The report said the large earnings advantage may in part be due to the relatively small share of people holding higher education degrees in Hungary.
The report said Hungary has one of the largest pay gender gaps among OECD countries. OECD consultant Nóra Révai said that while on average, across OECD member states, women who hold higher education degrees earn 73 percent of what men with university degrees earn, that figure is 64 percent in Hungary, and the fourth lowest among OECD countries.
Révai said, however, at the presentation of the report, that one of Hungary’s strengths is that a very high percentage of students are enrolled in pre-primary education programmes. By the age of four, 93 percent of children were enrolled, the report said.
Révai said the students-to-teacher ratio was satisfactory, adding however, that teachers’ salaries are lower than the OECD average, as is the amount of formal instruction time at the primary level.
She said Hungary’s low share of higher education graduates meant that 22 percent of the young population is expected to obtain a higher education degree over their lifetime versus the OECD average of 36 percent.
She noted that the report found that government spending on education was cut to 83 percent from 2008 to 2012. This was the biggest drop in annual expenditure per student for that period among OECD countries, Révai said.
She said that based on the report’s findings, Hungary should make the teacher profession more attractive to young people, improve the overall quality of the profession and increase enrolment and graduation rates overall. Révai noted, however, that since the report uses data from 2012-2014, the effects of Hungary’s latest education reforms have yet to impact the numbers.
Judit Bertalan Czunyi, Hungary’s state secretary of public education, said Hungary’s goals for education are in line with the recommendations listed in the OECD report. She said that over the last five years, teachers in Hungary received the biggest wage increase since the country’s transition to democracy. The government will continuously raise teacher wages up until 2017, she said.
She said Hungarian schools were now in good hands as the government will not shift responsibility for running schools onto local governments. Students at the primary level receive their textbooks free of charge for free years, she said.
Higher education state secretary László Palkovics said the government had based its education reforms off of the OECD’s reports, adding that reorganising an education system takes a long time, with the results likely to be visible in about ten years’ time. He said the government’s goal was to bring education closer to the needs of the labour market.
OECD deputy director for education and skills Montserrat Gomendio said the organisation is willing to work closely with the government to monitor the progress made in the field of education.