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The opposition Socialist Party‘s candidate for prime minister, László Botka, on Tuesday pledged to double the amount of funding for education, which he called the party’s top priority.

Botka told a press conference that state funding for the sector would rise to 6 percent of GDP under a Socialist (MSZP) administration in the next governing cycle after the 2018 elections in Hungary.

“Whatever the [ruling] Fidesz party says, in the past period spending on education has steadily declined, and as a result of [Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán’s education policy, the students’ knowledge has deteriorated,” he said.

Hungary’s future depends on 21st century knowledge, Botka said, adding that teachers should be given their pedagogical freedom back. “Teachers should not be subjects of the state, but there to serve our children and the future,” he said.

“Our children are not uniform,” he said, adding that knowledge and talent were diverse.

He cited a recent survey suggesting that out of the European Union’s poorest but talented children, those in Hungary start off with the worst prospects for the future.

“They have deprived more than 400,000 children living in poverty in Hungary of the chance to develop,” Botka insisted.

In media interviews today, the minister of human resources said Hungary was a top spender on school education in central Europe. Zoltan Balog said Hungary spends 5.2 percent of GDP on education, putting the country on a par with Poland.

Former Education Minister István Hiller, whom Botka introduced as the future minister of education, said public education’s woes were systemic. He pledged to restore the school-leaving age to 18, to hand back school upkeep to local councils and boost language and IT training. Under the Socialist Party’s education programme, English-language study would be a compulsory subject in school-leaving exams and the market for textbooks would be restored with a level of control maintained by the state, he added.

Hiller rejected a proposal by the opposition Jobbik party that would link voting rights to the level of a person’s educational attainment, adding that such a system would not promote education but lead to exclusion.

Asked about a new 80 billion forint government scheme to develop schools, Botka said in the past under local authority control, more than this amount had been spent on schools each year. But ever since local councils lost this right, the condition of schools has been deteriorating, he insisted.

The ruling Fidesz said in response that the Socialists in government did the opposite of what they are promising now. Botka was among those that “pushed the button” when the Socialists cut spending on education and took away a month’s wage from teachers, the ruling party said in a statement. Hundreds of schools were closed as a result of the cuts, parents had to bear increasing burdens and thousands of teachers lost their jobs, it added.

Source: MTI

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