Country information for Hungary - Legislation and policy
Hungary ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol on 6 July 2007. Even before the ratification, Hungarian laws included regulations about special educational needs (SEN) and inclusive education.
Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education (which came into force in September 2012) ensures, as laid down in the Fundamental Law, the right to:
- free and compulsory primary education;
- free and generally accessible secondary education up to achieving the secondary school-leaving certificate;
- training for the first (and, under certain conditions, for the second) vocational qualification.
The mainstream early childhood education institution in Hungary is kindergarten, which is compulsory between the ages of three and six. Kindergarten was optional from age three and compulsory from age five, but Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education made it compulsory from age three, from September 2015. This modification aims to support school success, especially for children from socially disadvantaged families. It can contribute to closing performance gaps between learners from disadvantaged and more favourable backgrounds. It also allows identification of any special needs, providing a solution for families and children in need.
From the 2012/2013 academic year, Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education modified the definition of SEN. The Act classifies children and learners eligible for special care into two groups:
- Children and learners eligible for special treatment:
- children/learners with SEN;
- children and learners with integration, behavioural and learning difficulties;
- children and learners with outstanding talent;
- Socially disadvantaged or multiply disadvantaged children and learners.
The previous definition of SEN was the unstable and was based on organic causes (severe/permanent cognitive disorder and the development of behaviour was established and underlain by organic causes). The dichotomy of organic versus non-organic does not accurately define the individual components of special education and rehabilitative services. It does not link the appropriate components with individual diagnostic categories nor establish the actual funding requirements.
Pedagogically, in Hungary SEN refers to the deviating development caused by disorders relating to intellect, vision, hearing, physical (locomotor) and speech organs or other psychological development disorders (severe and permanent disorders of cognitive functions or behavioural development). The child’s specific features differ from the average to such an extent that their development potential can only be achieved by specific (special) means, methods and teaching aids.
According to Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education, learners with SEN include those eligible for special treatment due to:
- physical, sensory (visual, hearing), intellectual or speech disabilities;
- multiple disabilities in cases of simultaneous occurrence of several disabilities;
- autism spectrum disorder or other psychological developmental disorders (severe learning, concentration or behavioural difficulties)
Eligibility is based on the committee of experts’ opinion. The committee of experts is regulated by Ministry of Human Capacities Decree 15/2013 (II.26.) on pedagogical assistance services.
Neither the previous nor the current Act on Public Education state that learners with disabilities either have to be educated in special education institutions/classes established for this purpose or together with other learners. It allows both options and stipulates compliance with the subjective and objective conditions required for specific education and teaching. Learners with SEN have the right to receive special education and conductive education within the framework of special treatment, if they are eligible. Special needs education is provided in line with the committee of experts’ opinion.
Parents can select the educational institution that provides the most appropriate education for their children, based on the relevant committee’s expert opinion and in line with the needs and capabilities of parents and children.
Learners with SEN are educated in either:
- a special educational or conductive educational institution, kindergarten group or school class, established for this purpose;
- an inclusive educational institution, kindergarten group or school class, partly or fully together with peers in the same kindergarten group or school class.
The education of learners with SEN requires:
- a special or conductive educator with appropriate skills to educate learners and perform developmental teaching, according to the type and extent of the learners’ SEN, special curricula, course (text) books and other tools;
- in cases of individual progress education or inclusive education, a special or conductive educator with appropriate skills to educate learners according to the type and extent of their SEN, in line with the requirements set by the committee of experts; furthermore, special curricula, course (text) books for the classes and special medical and technical equipment;
- the committee of experts’ decision on the areas to be developed.
Act LXXX of 2019 on Vocational Education, which came into force in 1 January 2020 (and previously Act CLXXXVII of 2011) guarantees similar rights for learners with SEN related to vocational education.
The Guideline for kindergarten education of children with special educational needs and the Guideline for school education of learners with special educational needs, published by the Ministry of Human Capacities, include classification criteria for the national categories of SEN:
- Physical disability: significant and permanent disability due to congenital or acquired impairment and/or dysfunction of the locomotor system, which affects kinaesthetic experience learning and socialisation. A learner’s special educational needs are determined by the time of occurrence and the form, extent and area of the impairment.
- Visual disability (blind, sight impairment, low vision): an impairment of the eye(s), the optic nerve or the pallial visual area, which affects cognitive functions, adaptability and personality. For special education purposes, learners whose visual acuity is between 0 and 0.33 – even with two eyes and if corrected (by glasses) – compared to full vision (visual acuity: 1) are visually impaired. In particular:
- learners who have no visual acuity (visual acuity: 0) are blind;
- learners with severe sight impairment are those who can sense light and see larger objects (visual acuity: sense of light to 0.1);
- the visual acuity of people with low vision ranges between 0.1 and 0.33.
- Hearing disability (deaf, hearing loss): speech and language development and, as a result, personality are affected by lack or loss of hearing. In particular:
- deaf: severe loss of hearing (loss measured in the range of speech is 90 decibels);
- hearing loss: the average hearing levels measured in the range of speech are 30–45 decibels for people with mild hearing loss, 45–65 decibels for people with moderate hearing loss and 65–90 decibels for people with severe hearing loss.
- Intellectual disability: the Act on Public Education distinguishes groups according to the severity of intellectual disability and learners’ development needs: learners with mild intellectual disabilities (learning difficulties), learners with moderate intellectual disabilities, and children of school age with (severe and very severe) intellectual disabilities.
- Speech impairment: a significant speech disorder due to congenital or acquired dysfunction of the nervous system, or to environmental effects, resulting in temporary or permanent disorders in language, communication and learning skills and in establishing social relations. It may present in:
- disorders relating to the correct pronunciation of sounds of speech;
- disorders relating to speech perception and cognition;
- impairment of speech rhythm;
- delayed graphomotor and visuomotor co-ordination;
- the loss of skills involving general deficiency in speech;
- dysphonia of various types and abnormal changes in intonation can also be considered speech disorders.
- Autism spectrum disorder: the impairment of social, communication and special cognitive skills, resulting in specific behavioural symptoms. It is mostly characterised by cognitive deficits in social abilities and in the field of flexible ways of thinking and creativity, impaired communication compared to the level of speech and an unbalanced intelligence and ability profile.
- Multiple disabilities: co-existence of several disabilities.
- Severe and multiple disabilities: impairment of body structures causes a severe disorder in at least two specifically human functions, such as communication, speech, motion, intelligence and sensing-perception. Psychophysical performance differs extremely from the average, significantly restricting activities and social participation. As a rule, the underlying cause of severe and multiple disabilities is a complex impairment occurring early on in life. Disabilities might appear in a variety of combinations and severities and/or at different times.
- Other psychological development disorders (severe and permanent disorder of the cognitive functions or the development of behaviour): for example, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, severe attention or behavioural problems, etc.
Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education entitles all learners with SEN to free textbooks.
Act LXXXIV of 1998 on Family Support allows increased family allowance to families whose children need permanent or increased care and/or supervision because of a long-term illness or severe disability, as defined in a separate decree (Decree 5/2003. (II. 19.) of the Minister of Health, Social and Family Affairs on illnesses and disabilities giving entitlement to an increased family allowance). The Decree also stipulates which institution – polyclinic, committee of experts, etc. – can verify the long-term illness or severe disability.
According to Act LXXXIV of 1998 on Family Support, mothers receive childcare leave until their child is three years old. Fathers (after their child is one year old) also receive a childcare allowance during that period. The parents of children with long-term illness or severe disability receive this allowance until their child is 10 years old.
According to Act III of 1993 on Social Administration and Social Welfare Benefits, children with a long-term illness or severe disability, whose parents receive an increased family allowance, are entitled to a public health card. A public health card entitles free access to certain medicines and medical aids, defined in a decree issued by the Minister of Health.
Adult relatives who care for people with a severe disability who are reliant on care – irrespective of age – or who are permanently ill or under the age of 18 receive a nursing fee. The nursing fee amount is determined each year by the annual budget act. The period for which a nursing fee is paid is considered a pensionable service period.
Act LXXXIII of 1997 on the Services of the Compulsory Health Insurance System and its implementing government decree on reduced fares for public passenger transport jointly ensure that learners with disabilities – and, if necessary, up to two attendants – are entitled to travel free of charge for the use of rehabilitation activities or development.
Basic schools teaching learners with intellectual disabilities operated as closed schools, but the qualifications obtained in these schools did not entitle learners to continue their studies. Act I of 1985 on Education closed the schools and a new institution – the special school – emerged to provide upper-secondary education to learners who could not be taught with other learners. The establishment of these schools was a significant step towards providing professional education to learners with disabilities.
A 2003 amendment of Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education extended the national categories of disability. The category of people entitled to special care was extended to include children with autism and children with learning difficulties due to other psychiatric developmental disorders, which result in severe and permanent learning impediments. The number of learners with SEN due to other psychological developmental disorders increased fivefold over a five-year period and significant differences were found in the counties’ statistics. As such, the rules pertaining to diagnosis were amended and the population concerned was fully reviewed in 2007.
The significance of selection mechanisms and medical diagnosis aspects in inclusive education for children and learners with SEN is decreasing. There is a growing emphasis on the development opportunities adapted to different educational needs.
The classification of inclusive education is in line with European Union (EU) practices; the complex diagnosis and the acquisition of the integrated educational content take place within the general school framework. Professionals (psychologists, special educators, conductive teachers, medical doctors) specialising in the given field assess children’s special rehabilitation needs (complex diagnosis). The curriculum is delivered with the help of special equipment, infrastructure and professionals with specialised training over the entire period or part of the education provision.
Besides diagnostics and counselling, the pedagogical assistance service institutions also provide therapy and family care. According to Act of CXXV of 2003 on Equal Opportunities, the parents of learners with SEN have the right to be involved in decision-making about where their children are placed.
Priorities for inclusive education
Public education should provide for early childhood development before school and account for learners with SEN or those facing difficulties in integration, learning or behaviour. Public education must support development of their full potential, adjusted to their individual needs, and establish possibilities for their full social inclusion.
Neither the previous nor the current Act on Public Education state that children with disabilities have to be educated either in special education institutions/classes established for this purpose or together with other learners.
As a result of the inclusive education trends appearing in international practice, inclusion also became more prominent in Hungary in the 1980s. There are now inclusive forms of schooling in most education sectors. Currently, 72% of learners with disabilities participating in the public (and vocational) education system receive education in an inclusive methodological framework.
The main priorities for education and inclusive education in 2021–2027 are determined by the National Disability Programme 2015–2025, the Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2021–2027 and the Public Education Development Strategy 2021–2027.
These strategies aim to:
- develop the SEN welfare system that recognises individual needs and characteristics and relevant additional services;
- strengthen inclusive education in mainstream institutions;
- strengthen the role of Unified Special Educational, Conductive Educational Methodological Institutions (USEMIs) in inclusive education;
- improve support for learners with severe and multiple disabilities;
- develop pedagogical assistance services;
- improve quality-based early childhood education and care;
- improve the career-building, further education, career counselling systems, dissemination and practice of individual transfer programmes;
- improve transitioning (individual transition plans);
- improve special travelling services;
- improve the hospital pedagogy.
Regarding the EU 2020 objective to improve competitiveness and the employment rate and to reduce early school leaving, Hungary committed to reducing its national early school leaving rate to 10% by 2020. A national strategy to prevent early school leaving (ESL) received government approval in November 2014 (Decree 1603/2014. (XI.4.)). The ESL strategy led to the introduction of an early school leaving data collection in the Act on Public Education from January 2015. This aims to establish an early warning system and to define learners who are at risk of drop-out.
One of the most important systemic measures of the ESL strategy is the early warning and pedagogical support system to prevent drop-out, which was introduced in November 2016. The system supports necessary interventions at both learner and school levels. Specific interventions must be delivered for learners who would otherwise drop out of the educational system. At learner level, the warning system monitors ESL signals, such as absenteeism, grade repetition, underachievement, social factors, etc. The warning system aims to have a comprehensive view of the learners’ needs and ensure that those at risk of drop-out receive the tailored support they need.
Last updated 25/03/2021