The Jewish school in Budapest where talent is valued over money
The Javne Lauder Jewish School in Budapest was founded in 1990 and guides children all the way from kindergarten to the university entrance exams. The Javne Lauder School is different from any other elementary or high schools, this can be seen from the following interview conducted by business daily Pénzcentrum with the school’s director, Gábor Horányi.
Previously, you have revealed that Lauder builds on communication and cooperation. How will this help your students to set out unto the labour market?
Our students have impeccable communication skills which are in part thanks to our education strategies. Since they are not judgemental, they easily strike up a conversation with anyone under any circumstances. Also, the kids are very good at working together with others. They prefer group sports, group competitions over individual activities. They enjoy success much better when they can share it with others.
Are the subjects changed due to the different teaching setting at Lauder?
Most of our subjects are the same as in other places. The difference with Lauder is that there are more overlaps and collaborations between the subjects. We also emphasise activities that could not be structured as subjects but are nevertheless important. Our teachers know that the success of a subject depends on the students too.
The closer our students are to finish high school, the more we help them with their desired carrier plans.
So we encourage the focus on their chosen subjects and lift the weight represented by other subjects, that would not be useful for them, off their shoulders.
What is Lauder’s stance on the digitalisation of education?
Frist of all, a lot of the administration work is digitalised now: we have an e-catalogue where the teachers put in feedback regarding the students, and this is the main platform where teachers and parents can contact each other. A lot of other paperwork (checks, requests, etc.) is done online.
There is even an option for writing a test online, and students can use several online applications during lessons. We have laptops, smartphones, tablets, digital blackboards which are dedicated to different tasks and are used in the measuring The older ones can look up anything related to the lesson’s topic online, but the younger classes are more restricted in this question.
Do you consider smartphones to be helpful or to be a distraction?
Depends. If there are over 20 small children in the classroom, it might be effective to collect the phones at the beginning of the course and then give them back as soon as class is finished. The situation is different with those about to finish; they have more self-control.
Some argue that the Hungarian education is constantly declining. What do you think about this?
The biggest issue at hand is that several subjects and topics are deemed to be important and beneficial, when in reality they are not.
The government thinks that chemistry and physics are crucial, but only those students will actually learn and remember anything from the courses who need these subjects later in their studies. The rest will not make use of these things as they are irrelevant to them.
Your numbers have grown in the past years, do you receive much more applications?
Let me give you an example: 43 students applied for a position in the 8th grade. Although, there is not a serious growth in the number of applicants in the 1st grade. You might think that students run away from the public system and seek help at us, but our aim is not to collect these students: we wish to take in the kids of those Jewish families who share liberal views.
So is this a religious school?
No, since the Jewish community of Budapest is not particularly religious.
What values do you consider important?
I do not believe in setting goals for the long term. I think we have to create a suitable process, and good things will come.
I appreciate well-thought projects, and I do not mind if things do not exactly go according to plan.
If someone creates something that makes them feel good, that will be beneficial for the whole community.
Are there any programs or methods that you have come up with and have spread to other schools?
Yes, our feedback system. We have legislation for that.
You evaluate pupils after the fourth grade, as to decide who can continue their studies at Lauder and who cannot. Does this bring forth any conflicts?
Children change tremendously, and so do parental expectations. It would be too risky to say that I am taking this child in at the age of three and he or she will be studying at Lauder until she finishes high school.
So after the fourth grade, you bid farewell to some students and tell the parents that ‘their child is not competent enough’ to be studying at Lauder?
Communication between the parents, children and the school is constant. In this relationship, the parent has to accept the bars set by the school.
I would like to emphasise that there are only 2-3 children that leave Lauder a year.
What does Lauder’s feedback system look like?
We provide written feedback until the fourth grade. Pupils in the fifth grade receive written feedback and a percentage. From the first up to the sixth grade, students, teachers and parents evaluate together. In the seventh grade, the percentage is replaced by a mark. Evaluating with the parents is optional in the seventh and eighth grade.
Teachers, board members and non-pedagogical staff can evaluate each other too. However, our system is not democratic in the sense that not everyone has a say in everything. They can share their opinion, their remarks and attention is paid to these.
Aside from the feedback, Lauder is different from the public system in the sense that there is a tuition fee. How much is that, and to some children get a scholarship?
Parents pay for the foundation; the entering years usually pay 900 thousand forints (2900 EUR), those close to finishing high school 600 thousand HUF (1900 EUR).
Around 30 per cent of the students are provided with a scholarship.
Our main aim is not to let Jewish families slide out of our system just because they do not have the financial resources, even though the children would meet our requirements. No matter how much money someone offers, talent will be the decisive factor. You cannot buy a place at Lauder.
What do you look for in a teacher?
A teacher’s power stems from their authenticity. Not only the students, but the teachers must find themselves too. We are building a community. If someone has an idea that would interest others too, then we will do our best to make that come true. In this sense, we are a lot like a start-up.
There is mention of a talent guidance program on your website. What do you exactly mean by this?
This is mostly for the older kids. This is an elite club, consisting of 12-15 members, where you can get in with a letter of recommendation. The teachers here are mentors who guide students on their path of self-exploration and getting the best out of their skills.
What is the students’ attitude towards the school?
Children love going to Lauder; we are constantly reminded of this by the parents.
They have often difficulties with keeping the ill kids at home.
As they reach puberty, this changes, obviously. They still like going to school, but they like sleeping much better. Still, this whole institution is full of joy and smiles; you can ask any student: they enjoy coming here.
featured image: https://www.facebook.com/LauderJavneIskola