Tag Archives: Klebelsberg Központ

A plagiarist educator? Yes, she will be the next principal of a Budapest high school

The following scandal might be a tempest in a teapot, but it typifies who gets ahead in today’s Hungary.

At the end of this school year the tenure of the current principal of the Antal Budai Nagy Gymnasium in Budafok / District XXII is coming to an end. According to the law, Mrs. Kiss, née Beáta Prim could be reappointed without an open application procedure if she is supported by the faculty, the students, and the parents. There is certainly no problem here. Kiss is liked by her colleagues: 42 of the 44 teachers gave her their support. So did the students and the parents. Yet on December 8, in a closed session, the city council at the suggestion of Deputy Mayor Zoltán Németh voted to have an open competition for Kiss’s job.

In addition to Mrs. Kiss’s application, there was an application from Mrs. Manolovits, née Orsolya Erdőközi, who turned out to be friends with both Deputy Mayor Németh and Mrs. Judit Bertalan Czunyi, undersecretary in charge of public education in the ministry of human resources. Czunyi is Rózsa Hoffmann’s replacement and unfortunately doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement. From the story that emerges, it looks as if Czunyi and Németh came to the aid of Manolovits, who a year earlier had failed to get a job as principal of a high school in Érd. The opportune moment was the end of Kiss’s term, which everybody believed would be automatically extended. Not so. An open application process began.

There is no question, Mrs. Czunyi, née Judit Bertalan is a faithful Fidesz loyalist

There is no question, Mrs. Czunyi, née Judit Bertalan, is a faithful Fidesz loyalist

The city council deemed both applicants’ qualifications and vision for the school’s future excellent, and therefore the final decision lay with the ministry. Faculty members and parents of the students by this point had no doubt that Malonovits, Czunyi’s friend from their university days, would be the winner. Petitions were sent to the ministry, demonstrations were organized, long debates were held during which a lot was learned about Malonovits. She was no stranger to the school. A couple of years previously she had taught Hungarian literature there. Apparently, she was not exactly an ideal colleague. Teamwork was not her forte. At one point she was appointed to lead the school’s literary society where she was supposed to work in tandem with the other Hungarian teachers, something she obviously was incapable of doing. Tensions rose and eventually she was removed from the position. At this point, giving no notice, she quit her job, leaving her graduating class high and dry just before their matriculation examinations.

Of course, what is happening in the Antal Budai Nagy Gymnasium is not unique. Ever since the nationalization of the schools the same routine has been followed. The tenure of a principal is up, but regardless of whether the person is doing an excellent job and could be automatically reappointed, he/she is removed and replaced by someone who has, as Népszabadság put it, “political tail-wind.” In fact, the appointment became infused with party politics when one of the Fidesz members of the council, head of the education committee, claimed that “one group of parents hand in hand with opposition parties stir up tension.”

It was becoming obvious that the parents would not be able to prevent Malonovits’s appointment, but they weren’t discouraged. They, most likely with the help of faculty members, became suspicious that Malonovits’s application might not be entirely her own creation. Members of the anti-Malonovits team turned to the Internet and, with the help of a plagiarism checker, found what they were looking for. Two years ago a Mrs. István Győri applied for the job of elementary school principal in Tiszaalpár, described as a larger village with a population of 5,000. That 2013 proposal was since placed online and hence was easily accessible. It looks as if Undersecretary Czunyi’s friend, who needed some help with her application, found it in Mrs. Győri’s prose.

Here are a couple of passages. You can decide for yourselves whether the new principal of a Budapest high school is a plagiarist.

Malonovits: I’m convinced that in today’s economic and social situation a leader must follow the managerial direction. Supporting the given institution and its environment, safeguarding its existence must be one’s primary function. I wish to emphasize professional innovation, the development of the given possibilities, outreach programs, and public relations. I especially consider it important to make our successes be known and to defend the institution’s interests.

Győri: I’m convinced that in today’s economic and social situation a leader must follow the managerial direction. I wish to emphasize professional innovation, the development of the given possibilities, outreach programs, and public relations. I especially consider it important to make our successes be known and to defend the institution’s interests.

There are several longish passages which Malonovits copied out from Győri’s application. In Népszabadság one can read them all, but here I think these short passages will suffice.

What was Mrs. Czunyi’s reaction? The ministry has neither the time nor the expertise to look into the case, she announced. In any case, it is too late. Mrs. Malonovits has been appointed. József Hanesz, the new director of the Klebelsberg Center (KLIK), the giant employer of all Hungarian teachers, took an interesting position on the case. On the one hand, he admitted that the texts were practically identical, but since Malonovits claims the text to be her own, it is not plagiarism. With such an acute mind it’s unlikely that he will be any better at running the show at KLIK than his failed predecessor.

What did Malonovits have to say about the accusation of plagiarism after the story broke? Nothing. On July 23, she released a statement in which she announced that her application was written in good faith and she is serious about working together with everybody. She is hoping that there will a mutual understanding of each other’s point of view. Otherwise, she wished everybody a nice summer vacation.

The parents, as of yesterday, still insist on pursuing the case which in their opinion endangers the recent academic achievements of the school under the leadership of Mrs. Kiss.

Resistance to a school closing in Budapest

Can you imagine a developed country anywhere in the world where closing a high school is subject to cabinet approval? It’s hard to imagine, but there is one that lies “in the heart of Europe.” Of course, I’m talking about Hungary, where unfortunately “the heart” is often missing from decisions reached by the country’s political leaders.

Those of you who have been following Hungarian politics already know that I’m talking about the Raoul Wallenberg School, which teaches “human studies,” such as health care, social work, and special education. The school trains healthcare workers (nurses, dental assistants, pharmacy assistants, ambulance nurses, etc.), social care providers (social assistants, child caregivers), and special education assistants.  The school was completely renovated ten years ago and cost 3 billion forints. The money, as usual, came from the European Union and, this time, also from Sweden. Since the year 2004 the school has borne the name of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who in 1944 saved several thousand Jewish citizens from certain death in Auschwitz and other extermination camps in Germany. The school has developed close relationships with schools in other European countries. They have yearly student exchange programs, scholarships, teachers’ visits, and conferences. All in all, “Raoul,” as everybody calls the school, is considered to be the best of its kind in Hungary.

So, why did the Orbán government decide to close it and scatter its 1,200 students and 70 teachers among six different vocational schools that don’t teach the subjects Wallenberg specializes in? The schools designated to receive “Raoul” students teach such trades as bricklaying, carpentry, and plumbing. All this was decided in two minutes at a cabinet meeting on March 18. In early April the principal of the school was told that, as of the end of the school year sometime in June, the Raoul Wallenberg School will be no more. And, she was warned, she cannot tell a soul about the school closing. No reason for the sudden decision was given.

It didn’t take long before everybody knew that the building that housed the Wallenberg School will be taken over by the new Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem/National Civil Service University. The expanding new university needs the space. The next victim most likely will be the Museum of Natural Sciences. The administration of the Wallenberg School knew that sooner or later they would have to evacuate the building, but they felt safe until at least April 30, 2016, because the EU grants Hungary received required that they remain in the same building for at least fifteen years. Well, the Hungarian government decided otherwise.

The way the government handled this case is typical. First, decisions are reached in secrecy, so there is no opportunity for those affected by the decisions to express their views. Second, the authorities don’t bother with rules and regulations. In the case of a contemplated school closing, there must be discussions with school boards, parents, teacher’s unions, etc. Of course, none of these people was consulted. Third, it really doesn’t matter what objections are voiced. The government goes full steam ahead anyway. Fourth, if there is trouble, as there was in this case, they send in a man who has no authority to make any decision. Fifth, they would like, if at all possible, to keep the media away. In this case, they also forbade the principal to talk to reporters. And finally, the last word is always that of the highest authority, who is Viktor Orbán himself. Even the minister of education cannot decide on a simple school closing without “the approval of the government.” What a country.

But sometimes the government meets stiff resistance and is forced to make concessions. It took about a week, but it now looks as if the Raoul Wallenberg School will continue as a unit, we just don’t know where. Since the city of Budapest will have only a couple of months to ready a building to receive a school currently equipped with special classrooms and equipment to teach healthcare subjects, it is hard to imagine that the school can open its doors in September. But, still, school officials are relieved and grateful. How did the administration of the school manage to win against the almighty state? Everybody involved refused to obey the order to keep quiet, and they all acted together: school officials, students, teachers, parents, and trade unions.

Heart and Sul of Raoul I will be a student of Raoul as long as I live

Heart of Raoul, Soul of Raoul–I will be a student of Raoul as long as I live

Although the principal was forbidden to speak, the deputy principal bravely went to ATV and told her story. She was impressive and fearless. The journalists, who initially were not allowed to attend a meeting of students, parents, and teachers with an official of the Klebelsberg Kunó Intézményfenntartó Központ (KLIK), the mammoth office in charge of all Hungarian elementary and high schools, ignored the instructions and gave vivid descriptions of the tumultuous gathering of at least a thousand people. Brave and surprisingly articulate fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds barraged the hapless KLIK representative with hundreds of questions and criticisms until he himself admitted that he doesn’t agree with the decision. Leaders of both teacher’s unions were present and threatened KLIK with a law suit. After the meeting, it became clear that this crowd could not be easily appeased. The closing of the Wallenberg School would be another scandal.

And we mustn’t forget about the outside help the school’s defenders received. The ELTE students who had already twice demonstrated against the government’s trampling on the autonomy of the universities decided to add to their own grievances the unfair treatment of the Raoul Wallenberg School. Their last demonstration ended in front of the Wallenberg School.

Both the Mazsihisz, the umbrella organization of Hungarian Jewish communities, and the Raoul Wallenberg Society and Foundation also raised their voices in defense of the school. After all, this is the only school in the country that bears the name of Wallenberg. The Raoul Wallenberg Society was especially upset because in the last six years the Society, together with the Holocaust Memorial Center and the Wallenberg School, had organized a program called “Was it a long time ago? Where was it?” If you want to know more about the program, take a look at the Society’s online site. It sounds fascinating. Clearly, in the Wallenberg School students learned more than the normally prescribed subjects. The school took seriously the message of Wallenberg’s activities in Hungary.

It is not over yet, but Zoltán Balog showed up at the school yesterday and announced the change of plans. It is hard to tell why he decided to give in. Perhaps because his hands are full of other troubles concerning healthcare and the so-called reforms of higher education? Or was it the united front formed by teachers, students, parents, and trade union leaders? Was he worried about abolishing a school that bears Raoul Wallenberg’s name? Perhaps a combination of all of these things.

People are increasingly pushing back against the government and perhaps standing a little taller.

The new Hungarian education system: The model was France

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before. Rózsa Hoffmann, the Francophile, most likely turned to the French system when under her stewardship the whole Hungarian primary and secondary education system was turned upside down. Among other things, she wanted children to start their language education with a romance language (clearly she had French in mind) and wanted to discourage the study of English because it was too easy. At least it was very easy according to Viktor Orbán, who greatly regretted having focused on English as a student. I wonder what would have happened to him as a politician on the world stage if he had learned only Russian.

So, after all, it seems, Viktor Orbán was not the prime architect of the new system although most likely he and Hoffmann saw eye-to-eye. Surely, a highly centralized educational system must have appealed to Orbán who thinks that all problems, economic or otherwise, can be remedied by increasing centralization. Both might have recalled their youth when life was simple: the central government imposed a national standard so everybody was taught the same thing. And perhaps Rózsa Hoffmann sang the praises of French education, which is highly centralized. Whatever the precise scenario, Hungary will now imitate the basically nineteenth-century French educational system.

All educati0n programs in France are regulated by the Ministère de l’Éducation nationale, de la Jeunesse et de la Vie associative. The ministry is huge and the minister of education is “one of the highest-ranking officials in the cabinet.” The budget of the ministry is  €64.6 billion. The ministry is responsible for 15 million students, and the 1.5 million teachers and university professors are civil servants. The idea of enrolling all children in kindergarten at the age of 3 is most likely also borrowed from France where between the ages of 3 and 6 children attend “maternelle” classes which are normally attached to the regular schools that children attend between the ages of 6 and 11.

Rewind

Apparently, the French system hasn’t changed much since the 1880s when Jules Ferry, the minister of public instruction, created it. The curriculum is determined by the ministry. Classes are large and students have to take far too many subjects.  The question is whether this old-fashioned system is effective in the twenty-first century. If we look at international statistics, France is not exactly in the forefront of educational achievement.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) publishes an annual report called “Education at a Glance” in which they use such metrics as educational performance, class size, and teachers’ salaries to rank countries. According to the 2012 report France and Hungary are neck to neck in the middle of the pack that includes countries like Thailand, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan. In Europe Finland leads in reading comprehension, mathematics, and science. In reading comprehension France is #21 while Hungary is #25. In mathematics France is #22 while Hungary is #29. In science Hungary is #22 and France #27. Well, if I had a two-thirds majority and if I were willing to turn the whole education system upside down, I wouldn’t imitate France. I would try to learn from the Finns. But Viktor Orbán would never turn to Finland because the Finns’ egalitarian attitude toward education would not align with the interests of his constituency, the upper middle class.

The Hungarian system may end up even worse than the French because while in France there are 26 districts in Hungary there will be 175. And to make matters worse, in Hungary a new administrative unit was established to serve as an intermediary between the schools and the ministry, the so-called Klebelsberg Intézményfenntartó Központ (Klebelsberg Center). Yet another layer of bureaucracy.

A few days ago a reporter from a Hungarian Internet newspaper talked to Nelly Guet, who has extensive experience with the educational systems of France, Germany, and Switzerland. She had little positive to say about the French system, and she emphasized that the European Union’s recommendations go against the kind of centralization characteristic of French education and just introduced in Hungary. Guet pointed out that the centralized system introduced in the 1880s served a kind of “nation-building mechanism” that would make a child from Bretagne the same as one from Paris. Moreover, at least that French reform was secular as opposed to what the Orbán government is doing by bringing religious education into the public school system and encouraging the churches to take over more and more schools.

Guet quoted a few “achievements” of the French system. Thirteen percent of students don’t finish high school because compulsory education ends at the age of 15. In Hungary the dropout rate is actually lower: 11%.  French children, just like the Hungarians, leave school without learning a foreign language. Although a European Union goal is that at least 50% of all students who finish high school get a college degree, that figure in France is only 27% while in Hungary last year it was 35%. (Hoffmann and Orbán are doing everything in their power to lower that number!) Interestingly enough, the best French students leave France to study, and they often work abroad. In France, just like in Hungary, life-long learning is an unknown concept.

A typical Hungarian story. The efforts of the last twenty years to make the Hungarian educational system more flexible and to prepare youngsters for the modern world have been overturned. The country is going back more than a century to find a model that will make its students less competitive both academically and professionally. Madness!

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I would like to call readers’ attention to a new Internet publication entitled The Hungarian Historical Review (http://www.hunghist.org/). The first double issue includes some studies dealing with urban history. I especially enjoyed “In the Web of Political Language. Verbal Warfare and the 1945 Change of Regime in a Residential Building in Budapest” by Ágnes Nagy. It describes the tensions between “the genteel” and gentile Aranka Richter and her Jewish neighbors before and after the liberation. A fascinating read.