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Schools in Hungary have less favourable disciplinary climates in science lessons than in other OECD countries, according to students’ reports in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, with an index of disciplinary climate of -0.08 (the OECD average index value was 0.00). However, student truancy was lower than the OECD average in 2015: 8.4% of 15-year-olds reported skipping at least one day of school in the two weeks before the PISA 2015 test, compared to the 19.7% on average. That being said, students in Hungary were less likely to report that their science teachers adapt their instructions more frequently than the OECD average, with an index of adaptive instruction of -0.11 (the OECD average index value was 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]).

The PISA 2015 index of instructional educational leadership (measuring the frequency with which principals report doing leadership activities specifically related to instruction) was close to the OECD average (-0.01 compared to 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]). The proportion of lower secondary teachers in 2016 aged 50 or over was 42.4%, which was higher than the OECD average of 35.4%. In 2017, teachers in Hungary had fewer net teaching hours for general programmes than their peers in other OECD countries. Teachers annually taught 655 hours at primary level and 655 hours at lower secondary level, compared to OECD averages of 784 and 696 hours, respectively (OECD, 2018[2]). According to school principals’ self-reports in PISA 2015, schools in Hungary have lower levels of autonomy over curriculum than on average across the OECD: 69.9% of principals reported that the school has primary autonomy over curriculum compared to the OECD average of 73.4% (OECD, 2016[1]).

In Hungary, lower secondary teachers earned 70% of the average salary of a full-time, full-year worker with tertiary education in 2016; this was less than the OECD average ratio of 91% (OECD, 2018[2]). According to the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018, 72% of teachers in Hungary said that if they could choose again, they would still become a teacher; this was close to the OECD average of 75.6%. (OECD, 2019[3]).

According to school leaders’ reports in PISA 2015, school leaders in Hungary are slightly less likely than their OECD peers to conduct self-evaluations of their schools (90.4% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to the OECD average of 93.2%) and about equally likely to undergo external evaluations of their school (74.8% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to the OECD average of 74.6%). The share of students enrolled in secondary schools whose principal reported in PISA 2015 that standardised tests are used to make decisions on students’ promotion or retention was 17%, which was less than the OECD average of 31% (OECD, 2016[1]).

In 2017, school autonomy levels over resource management (allocation and use of resources for teaching staff and principals) in Hungary were lower than the OECD average: 25% of decisions in Hungary were taken at the school level, compared to the OECD average of 29%. Annual expenditure per student at primary level in 2015 was USD 5 089, which was among the lowest in OECD countries (the OECD average was USD 8 631). At secondary level, Hungary spent USD 5 870 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 10 010, while at tertiary level (including spending on research and development), Hungary spent USD 8 761 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 15 656. In 2015, expenditure on primary to tertiary education in Hungary as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) was 3.8%, which was below the OECD average of 5%. The proportion coming from private sources (including household expenditure, expenditure from other private entities and international sources) in Hungary was lower than the OECD average (14.2% compared to 16.1%) (OECD, 2018[2]).

Evolution of key education policy priorities

Hungary’s key education policy priorities have evolved in the following ways over the last decade (Table 8.13).

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Table 8.13. Evolution of key education policy priorities, Hungary (2008-19)

Identified by

Selected OECD country-based work, 2008-191

Evolution of responses collected by the Education Policy Outlook, 2013-192

School improvement

According to OECD evidence, there is a need to make the teaching profession more effective. [2012]

Hungary reported the ongoing challenge of an ageing teaching workforce, putting a focus on lowering the age composition of teachers while improving pedagogical practices and teacher education. The reform of teacher education in 2013 was also highlighted as a priority area for the government. Another ongoing priority is to change learning content, teaching methods and pedagogy in response to digitalisation [2013; 2016-17].

Evaluation and assessment

In 2008, the OECD reported a narrow range of regular, nationwide data on outcomes for students enrolled in vocational education and training (VET) programmes. At this time, the OECD identified a need for more information on the labour-market outcomes of VET to be collected and published at both school and programme level. [2008]

Improving the structure of the upper secondary final examination and the general quality of higher education is an ongoing priority. Another persisting priority is interlinking the systems of external school assessment and teacher appraisal. [2013]


The OECD found that, as of 2008, the rules governing the training levy were complicated and difficult to understand for many stakeholders. As of 2012, there remained scope for further school mergers. Recently reported challenges include the fact that few participants in Public Works schemes find jobs on the primary labour market; women with younger children have low labour market participation; and changing technologies are increasingly making workers’ skills obsolete. [2008; 2012; 2016]

Hungary reported the ongoing challenge of labour shortage with policy measures taken to build a qualified workforce with useful and practical skills. Hungary reported aiming to meet economic demands by putting more emphasis on continuing to develop the quality of VET based on the European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training (EQAVET). A new priority is to guarantee a greater level of autonomy to VET schools in terms of financial and governance decision making. [2013; 2016-17]


According to OECD evidence, relatively few financial resources are devoted to tertiary education. However, both public and private returns to tertiary education are among the highest in the OECD, providing strong incentives for investing in tertiary education. [2016]

Hungary reported the ongoing priority of implementing new financial regulations for public education and reforming the public funding system to introduce quality-based differentiated state support for higher education institutions [2013; 2016-17]


1. See Annex A (OECD publications consulted).

2. See Reader’s Guide (years and methods of collection).


Selected education policy responses

School improvement

  • The Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Centre (KLIK, 2013) aims, among others, to reduce teacher shortages and attract gifted students to the teaching profession. To this end, a key programme for the KLIK (renamed the Klebelsberg Centre [KK] in 2016) is the Klebelsberg Scholarship Programme (2013). Through this, KK awards scholarships to students enrolled in initial teacher education (ITE) programmes for high-need students who perform particularly well in the entrance examinations. On completion of their ITE studies, scholarship recipients must accept a teaching position offered by KK and then remain in the profession for the same number of years as they spent in the scholarship programme (Klebelsberg Centre, 2019[288]).

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Progress or impact: In the academic year 2017/18, 2 498 students had valid scholarship contracts with the KK during their ITE studies (National information reported to the OECD). From this point, the KK predicted that the total number of recipients would increase by 400-500 students each year. Concurrently, Hungary has seen an increase in the total number of students enrolled in ITE programmes from 13 000 in 2012 to 20 000 in 2017 (Klebelsberg Centre, 2017[289]). In 2017, the scholarship programme was extended to include students enrolling in initial training programmes for special educational needs teachers (Eurydice, 2017[290]).

  • Hungary’s Decree on the Teacher Education System (2012) reformed several aspects of initial teacher education for general, vocational and special education teachers. The decree reintroduced a single cycle, two-part teacher education programme. The single-cycle system ensures that all student teachers pursue a general school education teaching programme and then two specialised programmes of choice. Specialisations may be by teaching subject or education level but also cover teaching for children with special educational needs or children from disadvantaged backgrounds (Government of Hungary, 2012[291]). Student-teachers’ choices are guided and informed by the needs of the public education system (National information reported to the OECD). The decree also strengthened the practical training component. The duration of in-school teaching practice required for qualification increased from half a year to one year. In terms of credits, this practical module became the most important (Eurydice, 2019[292]).

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Progress or impact: Single-cycle initial teacher education programmes were reintroduced in Hungary from 2013, replacing the Bologna system, which had been in place from the academic year 2004/5. The Bologna system proved unpopular in ITE and there was a reduction in the number of applicants from 10 795 in 2004 to 5 995 in 2008 (Oktatási Hivatal, 2019[293]). By the academic year 2017/18 all of Hungary’s ITE programmes followed the single-cycle model (Eurydice, 2019[292]). In 2018, 17 800 students applied to ITE programmes (Oktatási Hivatal, 2019[293]).

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries

School improvement

  • In response to a decline in teacher salaries between 2005 and 2013, Hungary introduced a teacher career management system and salary scale (2013). This consists of five career steps linked to salary grades (European Commission, 2015[294]). This resulted in a 35% initial basic salary increase in 2013 with the aim of continuing to increase salaries annually by 7% up to 2017. Since 2016, the system has also covered early childhood education and care (ECEC) staff who have a tertiary level qualification (European Commission, 2017[295]). Nevertheless, as of 2017, lower secondary teachers’ salaries in Hungary were equivalent to 70% of the average earnings of tertiary-educated workers, although this represents an increase of 17 percentage points on equivalent data from 2012 (OECD, 2018[2]) (OECD, 2014[296]).

Evaluation and assessment

  • In 2015, Hungary implemented significant reforms to school evaluation. There are now two types of external evaluations. Legal compliance checks (Hatósági ellenőrzés) aim to ensure that schools operate according to legislation. Pedagogical/professional inspections (Pedagógia-szakmai ellenőrzés) cover the evaluation of teachers, school heads and schools and are carried out on a five-year cycle. Based on the evaluation report, schools develop a five-year action plan to guide their progress and development until the next external evaluation. The legal compliance checks may lead to disciplinary measures and remain confidential, while the pedagogical/professional evaluations provide remedial actions and are public. External evaluations are organised by the Educational Authority and carried out by experienced, specially trained expert teachers. In addition, school maintainers may also conduct evaluations of their institutions. Teacher appraisal is also conducted through the external evaluations of schools and may impact career and salary progression (OECD, 2015[297]).

  • Since 2008, all students have a personal assessment identifier, which helps track academic development over time and to better understand the impact of schools on student development. When students transfer to another school, the information follows them.


Selected education policy responses


  • In Hungary, the national government took over the maintenance of schools and pedagogical institutions from local governments through the National Public Education Act (2011) (Government of Hungary, 2011[298]). This was in response to challenges identified by the government in the operation of the former decentralised model where municipalities maintained public schools. The government then established the Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Centre (renamed the Klebelsberg Centre [KK] in 2016) to manage public funding of schools and allocate grants. KK’s funding responsibilities included salaries for teachers, teaching support staff and maintenance staff as well as expenditure on transportation and school construction, extension and renovation. Private institutions received school funding directly from the MoHC. The Government Decree on Measures relating to the Maintenance of Public Education Institutions in the Field of Vocational Training (2015) transferred responsibility for VET institutions from KK to regional VET centres across the country.

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Progress or impact: According to the experiences and challenges emerging from the first years of implementation of the new model, the school governance structures introduced by the National Education Act were amended via a new Government Decree in 2016. The national government proposed the establishment of 59 KILK Educational District Centres (EDCs). The responsibilities of the EDCs include maintaining public schools (primary, general secondary and some VET in arts), evaluating the effectiveness of the pedagogical work of schools, employing teachers, supplying teaching materials and co-ordinating professional training. As independent budgetary institutions, EDCs are responsible for both maintenance and operation of public education institutions.

At the same time, the KLIK was transformed into the Klebelsberg Centre. In contrast to its predecessor, from 2016 onwards, the KK no longer has responsibility for either the maintenance or operation tasks of schools but instead provides professional and strategic co-ordination for the EDCs. This was intended to help ensure a more stable and uniform system (National information reported to the OECD).

Through this system, the national government bears all responsibility for providing public education institutions with infrastructure, qualified staff and the budget necessary for quality education, although institutions’ leadership teams maintain some wider authority in local decision making according to local needs (OECD, 2015[297]).

  • Hungary’s Lifelong Learning Strategy (Az egész életen át tartó tanulás keretstratégiája, 2014) involved the restructuring of VET schools. This process started with the renewal of the institutional system and governance structures for vocational training. In 2016, the Implementation Plan for the Lifelong Learning Strategy (Government decree 1705/2016. XII. 5) was adopted, and its implementation is currently being monitored with annual reviews conducted by the Ministry of Education (Government of Hungary, 2016[299]).

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Progress or impact: In 2015, the governance responsibilities for 300 vocational education and training schools were transferred from the KK central governance body for public education schools to 44 regional VET centres (Szakképzési Centrum). From the same year, VET schools and centres received funding from the Ministry for National Economy as opposed to from the Klebelsberg Centre. From 2018, the Ministry for Innovation and Technology took over funding responsibilities for VET centres with the National Office for VET and Adult Learning, responsible for co-ordinating and monitoring budget planning. A minority of VET centres have to allocate some of their own funding (OECD, 2015[297]).

VET centres co-ordinate the local individual VET schools and monitor local demand for VET graduates in the community, receiving concrete skills’ needs reports from local companies. According to government evidence, this has increased the effectiveness of the institutions and located financial decisions closer to institutions (OECD, 2015[297]).

The content of the school-based vocational training programmes undergoes continuous renewal. The primary aim has been to help students attain basic competencies and the literacy skills needed for lifelong learning through widening the vocational offer. For example, the upper age limit of participation in full-time vocational training was extended from 21 to 25.

As of 2016, vocational secondary school programmes extended to five years, and students can now automatically continue their studies in the preparation year for the school leaving exam. Also, as part of the framework for adult education, adults can obtain a second vocational qualification free of charge (ingyenes második szakképesítés, 2015).

According to government evidence, the interoperability between vocational training and adult education is further increased by the increased focus on practical training in vocational training programmes, and by the new possibility for specialised training modules worth 50 credits to be included in Bachelor’s programmes (National data reported to the OECD).

  • With the Higher Education Strategy (2016), Hungary set a new agenda for the development of the higher education system for the upcoming 15 years. The new strategy aims to better align higher education programmes with labour market needs. Key actions include the introduction of dual higher education programmes, the establishment of community-based study centres in disadvantaged regions, and the implementation of a chancellery system in state-maintained higher education institutions through an appointee nominated by the government to take strategic and financial decisions. According to the strategy, the government aims to achieve a 35% tertiary attainment rate by 2023 (European Commission, 2015[294]).

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Progress or impact: The tertiary educational attainment rate for 30-34 year-olds increased in 2018 to 33.7%, but remained below the EU average of 40.7% in 2018 (Eurostat, 2019[300]). In 2018, the number of students admitted into tertiary programmes increased for the first time in two years (European Union, 2018[200]). However, the number of applicants to tertiary education has still not fully recovered from the drop following the reduction of state-funded student places and the introduction of study contracts in 2012 (European Union, 2018[200]). In 2011, there were 140 954 applicants to tertiary level programmes; in 2018 there were 107 700 (Oktatási Hivatal, 2019[293]). As a result of the efforts to restructure higher education institutions, state-maintained higher education institutions’ aggregate outstanding debt had decreased by more than two-thirds, from USD 61.3 million in 2014 to USD 16.8 million by 2018 (National data reported to the OECD).


  • The National Higher Education Act (2011) introduced a comprehensive reform of Hungary’s higher education system to raise standards. In terms of funding, the act signalled a move away from reliance on direct public funding from the state budget to a two-tier model with base funding covering the basic cost of educational provision and special funding related to each higher education institution’s projects or investments (Government of Hungary, 2011[301]). Further moves were made towards a performance- and excellence-based funding system with the Higher Education Strategy (2016). The Decree on the Financing of the Basic Activities of Higher Education Institutions (2016) established a new performance-based approach to base funding. The amount directed to each HEI is now adjusted annually according to the employment rate of the institutions’ previous graduate cohort in comparison to national averages (Government of Hungary, 2016[302]). If the employment rate is 25% below the national average, funds are reduced by 10%, and if it is 25% above the national average, funds are increased by 10% (Eurydice, 2019[303]).

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Progress or impact: For the European Commission, a potential challenge of the performance-based system could be that it favours outstanding student achievement rather than trying to increase the proportion of students who complete their studies (European Commission, 2015[304]). At 30%, the tertiary attainment rate in Hungary in 2017 was 14 percentage points below that of the OECD average and, between 2007 and 2017, it had increased more slowly than the average rate of increase seen across OECD countries (OECD, 2018[2]). Furthermore, the European Commission’s narrow range of criteria are not directly linked to the education process and are impacted by labour market conditions, which are matters beyond the control of HEIs (European Commission, 2017[295]).

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries


  • In 2016, Hungary launched a process to reform the National Core Curriculum (NCC, 2012) in accordance with the five-year curricular cycles imposed by the Public Education Act (2011). This latest NCC revision marks an effort from the MoHC to create more opportunity for pedagogical innovation in the classroom. Following a Public Education Roundtable (2016), the government appointed Education 2030, a Hungarian scientific research group to lead the revisions of the NCC based on the roundtable’s recommendations. The draft revisions were published towards the end of 2018, and key stakeholders were invited to comment (Eurydice, 2019[305]). The reform aims to lower the burden and workload on students and teachers by reducing the obligatory number of lessons per week, streamlining the content of the NCC and rationalising teaching materials. It also emphasises a student-centred, competency-based approach, which promotes active learning and problem solving in classroom contexts (Education 2030, 2018[306]). The new National Core Curriculum and the frame curricula will be completed by the summer of 2019 and are expected to be implemented gradually from September 2020 (National data reported to the OECD).

  • In 2016, Hungary adopted the Digital Education Strategy (DES) that aims to support the development of digital competencies among the population to then improve employability, living standards and the social welfare of workers, as well as having a positive impact on the digital ecosystem (Government of Hungary, 2016[307]). In preparing the strategy, the government published the Digital Success Programme (DSP, Government Decision No 2012/2015 of 29 December 2015) that included the task, under Section 3(a), for the Prime Ministerial Commissioner in charge of co-ordination and implementation of governmental tasks related to DSP to set up the DES (Government of Hungary, 2016[307]). The DJP Nonprofit Ltd is in charge of the co-ordination of the implementation of the DES (DJP Nonprofit Ltd, 2019[308]).

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