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Assessment practice: introduction - Hungary

The system of special education institutions

In Hungary education for children with special education needs is traditionally provided in segregated, often boarding schools organised according to the type and degree of a given disability. The concerned pupils are brought up being far from their families. In primary education there are separate schools for the blind, the partially sighted, and the deaf, those of hard of hearing, the physically disabled and the mentally disabled.  These segregated special schools, while they can provide education at a good or excellent level, often place obstacles in the path of those concerned thus making it difficult for pupils with special education needs to fit in with others. Pupils brought up segregated from the whole society have a hard time finding their way, they find it difficult to get around in the world of the unimpaired, in their social career they are at a disadvantage as from their very early years they had got used to being segregated from the majority of the society. 

Inclusive education – integration of pupils with special education needs

The Act on Public Education made inclusive education possible for the first time in 1993. In addition to regulations, providing the conditions for the inclusive education of pupils with special education needs requires the use of many other instruments as well. The most important ones are: creating the material, technical and environmental conditions of inclusion, developing the pedagogical methodology for inclusive education, introducing initial integrating teacher training, providing in-service training for teachers with the aim of increasing their social sensitivity and attitudes, and creating a material interestedness which is greater than at present. 

Supportive educational policy

In the Hungarian system of public education inclusion is present as an educational policy, social and pedagogical objective. Public education policy puts emphasis on funding; the regulations favour the inclusion of those with disabilities. The aim of inclusive education is the possibility of achievement for all children, regardless of the fact that they are impaired due to some damage or other reasons could participate in institutional education without being discriminated or segregated. 

The Ministry of Education has developed comprehensive integration reforms. The amendment to the Act on Public Education is to have the effect that in the process of education and in the work of the related organisations anti-discriminative efforts will be stronger, exclusion of groups of weaker lobbying power will be less frequent and their participation in achieving the objectives of public education will be strengthened.   With the interests of pupils from both disadvantaged backgrounds and with special education needs in view, the medium term measures of the public education strategy are aimed at reducing the inequality of chances. 

To enhance social integration and equal opportunities is of high priority in the Government programme as well. A strong educational policy stance is presented by the sub measure 2.1 of the Operational Programme for Human Resource Development of the National Development Plan “Providing equal opportunities in thy educational system for pupils at disadvantage”. In accordance with the strategic objectives of the Operational Programme for Human Resource Development the programme contributes to creating chances on the labour market and to preventing social exclusion by ensuring access to quality education and supporting services. The main objective of the process of development is to create an inclusive school system, in which schools adapt to the diversity manifested in various cultural, intellectual and learning needs among children. The development programme of public education measures (by the Hungarian acronym HEF OP 2.1.) reconsiders the educational objectives in order to ensure equal opportunities for children with special education needs. 

The present practice of inclusive education

At institutional level

The development of the information society makes it possible that disability stands not for inability, lack of abilities but for a situation, in which the quality of life, also that of children with special education needs, can be improved by changing the environment. Although it is a generally accepted that children with special education needs attending mainstream schools are partly or wholly exempt from going to school, this situation has started to change in the past ten years. The access to special equipment and medical aids makes it possible to avoid exemption. 

In the past ten years as a reaction to parents’ initiatives but also to those of mainstream and special institutions individual, incidental solutions connected to certain institutions have appeared. Many of the special institutions have turned into methodological centres and by their services, active co-operation, exploiting spontaneous relations helped inclusion to become effective. In the absence of active support these initiatives remained discrete and could not give general solutions. 

At classroom level

In addition to summative assessment the role of diagnostic and formative assessment has strengthened. This change is decisive from the aspect of inclusive education.

According to legal regulations assessment in report form has become practice in schools.

Research has been carried out to reveal good practices in schools and how curriculum, teaching material, classroom processes, achievements in individual development of pupils and assessment can be connected. 

The role, importance, values and everyday practice of pedagogical assessment processes other than assessment, monitoring diagnostic-formative assessment can be illustrated by examples of institutions. This denotes a pedagogical assessment practice, which realises the equal management and mutual respect of normative information (curriculum requirements) and the empirical information manifest in pupils’ products broken down according to the phases of the learning-teaching process.  

Pupil portfolios suitable for individual monitoring of pupils are accessible for special institutions and they seem to get used by the host institutions as well.   

The inclusive education of pupils with special education needs and the adaptive organisation of the learning process as well as the assessment practice of the school are inseparable. Flexible, differentiated, adaptive organisation of the learning process and arrangement of teaching material, which take into consideration individual features and ensure the possibility for individual development, a well-structured assessment system are essential institutional conditions for inclusive education. The presented good practices support this. 

Aspects for selecting good practices

In Hungary in the early 1990s several schools involved in innovation, sought ways for modernising their institutional practice and for becoming an institution that focuses on individuals. It was at that time that alternative schools with reformed pedagogical attitudes were founded. These schools placed the learner and not the teaching material into the centre of their educational philosophy, they broke with the rigidity of uniformity, of expectations being the same for each pupil and developing individual skills. Similarly to some mainstream general schools they developed their own pedagogical systems in their own way. In Chapter 2 the practice of such host schools are presented that have a several year history of inclusive education of pupils with special education needs and of an untraditional, personalised assessment practice and have publications on their experiences and achievements.   

We have no comprehensive research data on how inclusive assessment is carried out in public education institutions in Hungary. Therefore based on data from research and analyses of pedagogical programmes we present the assessment practice of the host institutions that officially undertake to educate pupils with special education needs. Among them there are alternative schools, innovative general schools and secondary schools.  In these institutions the procedure of inclusive assessment is defined in the pedagogical programmes and in practice, assessment by grades is replaced by assessment in report form.   

While analysing best practices it is always the most characteristic institutional practice that is presented.

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