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Hungary has a rich history of education, with some of its universities dating as far back as the 14th century.
Education in Hungary is generally of a high standard, although it frequently adopts a more traditional approach than that of other European countries. This is most evident in the increasing prominence of church-funded public schools, which incorporate religious elements into their curricula.
It is mandatory for children between the ages of five and 16 to attend some form of full-time education. There are a number of educational options available to expats living in Hungary with children; however, language barriers may end up being a deciding factor.
The school year in Hungary runs from September to June, with short breaks in autumn and at Easter and a slightly longer break over Christmas. The longest holiday in the school calendar is the summer holiday, which starts in mid-June and continues until the end of August.
Public schools in Hungary
Public schools in Hungary are free and attended by most of the population, although they can be inconsistent in terms of quality, accessibility and facilities. Public schools in Hungary’s rural areas are not usually as well-equipped as those in the country’s urban centres.
The official language of educational instruction in Hungary is Magyar (Hungarian), which tends to dissuade many expats from enrolling their children in the public education system. Some public schools do offer extra Hungarian language classes for foreigners, but this is at the school’s discretion and little further assistance can be expected.
Expats should note that many public schools in Hungary have looked to the Catholic Church for funding in recent years. This has inevitably altered the teaching approach of many of the schools, which may not be ideal for everyone.
Private schools in Hungary
There are a number of private schools in Hungary, many of which offer a unique teaching method and curriculum. These schools, which use teaching methods based on philosophies of the likes of Steiner Waldorf, Carl Rogers and Maria Montessori, are free from government regulation, allowing for more specialised and modern learning approaches. Private schools can be quite expensive, and most are located in and around Budapest.
International schools in Hungary
Expats hoping to provide their children with an international education can look into Hungary’s numerous international schools. All located in and around Budapest, international schools in Hungary are generally of a high quality and boast comprehensive facilities. Curriculum options include the International Baccalaureate as well as the British or American curriculum. Other curricula are also on offer.
International schools in Hungary are bound to be the most expensive option for expats; however, they teach in English, can provide continuity with children’s previous schooling and will allow for acquaintance with other expat families – for some families, this makes them the ideal choice.
Special-needs education in Hungary
Expat parents of children with special needs can rest easy as Hungarian schools (be they mainstream or specialised schools, depending on the severity of the disabilities) are well set up to cater for any disabilities or behavioural issues. Children with special needs are assessed by an education rehabilitation committee. The committee can either recommend that the student is placed in a specialised class or institution, or propose integration into mainstream education. According to the Act on Equal Opportunities, parents have the right to be involved in any decisions that are made.
Presently in Hungary, children with special needs are integrated into the education system in the following ways: an inclusive mainstream class, a special class in a mainstream school or in a special school. Children with special educational needs may start elementary school at the age of 8 at the latest.
Tutoring in Hungary
There are many expat and local parents in Hungary who opt to have their children tutored. Tutoring is helpful in cases where children need assistance in specific subject areas such as maths, science or Hungarian; studying for important entrance exams; or for learners with learning difficulties. An excellent tutoring company in Hungary is Tutoroo, where parents can browse and find the perfect fit for their child's needs.