Budapest, February 15 (MTI) – Hungary’s public schools system is far from perfect and suggestions for improvement should get a fair hearing, Fidesz parliamentary group leader Lajos Kósa told public radio on Monday.
Experiences gained at the education roundtable and the compromises struck between representatives of teachers and the government should be built upon, Kósa told Kossuth Radio.
He underlined the government’s message that teachers have already received what amounts to the biggest pay rise since the change of political system over 25 years ago.
A system for maintaining schools is needed, but it is “neither here nor there” what the institution in charge is called, Kósa said, referring to demands that the central state institution (Klik) that currently runs Hungary’s schools should be scrapped. He said the previous system for maintaining schools under local council control had gone bankrupt and the central government had taken over accumulated debts of 1,300 billion forints, a large part of which were connected with schools provision.
Zsuzsanna Szelényi, a lawmaker for opposition Együtt, told a press conference in response that the party calls for real consultations on education with the inclusion of participants who can directly take action in the interest of children. She said that thousands of teachers and parents turned out at a demonstration on Saturday to express concern over the future of children. “The government does not seem to understand what education should be in the 21st century which is to achieve that children exploit their skills to a maximum,” Szelényi said.
Speaking in parliament on Monday afternoon, the prime minister said he supported talks in roundtable on public education. Viktor Orbán noted that teachers demanded an 18 percent pay rise which he said he would “not contest”, adding however that fulfilling that demand “was at the moment impossible.” He asked teachers to be patient and wait until the government concludes its pay rise programme in the law enforcement, health care and public administration sectors. Today, a primary school teacher earns 40 percent more than in 2010 and a secondary school teacher takes home 27 percent more in salary than five years ago, said Orbán.
Speaking in parliament, Dóra Dúró, a lawmaker for radical national Jobbik, said that fundamental changes “pushed through” unilaterally in education over the past five years by the government without consultations with teachers and schools had triggered the recent “scandal” in the sector. She stated concern that teachers deciding to participate at demonstrations were threatened to lose their jobs.
Bence Rétvári, state secretary at the human resources ministry, said in response that Jobbik in 2010 had supported the concept of putting education institutions under state management. He rejected charges that teachers had been intimidated, and insisted that in Hungary everybody has the right to express their opinion at a demonstration.
István Ikotity, a lawmaker for opposition LMP, said the government was unable to realise the gravity of the education issue and sought to dismiss problems as non-existent.
Rétvári responded by pointing out progress made in education such as increasing spending in the central budget on the sector and introducing a career model for teachers.