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Challenges and tendencies - Hungary

Acceptance and realisation level of aims

Pre-assumptions: the attitude of the participants towards the inclusive evaluation of the teaching and learning process was examined indirectly. Accepting pupils with special education needs to mainstream schools is still in the crossfire of societal and pedagogical debates, also the introduction of assessment in report form for pupils in the first years of primary school, consequently the collected opinions regarding inclusive assessment can only be educed by reviewing the viewpoints related to these two factors.

The standpoints of parents, pupils and teachers appearing in publicity are still about the “necessity and unnecessity” of inclusion and assessment without grades and in connection with partial topics such as inclusive assessment, no standpoints have yet been made. 

Attitude of teachers in mainstream schools

In 2003 the Ministry of Education put the ’unofficial professional draft’ of the newest amendment of the Law on Public Education up for professional, public debate. The assessment in report form of pupils in their first years in primary school was one of the fundamental points in the amendment. The teachers’ trade unions and their organisations representing and promoting professional pedagogical interest gave their written opinion about the draft.

The doubts of teachers regarding assessment in report form can be summarised in the following points (http://magyartanarok.fw.hu): They do not agree that the change is necessary and reasonable. Their opinion (concern) is that pupils will not study if no marks are given. They are afraid that teachers will have fewer tools for assessment if no marks can be given anymore. They are worried what parents will have to say about this.  

In 2005 assessment in report form was made compulsory and was introduced in the first year of primary schools. Practical experience shows that a positive change in attitude can be since felt. Teachers define as positive that the assessment system does not highlight what the pupils do not know but rather emphasises the abilities they have. The system of assessment in report form encourages teachers to more in-depth evaluating work and a more tolerant attitude. It is perceivable that after this tryout the emphasis was shifted from why, to how, in connection with introducing assessment in report form. 

Attitude of parents

Since 1996 it has been legally possible for schools to decide regarding their own scope of authority if they wish to utilise assessment in report form. Shifting to assessment in report form had not been properly prepared professionally so the majority of parents had negative experiences which they projected to the entire assessment in report form thereby openly opposing doing away with giving marks in the first grades of mainstream schools also.

In the opinion of several parents there are cases when teachers cannot yet substitute giving grades with assessment in report form, so the parents eventually do not get any feedback about the performance of their children at school for months.

Most parents have become active participants in the social debate on assessment in report form. Parents have personal experience of assessment without marks from the assessment of their children’s behaviour and diligence at school. 

Opinion of the parents of pupils with special education needs attending inclusive institutions

The parents of pupils with special education needs emphasis the responsibility of teachers in assessment, they primarily blame them for their children not being successful in the inclusive school. As they explain, the assessment of the performance of their children is problematic for teachers because they are not aware of what they can expect from pupils with disabilities therefore they do not have appropriate assessment criteria. 

The parents often consider teachers indifferent to the learning and social problems of pupils with special education needs. They do not feel responsible for the failures of their children and are not willing to accept external help, co-operate with the parents and special teachers. 

Many think that the active participation of parents is of key importance in keeping contact with the inclusive school, but there are parents who almost completely “withdraw” because they feel that their children will suffer if they try to represent their interests. Other parents, learning from long years of experience, try to co-operate with teachers so that they do not feel like being lectured to but helped. According to them successful inclusion primarily depends on the attitude of teachers and not their professional training. If the attitude of teachers in this question changed and they were more sensitive to and more flexible with children with special education needs, the attitude of the classmates would also change 

Opinion of the pupils with special education needs in inclusive education

As it turned out from a survey in 2004 carried out with Year 12 secondary school pupils 68% of the pupils questioned said that marks are by all means necessary because they create a situation of competition in the class community, therefore they have an incentive effect. They also consider marks important because it becomes visible on what level they are and everybody can compare their performance to that of their peers. 

In the opinion of the pupils asked, the roots of shortcomings in the system can be traced back to teachers. They consider assessment of oral repetitions the most subjective and it hurts their self-esteem that teachers do not measure all pupils the same way. They think that the marks from 1 to 5 are inadequate to express minor differences. 

The majority of pupils who were asked (70%) would not like assessment in report form applied in their school instead of marks and 73% has the opinion that their parents would by no means accept this method because they think marks are very important to their parents. It has become the measuring unit of school performance and both the pupils and the parents insist on this tradition. They think parents would sooner or later yield to the system of assessment in report form but they would still benchmark against marks.  

As per children, teachers have a very significant role if a pupil with special education needs settles in and acquires the material successfully. Pupils attending mainstream schools emphasise that they do not expect the teacher to be more permissive with them and they do not expect allowances in their school performance either, merely to understand their problem.

Main problems and questions of the existing evaluation system in Hungary

There is a need to formulate the aims of assessment activity in public. The funding of evaluation is insecure because the feedback of results in not completely settled, especially for the school maintainers. Ensuring publicity of the results and providing access to the data requires regulation as well.

The examination system formed for the assessment system can only provide well utilisable assessment information if the data can be analysed by the institution, maintainer and policy-makers, too. For this, further development tasks have to be carried out: standardisation of the tests applied for secondary school leaving examination, collection of the results, publicity for use and analysis on ministry level. 

Developing sets of tasks (test contents) measuring performances, creating a solid institutional background serving it and the continuous evaluation of the operation of secondary school leaving examination system are all goals for the coming years.

In the current assessment system in classroom procedures the emphasis is mainly put on discovering negatives, as many shortcomings and mistakes as possible. It is an absolute prerequisite for realising co-education that an assessment practice is successfully established which explores the positives in order.

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