site of the official school opening for the whole city. Given that the official ceremony took place in a parochial school, Bishop István Szabó, head of the Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church, gave a short sermon, which was followed by the usual speeches for the occasion. Among the speakers was Péter Páva, head of the local school district, who boasted about the generous government support for education. He claimed that the government will spend 254,000 forints for each and every student next year. If you’re wondering whether Péter Páva is related to Mayor Zsolt Páva, the answer is yes. He is his younger brother. The city and its education are in good hands.

School opening in the Pécs Hungarian Reformed elementary school

I for one find it offensive that the official school opening, at which government and municipal officials give speeches, is held in a parochial school, although I shouldn’t have been surprised because the official national school opening this year was held in a Hungarian Reformed church in Nagykőrös. Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources, and László Palkovics, undersecretary in charge of education, were among the speakers. The event was organized by the local Hungarian Reformed educational institution, which includes an elementary school, two gymnasiums, and a boarding school. There is no longer even the pretension of a separation of church and state in Hungary.

Last November János Lázár said that “the most important institutions of education in Hungary are the parochial schools and the primary goal of education is to raise good Christians and good Hungarians. Everything beyond that is debatable and indefinite. One doesn’t know whether it would stand the test of time. The lesson of the last 1,000 years is that the nation can endure only through religious educational institutions.” These unacceptable sentences were uttered in the Hungarian Reformed church in Mezőtúr.

Lázár’s speech prompted quite a debate at the time. Perhaps the most thoughtful comments came from Gergely Nádori, a high school teacher in the Alternatív Közgazdasági Gimnázium, an excellent private school in Budapest. He pointed out that Lázár’s words reveal his total lack of knowledge of Protestant religions, which pay special attention to Paul’s teaching that “it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy” (Rom 9:16). That is, no one can create good Christians. It is the gift of God. He also noted that most parochial schools in Hungary today do not have the religious support of local communities. In the majority of the cases, the parents are not religious people; more often than not, they don’t even belong to the church whose schools their children attend. The decision to send a child to a religious educational education is based on utterly pragmatic considerations.

The number of parochial schools has been growing rapidly, especially after the nationalization of schools formerly run by the municipalities. In 2010 there were 572 communities where churches maintained schools. By the 2016/2017 school year that number had grown to 1,308. In 2010 112,500 students attended parochial schools; today their number is 207,800. As a result, some communities ended up without school choice. According to a study conducted by the Magyar Liberális Párt, there are 95 villages without a public school and 30 larger towns where there is no choice when it comes to high school. This is an unacceptable situation, and there are plans to turn to the Constitutional Court for remedy.

Although Hungarian parochial schools often require church attendance and school prayer, the children who come out of these schools are not any more religious than those who attend public schools. Even as the number of parochial schools multiplied, between 2000 and 2016 the number of churchgoers between the ages of 15 and 28 plummeted.

Most parents don’t opt for a parochial school because they want their children to have a religious education. The reason is financial. Parochial schools receive a great deal more money from the state per student than do public schools. The extent of the discrimination is staggering. On the basis of calculations done by the Költségvetési Felelősségi Intézet, a financial think tank, while the state disburses 61,300 forints per child to the public schools, parochial schools get 160,000 forints per student. So, 2.6 times more. In fact, in the next school year the situation will be worse because public schools will receive only 58,300 forints per student, while parochial schools will get 200,000 forints per student. The difference will be 3.4 times in favor of the latter.

Parochial schools have further perks. They don’t have to use the textbooks published by a government publishing house, which, according to the majority of teachers, are inferior to the earlier ones. Unlike public schools, parochial schools don’t have to accommodate all students within their school districts. They can accept only the most qualified students. Thus, the larger the number of parochial schools, the greater will be the already huge gap between elite schools and run-of-the mill or worse schools.

The government also announced at the beginning of July that it will give an additional 22 billion forints to the Piarists for the renovation and expansion of five schools run by the order. They are gymnasiums located in Göd, Kecskemét, Mosonmagyaróvár, Nagykanizsa, and Sátoraljaújhely. The Ministry of Human Resources justified this incredible amount of money by saying that these five institutions will educate 2,500 students. The money will be spent over the next four years. By way of comparison, the government is planning to spend 30 billion forints for the reform of hospitals in Budapest, which affect the health of 4-4.5 million people.

I feel very strongly about this issue. The close relationship between church and state has been an impediment to modernization and to social and economic development. This was true during the dual monarchy and even more so during the Horthy era. My natural inclination regarding this topic was only reinforced by my unpleasant experiences at a parochial school that I attended because of a lack of choice. Therefore, I am saddened that today there are communities where parents must send their children to a religious school, perhaps against their better judgment. And the fact that the Orbán government discriminates against 80% of students attending its own schools is scandalous and shameful. It was also outrageous that Zoltán Balog, in his initial confusion, said that the Hungarian government must wait for the official position of the Catholic Church on the question of in vitro fertilization. It took him a day or so to realize on what dangerous ground he was treading.

September 1, 2017
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2016-2017 academic year.

Government, i.e. public money spent on the education of

A. public school pupils (80%+ of total): 42.3 billion forints,
B. parochial school pupils (less than 20%): 41.5 billion forints

The 79.2 billion forints the Orban government failed to give to the public schools (and more) ended up in church hands last December:
they gave an additional 118 billion forints to the churches.

The money this anti-Hungarian government spent on public schools is worth a mere 136 million euros !
Compare it to the 4 to 6 billion euros of EU money that go through Orban’s hands every year.

Health care, education – the same pattern. Orban starves the public sector to death.
There will be incredible deals for the fidesznik ruling caste at the forced privatization.

The latest official data students [teachers] (number of schools) A. Primary general schools (“általános iskola”) 2015-2016 public schools: 631,013 or 84.40% [65,796] (1,860) parochial schools: 101,045 or 13.52% [ 9,673] ( 346) other private schools: 15,558 or 2.08% [ 1,651] ( 102) 2010-2011: public schools: 693,368 or 91.41% [66,780] (1,991) parochial schools: 50,750 or 6.69% [ 5,051] ( 197) other private schools: 14,448 or 1.90% [ 1,734] ( 106) pages 126 & 42 B. Secondary general schools, full-time (“nappali gimnázium”) 2015-2016 public schools: 125,318 or 69.25% [11,239] (312) parochial schools: 43,379 or 23.97% [ 4,273] (159) other private schools: 12,269 or 6.78% [ 2,425] (110) 2010-2011 public schools: 150,369 or 75.68% [12,518] (402) parochial schools: 35,396 or 17.81% [ 3,251] (108) other private schools: 12,935 or 6.51% [ 2,523] (116) pages 129 & 45 There are other types of school as well: Kindergarten, vocational school, special vocational school, secondary vocational school Source: Koznevelesi statisztikai evkonyv 2015/2016 (published in 2017)
There is a misconception about the role of governance in Hungary. Of course the regime’s misconception is a deliberate one, which they exercise without moral (immoral?) boundaries. As to the understanding by the majority of Hungarians about governance and about the tasks and responsibilities of a government is practically non-existent. Since the French revolution the separation of the Church and State gained acceptance and in modern times in all democracies it became the standard that also written into the Constitutions of those nations. In Hungary the current regime turned this on its head and turned history back to the dark times of the Horthy era. Hungary is no different to most of the countries of Europe and the USA, where church going is on the decline and religious beliefs restricted to weddings, funerals and traditions like Xmas. For the Orban regime to throw hundreds of millions of €’s to the churches and church affiliated organisations when the very same places of worship are empty, is no less than blatant political corruption. Those empty churches are being renovated endlessly, stadiums are being built for the non-existent fans, whilst hospitals are crumbling, where there are not enough doctors and nurses and there… Read more »
The reality

Church and state was separated in Hungarian legal system even in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Just an example: The word’s first compulsory Civil marriage was introduced in Hungary. So de iure formally the state and church were separated in the legal system even during the Horthy era, but DE-FACTO they were not separated.

Most of the church buildings of Hungary is in poor condition, needs renovation until this day. I can’t see any progress in this case since the fall of communism.

By European eyes, the ratio of the Church goers are shockingly high in the United States

Just some observations… The commies did a good job in hindsight. They in a way blew out the ‘religious’ and put the ‘secular’ into Magyarorszag. They helped to dump religion and burrow that secular atheistic worm into Magyar minds. Now all that didn’t just happen coming out from left-field but was an active and deliberate attack to condition Magyar attitudes to what they should actually believe. It was an egregious interference in their CHOICES taking away autonomy in what they could or could not believe in. The pressure to be ‘secular’ worked relentlessly. It of course was the commie way. And now fast forward today where Orban , the great illiberalist , uses religion to promote political ‘values’ in his vision of civil society. Once again now in a different guise a politicized group deems it necessary to have its minions acquiescing to serve the goals of a corrupt state. They too now have wormed in on choice. So instead of ‘secularism’ now it’s ‘religion’ getting shoved down the throats of the electorate. And this leads to a depressing conclusion. If Magyarorszag is ‘secularized’ then it seems there is no advantage as there does not see to be any indication… Read more »

And a coda…

Cautionary verse for a future time which will be coming up for an electorate..

“And the morals that they worship will be gone, And the men who spurred us on, Sit in judgment of all wrong” “Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
we won’t get fooled again’

I don’t think I need to cite where this came from for the as always knowledgable here…😎


The number of public [parochial]{other private} “általános iskola” ; “gimnázium”

2001-2002: 3189 [144] { 90} ; 429 [ 88] { 60}
2002-2003: 3182 [150] { 89} ; 443 [ 90] { 69}
2003-2004: 3120 [156] { 99} ; 436 [ 91] { 77}
2004-2005: 3028 [165] {100} ; 435 [ 92] { 87}
2005-2006: 2870 [171] {100} ; 434 [ 96] { 90}
2006-2007: 2784 [171] {109} ; 430 [ 99] { 98}
2007-2008: 2233 [179] {108} ; 417 [100] {101}
2008-2009: 2081 [183] {111} ; 410 [103] {108}
2009-2010: 2019 [194] {109} ; 407 [104] {112}
2010-2011: 1991 [197] {106} ; 402 [108] {116}

2011-2012: 1892 [231] {104} ; 377 [117] {121}
2012-2013: 1832 [300] {103} ; 362 [134] {117}
2013-2014: 1838 [321] { 99} ; 352 [143] {115}
2014-2015: 1866 [336] {101} ; 344 [153] {117}
2015-2016: 1860 [346] {102} ; 312 [159] {110}


Secondary general schools, full-time (“nappali gimnázium”):

Under the previous Socialist governments, the ratio of students in non-religious private schools grew significantly
(from 4.0% in 2002 to 6.5% in 2010),
while under the Fidesz regime, the church-owned schools did the same
(from 17.8% in 2010 to 24.0% in 2015)


number of students in public [parochial] {other private} schools

2002-2003 149,313 [29,787] { 7,408} or 80.06% [15.97%] {3.97%}
2006-2007 155,781 [33,635] {10,876} or 77.78% [16.79%] {5.43%}
2010-2011 150,369 [35,396] {12,935} or 75.68% [17.81%] {6.51%}
2015-2016 125,318 [43,379] {12,269} or 69.25% [23.97%] {6.78%}


A high percentage of pupil in private schools is imho a sure sign of an undemocratic class oriented society where the rich put their children in special schools! It’s a typical sign that not only Fidesz but also the US and British conservatives are fond of private schools.

PS and a bit OT:
In the small German town where I grew up we only had one Gymnasium where you could get your Abitur after 9 years ( + 4 years basic school). The Abitur was and still is important because without it you can’t go to university and also it is a kind of shame for the parents (if you’re middle or upper class) if a child doesn’t pass it.
So several rich parents of “not so clever” classmates and younger pupils asked me to help their children – in maths and science mainly. A friend of mine helped with languages where he was the best and we both made nice pocket money by this, money that our not so well off parents couldn’t give us.
Nowadays these parents probably would send their children to private Gymnasiums …


I’ve said it before:
Hungary is fifty years behind civilsied Europe!

Now I have the feeling Hungary is marching backwards so the difference is growing.
All this reminds me of the situation in Germany 60 or seventy years ago when we also went to Protestant or Catholic school – later they were united in a “Christian school”.
And my friends and I got into trouble because instead of going to church we preferred to take a walk along the old City Wall – discussing Nietzsche etc …
Soon the Hungarian schools will teach Creationism instead of Evolution!
Oh well, with the Chinese progressing Europe needs another “wage slave colony” – those naive Hungarians will do the part, no education but willing to do god’s work …
Just like in Communist times when Hungarians would do anything for a few Deutsche Mark – horrible!

My wife who has been an Atheist all her life is really angry – can’t repeat the words she’s using!

Melanie Zuben

We all know that Nietzsche hated Christianity. He called us Christians “intellectually inferior”, “delusional”, etc. etc. and he was an admirer of Aryan racism. The Nazis murdered 6 million Jews, because they believed that the Jews were an inferior race. On the other hand, Christians view the act of Nazis as disgusting atrocities. In the light of Nietzsche’s philosophy, how about giving up your cultural egoism (atheist intellectual superiority) and give some credit to the Orban government for recognising the obvious: The Porn Industry (with the help of Liberal educators) is unable to accommodate all senses. People have a need for Spiritual Enlightenment.


“People have a need for Spiritual Enlightenment.”
Do you mean, you want the use of denatured alcohol, also called ‘methylated spirits’, when OV will be put on the pyre?


What you write is complete crap. Not because it is not true, but what is much worse. It is incomprehensible drivel.
As for the narrow point of the Orban government, do not trouble to go there. We have done him on this blog, inside out. He is also crap, but he should pay for what he has done.




Following the flying spaghetti monster this should be
Ramen! 🙂


Btw melanie should look up “Rat Road” – the way Catholic bishops etc helped many high ranking Nazi killers escape to Southern America – maybe also to Australia?
And please stop your horrible Christian propaganda here, it makes me (like probably everbody) laugh – or wanting to *** you (depending on my mood).

Melanie Zuben

I didn’t expect you to understand my comment. You are generalizing once again. Yes, there were some Christians or Catholic priests who had committed terrible atrocities. However, I don’t know of any who had reached hero status, like Nietzsche’s philosophy did, followed by many. I don’t know of any pedefile priests who had written masterpieces trying to sell their twisted ideas to influence the masses. I have no more to say.

The truth is: Nietzsche is DEAD but GOD is still alive for those who want to find him.


Religion is BAD overall, always in the negative side of my ledger. Extremities aside, the sheer way of (not)thinking, the blind faith, the accepting notions on authority rather than reason is unproductive and immoral as it hampers or disables the self correcting mechanism on which development is based.


“Things I see you only disagree
You never understand that’s what I want to be
You never understandin’
You never understand me – YEAH”
by The Jesus and Mary Chain (1985)

btw: they’re not dead yet, (un)understandably still making a lot of noise…


If you don’t stop your ridiculous religious propaganda I’m all for banning you,latefor!

If a Muslim (or Jew or Hindu or …) tried the same thing you’d probably be up in arms!
Especially Catholicism is one of the most horrible ideas ever invented, almost destroyed the childhood of many of my friends who got kind of psychotic because they could not follow those idiotic rules:
Thou shalt not …
You really are the village idiot here!
But this is about Hungary not about your psychosis or whtever problems your brain has, don’t you understand?


Melanie, your rantings are as incomprehensible as always …
Christians killed not only Jews but witches unbelievers etc – look up “pogrom” somewhere.
And all those thousands of paedophile priests – right now in Australia e g. Well, at least they won’t touch you!


The differences in financing of public and parochial schools is completely unacceptable (more than 3-times! see Eva’s post and tappanch’s data).
What official reasoning is the HU government using to justify this?
For my feeling this looks like straight discrimination, which would be against ‘their own’ Fundamental Law! What are the legal options for people, who don’t agree with these policies?
And if HU legal bodies don’t want to intervene, are there possibilities to go to the EU?
(unfortunately Navracsics is EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport…)



Very good point: any decent lawyer would find many violations of the existing laws by these discriminatory actions.

Notably most statutes have nicely sounding preambles , intended mostly for show. Problem is that in Hun the preambles are not viewed as integral part of the statute, but in a case of considering the compliance of an action with the law the preambles can be used as evidence.


OT. Look at Nepszava on line. It has a priceless picture of OV arriving at Kotcse for a picnic. The guy has put on so much weight he is looking quite sick. He wears a green shirt which has shrunk around his body. He is probably not going to live long unless he sheds about 30 kilograms. Losing control of weight is a symptom of lack of self discipline or of other disease.


Amen! … I’ll pray to any god for that.


Of course, there are a number of psychotropic medications that cause terrible weight gain.


That is a real possibility and should not be overlooked. Should the opposition not demand in Parliament a full medical on the PM’s condition in the light of his weight gain? Getting fat because you eat too much foie gras is one thing, but if the weight is due to mental illness that is rather more serious.


My once a year reminder for the edification of “buszke magyarok” (proud Hungarians).
Read and inform yourselves about what Hungarians could ever be proud of.


Oh, and by-the-by…remember that the Germans asked the Hungarians
to ship only 100,000 jews to Auschwitz. With great generosity, the Hungarians–who were ‘only following orders from the Germans’–sent more than 300,000 more…

This is an extremely complex issue. The left-wing as lead by Gyula Horn back in the 1990’s wanted to appease the Catholic Church and concluded the Vatican treaty which promised (at least) equal treatment to parochial schools (for all parochial schools operated by historic Christian churches not just Catholic ones) in financing. This was a mortal mistake for the left-wing and was one of the (though not the only) reasons why left-wing became extinct outside Budapest. (The treaty was renewed recently under more favorable terms to the Catholic Church so probably Fidesz would’ve anyway concluded it, but there was no necessity for the Socialist-Liberal government to conclude it already in 1997). Once such schools mushroomed there was no reason why Orban could not spend much more (at present really three times as much!) on those schools and kids (per child). It’s legal. No left-wing party ever dared even to raise the idea that public school kids should receive the same amount as parochial school students — the left-wingers are terrified of upsetting the “historic” churches. This enormous difference in financing of course means that the rural teachers (more salary, better conditions) as well as the rural parents who are conscious… Read more »

Big data should be a big issue in the democracies. For its positive applications it has probably more negative, dangerous sides.
It will be a long debate and struggle.


Re: ‘At the same time the public system is increasingly under the influence of big business (Google, Microsoft, Apple etc.) which pretends to ‘improve’ or ‘modernize’ education when in fact it only collects data (surveills children and teachers), sells hardware and software and at the end of the day educates kids into abiding consumers’

There’s a piece in the current issue of the New Yorker on this subject and its possible effects on the practice of democracy. With them the mantra is ‘big data’ will pull things forward. Another instance of a sort of ‘collectivization’ of consumers and their behavioral habits in the 21st.


I looked up the Baptists, out of curiosity. The Baptists’ b49 program claims to include more than 49 schools now for at least 17000 children. According to 2011 data, there are less than 20000 baptists in Hungary.
They are well aware of this unusual fusion of state and church: “now, thanks to a law passed by the Hungarian government in 2012, Baptists have an open door to share Christ in 49 communities through ministering to students and teachers in public schools.” []
Or from one of the participating school’s webpage: “We believe that we are living historical times, and we have an extraordinary period of grace for evangelizing freely in schools.”
[Hisszük, hogy történelmi időket élünk, és egy különleges kegyelmi időszakunk van most az evangélium szabad hirdetésére az iskolákban. Incidentally, this school does not look like one of the poorest schools with high percentage of Roma students: see the photos of Opening Day:


Sorry, garbled URL: