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Hungary Education Facts


Most students attend state schools, but there are also a small number of private schools run by religious communities. Hungary’s officially recognized minorities can be taught in their own language, but especially Roma are discriminated against in the school system.

There is a compulsory school requirement for all children between the ages of 6 and 16, and tuition is free of charge. In addition, most children from the age of three attend a two-year preschool. Nine out of ten children attend the elementary school for eight years and can then choose to continue in high school or vocational school. Both of these higher stages last for four years, of which the first two are compulsory.

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During the 2000s, some efforts have been made to stop discrimination against Roma in school. However, stated aspirations to strengthen Roma culture through special schools for Roma children have also been considered to strengthen the minority’s isolation from the rest of society. One fifth of Roma children were reported to attend special schools in the mid-2010s, but segregation has been rejected in court (see Calendar). Hungary has also received criticism for Roma children being placed in schools for the mentally handicapped, following decisions based on old-fashioned and prejudiced tests. Among those who drop out of school are just over half the Roma.

Under the Fidesz government that took office in 2010, the governance of the schools and syllabuses has largely been transferred from school management and municipalities to a government agency. The changes have met resistance among teachers, parents and students, with demonstrations and strikes.

During the 2000s, it became increasingly popular among young people to study at the country’s more than 60 universities and colleges. But the proportion of 25-64 year olds with higher education is relatively low, one quarter, compared to the rest of the EU. In 2012, the government reduced the number of study places at the state universities by almost 40 percent. At the same time, a rule was introduced that everyone who graduates from a publicly funded university must commit to staying in Hungary for the time being. On average, academics are required to work in Hungary about twice as many years as the studies took.

The government is also in conflict with large parts of the academic world. The research funds that the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA in Hungarian abbreviation, founded in 1825) previously had independently are placed under the direct control of the government. The purpose is to promote research that generates income. The government has also stopped higher education courses in gender science with the motivation that such courses are about “ideology, not science”. From a university perspective, such measures are seen as limitations on academic freedom. In 2018, the Central European University (CEU) decided to leave the country. The Hungarian government had for a long time campaigned against CEU founder and financier George Soros.

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Proportion of children starting primary school

91.4 percent (2016)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

11 (2016)

Reading and writing skills

99.1 percent (2014)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

9.2 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

9.2 percent (2015)



Orbán forces tax chief to sue diplomat

Prime Minister Orbán orders the head of the Treasury Vida to sue the US Charge d’affaires in Budapest, which has accused her of corruption. Orbán says he intends to dismiss Vida if she does not quickly file a lawsuit for slander against the US diplomat. A few days later, she filed a lawsuit against the US’s highest representative in the country, André Goodfriend.

Demonstrations against corruption

Twice in December, thousands of people in Budapest demonstrate against tax increases and alleged corruption within the government. Re-demand is demanded that the head of the tax authority Ildikó Vida resign. According to the Median opinion institute, support for the Fidesz government party has fallen from 38 percent in October to 26 percent. Confidence in Prime Minister Orbán has dropped from 48 percent to 32.

Orbán criticizes the United States

Prime Minister Orbán strongly criticizes the US for “interference” in the affairs of the Central European countries. He argues that the allegations of corruption in Hungary are a pretext for the United States to increase its influence in the region. He explains this with the ongoing negotiations on a US-EU free trade agreement and the new “cold war” that is emerging between the US and Russia because of the Ukraine conflict.


Requirements for the tax manager’s departure

Thousands of people are demonstrating in Budapest against alleged corruption by the tax authorities and against the general liberty in Hungary. The protesters demand that Ildikó Vida’s head of the tax authority resign. She is the first to openly admit that she is on the list of Hungarians who have been denied entry into the United States on charges of corruption.

The media tax is being raised

The disputed media tax (see June) is increased from 40 to 50 percent of advertising revenues for media companies that earn more than 20 billion forints annually, corresponding to about EUR 65 million, in advertising. The change in law is considered tailor made for the media company RTL, which is owned by the German group Bertelsmann. It is the only company in the industry that has so much advertising revenue. It is known for often critical reporting on the Hungarian government, including corruption cases, which has given it more subscribers.

Teachers protest

A week after thousands of Hungarians protested the government’s policy during the “Day of Indignation”, a couple of thousand teachers in Budapest demonstrate against planned budget cuts and the government’s disinterest in a dialogue with the teachers’ unions about controversial changes in the curricula.


The EU refuses Hungarian candidate

The European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee rejects Hungary’s candidate for the post of European Commissioner for Education, Culture and Youth and Citizenship issues. Former Minister of Justice Tibor Navravcsics is associated with the committee with many of the authoritarian laws passed by the Hungarian government.

The EU sues Hungary for land teams

The EU Commission is preparing Hungary for a 2012 law that prohibits certain foreign ownership of arable land. The law was created to protect Hungarian agriculture, but according to the EU, such restrictions on the right to foreign investment mean that it may contravene EU rules on freedom of movement for capital and freedom of establishment.

Corrupt Hungarians are banned from the United States

Six Hungarian citizens are prohibited from entering the United States. According to the US Embassy in Budapest, these are senior officials and people with contacts in the government. They are banned under US law that gives the government the right to exclude foreigners whose corrupt behavior is considered to harm US interests. The decision to stop the six Hungarians is made after a prolonged US pressure on Hungary to review the political line that, according to the United States, undermines democracy.

Protests against proposed Internet tax

A government proposal to impose a tax on Internet use raises strong protests. According to the proposal, the Hungarians would have to pay 150 forints, corresponding to about SEK 4:50, for each gigabyte of data traffic. The government justifies the law by reducing the budget deficit, but the opposition suspects that it is rather an attempt to silence government criticism, which is usually expressed through social media. Others fear that the law will harm small businesses and make it more difficult for residents in particularly poor areas to gain access to information and study material. The European Commission is also critical, saying that Hungary would set a bad example in the EU. In addition, such a tax would risk slowing economic growth within the Union, says Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Large protests in Budapest against the tax also take the form of a broader protest against the government’s ambitions to reshape Hungarian society. After a few more days, Orbán is able to withdraw the bill, which is unusually extensive and broadly focused, to withdraw the bill on internet traffic tax.


Rides against Norwegian-supported organizations

Security personnel and police are raiding two voluntary organizations financially supported by the Norwegian state. The organizations are said to be suspected of financial crime linked to Norwegian aid. Since June, 58 Norwegian-supported NGOs have been forced to submit documentation of their activities to the government’s control authority. According to the Hungarian government, some of the Norwegian-supported organizations have “links to the political left”. Among the organizations are civil rights groups, those that investigate corruption and an internet site that deals with digging journalism.

New Foreign Minister

Prime Minister Orbán appoints Péter Szijjártó as Foreign Minister after Tibor Navracsics, nominated as EU Commissioner. Szijjártó has most recently been Deputy Foreign Minister and was previously the spokesman for the Prime Minister. He is considered to be very close to Orbán.

New law squeezes banks

Parliament adopts a law that forces the banks to effectively reduce the debts of private borrowers totaling some € 3.2 billion. The law intends to compensate borrowers for earlier interest rate hikes that the government considers unfair. This is largely about loans taken in foreign currencies before the financial crisis 2008-2009. Under the new law, loan costs are estimated to be reduced by an average of 25-30 percent. The commercial banks may not raise interest rates or other fees for outstanding loans before April 30, 2016. The central bank will support the commercial banks with EUR 3 billion from the country’s foreign exchange reserves to reduce, among other things, the risk that the Hungarian currency will lose value. The law has been criticized in advance for reducing investor confidence in Hungary and for risking slowing growth.


Parliament decides bank rates

Parliament adopts laws designed to alleviate the financial burden on households with home loans; One million Hungarians are estimated to have taken out loans in foreign currencies and their debt to the banks increased sharply in connection with the financial crisis 2008-2009. Now, the mostly foreign-owned banks are forced to maintain the same exchange rate as when the loans were granted, nor can they raise interest rates. The banks say the laws threaten Hungary’s reputation among foreign investors.

Orbán judges liberal democracy

In an ideologically emblematic speech to party supporters and ethnic Hungarians in Romania, Prime Minister Orbán concludes with “the era of liberal democracies”. He claims that the Western world’s methods of trying to get out of the economic crisis since 2008 have proved unsustainable and cites more authoritatively controlled countries such as China, Russia, Turkey and Singapore. In the “new” Hungary he wants to create, society should be organized in a way that differs from “the dogmatic ideologies accepted in the Western world”. Orbán also announces that Parliament is appointing a committee for constant monitoring of “foreigners trying to gain influence in Hungary”. He describes the committee as a kind of “spiritual anti-robot system”.


HD interferes with radio and TV

The Supreme Court ruled that radio and TV must not describe the right-wing extremist Jobbik as a party “on the far right of Parliament”. According to the court, Jobbik does not consider himself an extreme right, which is why surface print gets a personal opinion to describe the party that way. The commercial TV channel ATV, which was previously released in a lower instance, is convicted of violating the requirement for impartial news reporting in the etheric media.

Disputed media tax is assumed

Parliament adopts a disputed media tax that has been criticized for risking eroding media freedom and deteriorating media companies’ finances; The law means that the state levies a tax on 40 percent of the media companies’ advertising revenue. The government says in its defense that the money should be used to improve schools and that much of the supply in the commercial media is a threat to society. Viktor Orban’s government has previously been criticized for a number of special taxes aimed at industries with large foreign ownership interests, such as banks, energy, retail and telecommunications.


Requirements for self-government for Hungarians abroad

In his installation speech as he assumes his new term as prime minister, Viktor Orbán demands self-government for ethnic Hungarians in other countries. He mentions in particular the approximately 200,000 Hungarians living in Ukraine. He also says his government opposes EU directives on facilitating immigration.

Prison for 92-year-old war criminal

92-year-old Béla Biszko is sentenced to five and a half years in prison for war crimes in connection with the 1956 Soviet invasion. Biszko, who was later Minister of the Interior under the Communist regime, has been in house arrest since December 2012. He is the first Communist official to stand trial since a law passed in 2011 made it possible to investigate those responsible for the killings in 1956.

Fidesz wins in EU elections

The Fidesz ruling party receives almost 52 percent of the votes in the Hungarian election to the European Parliament and 12 of the country’s 20 seats. Right-wing extremism Jobbik goes back compared to the national election in April but still gets the second largest with almost 15 percent, giving three terms. The Socialist Party, with just under 11 percent, and the Socialist Breakout Party Democratic Coalition by nearly 10 percent, each receive two seats. The Green Party just passes the five percent barrier and can send two delegates to Brussels. The turnout is just under 29 percent.

The European Court of Justice criticizes the government

The European Court of Human Rights states that the government dismissed András Baka Supreme Court President for political reasons. Baka was forced to resign in 2012, three years before the end of his term, since he criticized new laws that he felt would impair the independence of the judiciary. For the time being, the European Court does not impose any penalty on the government.

The Socialist leader resigns

Socialist Party leader Attila Mesterházy resigns after the party’s two difficult election losses during the year.


Big rolling victory for Fidesz

Fidesz retains government power after another major victory in the parliamentary elections on April 6. Although the party will decline from close to 53 percent in 2010 to 45.1 percent, a decline of around 600,000 votes, but the changed electoral system (see Political system) still gives an almost equal majority as last. Fidesz gets 133 of the 199 seats in the new parliament. The newly formed Socialist-led Left Alliance (see January) gets 25.7 percent and 38 seats, while right-wing extremist Jobbik increases from just under 17 percent to 20.3, giving the party 23 seats. Fidesz thus retains the two-thirds majority that allows the government to continue to amend the constitution on its own. The green party LMP gets 5.4 percent and 5 seats. OSCE election observerssays that the election was on the whole well-organized but that Fidesz was unfairly favored by, among other things, unilateral media coverage to the government’s advantage and campaign activities that blurred the boundaries between party politics and the state’s activities. The new electoral system has also benefited the ruling party, says the OSCE; a complaint that the opposition has already made.

The EU court criticizes Orbán

Two days after the parliamentary elections, the EU court ruled that Prime Minister Orbán violated EU law when he dismissed the head of the data protection authority in 2012. The Court says that the independence of supervisory authorities requires its chiefs to serve his entire term of office.

Great manifestation against anti-Semitism

Tens of thousands of people participate in a demonstration in Budapest against anti-Semitism. The large number of participants is interpreted as a reaction to the far-right party Jobbik’s successes in the parliamentary elections.


Hungarian nationalists are banned in Romania

Relations with Romania have been strained since the Bucharest government banned members of four Hungarian “extremist” nationalist organizations from entering Romania. They would have participated in the Hungarian National Day celebration in places in Romania with a large Hungarian population. The Hungarian government responds by demanding increased autonomy for Hungarians in Romania.


The Deputy Socialist leader is forced away

Two months before the election, the Socialist Party’s Deputy Chairman Simon Gábor is forced to resign and leave the party after newspaper reports that since 2008 he had undeclared money in an account with an Austrian bank.

Agreement on Russian nuclear power building

Parliament approves an agreement for Russian Rosatom to expand the nuclear power plant in Pak approximately 10 km south of Budapest. The opposition is protesting against how the agreement has been concluded and an EU spokesman says it may be relevant to review whether the tendering procedure has been done in accordance with EU rules.


Russian loan for nuclear construction

Hungary may borrow EUR 10 billion from Russia to build nuclear reactors. The deal is announced when Prime Minister Orbán meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Orbán appreciates Putin’s leadership and praises the progress Hungary has made in the trade with Russia.

Opposition alliance ahead of the election

Three opposition parties – the Socialists, Together 2014-PM and the Democratic coalition – agree to draw up a joint list in the parliamentary elections in April. Socialist leader Attila Mesterházy becomes their joint candidate for the Prime Minister post.

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