Weekly government press briefing about PISA, mayor’s wage, migration and other topics
Budapest, December 8 (MTI) – The government has instructed the human resources minister to call an education roundtable with teachers’ unions and education organisations to review recently published results of the PISA 2015 tests, government office chief János Lázár told on Thursday. Brussels is trying to “corner” Hungary when it comes to migration issues, he told a weekly government news briefing.
Lázár refers PISA results to education roundtable
Lázár said the government does not want to ignore the results, therefore it will call for a review and start dialogue to determine changes needed in the content or methodology of courses.
Lázár said the government will not “hold teachers accountable” for the poor results, but “we need to sit down and talk about them”.
Hungarian students performed worse in reading comprehension and science in the PISA test conducted last year compared with 2012. Participants in the 2015 test showed similar results in maths as three years earlier. But in all three areas they scored below the average of OECD countries, the report said.
Asked about responsibility, Lázár said neither he nor the state secretary of education stood in front of the blackboard and tests were done by students not by members of the government. The government provides a framework for education, he said, adding that the issue was not about financing. The latest EU report shows that Hungary spends above the EU average on education, he said.
He noted that the PISA tests showed similar results to eastern European countries, except for Poland which was much better thanks to its social reforms of recent years.
Lázár said a social debate on the national curriculum is expected to be held in January.
He said a five-party consensus has emerged on wages for mayors and a new system could enter force once the percentage figures are agreed on. The plan is for the Budapest mayor to get the same wage as a minister while mayors of cities with district rights and district mayors would receive the same wage as a state secretary. All other mayors will get a percentage of these, Lázár said. If a small town or village is unable to pay the mayor’s wage, the interior ministry will step in with the funds. If possible, the wages should be paid from local tax revenues, he added.
In response to a question, he said budget reserves would be spent on developments this year and no end-of-year bonuses would be paid out.
Lázár said Hungary still suffers from a “serious drawbacks” as regards digitalisation, and digital capabilities in education, the economy and bureaucracy need to be developed. Currently around 20 out of 100 public administration transactions are done electronically and the preferred number would be 70-80, he said.
In response to questions about the Budapest metro, he said the government is ready to help if the Budapest mayor requests it. The metropolitan council, as the operator, must decide on what constitutes a crisis situation and when a metro line should be shut down, he said, adding that the government was offering all necessary support.
EU seeking to ‘corner’ Hungary over migration
Brussels is trying to “corner” Hungary when it comes to migration issues, but the government will maintain its standpoint, “whether it has supporters or not”, he added.
According to Lázár, “pro-migration forces” are preparing for a “breakthrough” at the European Council’s next meeting on Friday. He also noted that the working documents of the EU now contain phrases like “mandatory distribution” and “mandatory solidarity”. He suggested that “Germany and others” are pushing for a decision to be passed in the next few weeks.
The Hungarian government is not in a position “nor is ready to” grant approval for the mandatory distribution of migrants, because “its hands are tied” by the results of a referendum, as well as decisions by parliament and the Constitutional Court, Lázár insisted.
He added that the government wants a total 150 billion forints (EUR 480m) for Hungary’s border fence to be included in EU solidarity expenses.
While the EU is proposing the automatic distribution migrants, Hungary’s standpoint is that migrants should not be allowed to enter the EU, and those already within the Schengen borders should be taken outside and made to go through immigration procedures, he said, adding that Hungary’s and the EU’s positions were “antagonistic”. Hungary supports voluntary mechanisms rather than a binding system, he added.
On the subject of community funds for Hungary, Lázár said the government supported an opposition proposal to set up an ad-hoc committee to monitor funds received from the EU since 2007. He added that the government would start talks with the parliamentary parties to simplify the tender process of EU funds. He added that by the end of this year, a total 1,600-1,700 billion forints in grants will have been paid out to winning bidders.
Open Government Partnership
Answering a question about Hungary’s recent decision to pull out of the Open Government Partnership, Lázár said the government had expected “fair treatment” in the partnership but Hungary had been “denied” the opportunity to have its positions included in reports.
Concerning Hungary’s support for the ethnic Hungarian RMDSZ party in the Romanian election campaign, Lázár said it was the only Hungarian party with a chance of winning seats in the Romanian parliament. “There are more questions on which we see eye to eye than areas of disagreement, and we must focus on cooperation,” he said.