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 until obtaining 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. Kindergarten used to be optional from the age of three and compulsory from the age of five. However, Act CXC of 2011 on National Public Education made it compulsory from the age of 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. This measure allows for the identification of any special needs, providing a solution for families and children in need. Early childhood education is compulsory between the ages of three and six.
From the 2012/2013 academic year, the Act on Public Education modified the definition of special educational needs. The reason behind the changes was the unstable interpretation of the former definition based on organic causes (severe and permanent disorder of the cognitive functions and the development of behaviour was established and underlain by organic cause). The dichotomy of organic versus non-organic fails to provide accurate definitions of individual components of special education and rehabilitative services, to link the appropriate components with individual diagnostic categories and to establish their actual funding requirements.
The Act on Public Education classifies children and learners eligible for special care into two separate groups:
- Children and learners eligible for special treatment
- Socially disadvantaged or multiply disadvantaged children and learners.
Children and learners eligible for special treatment are:
- children/learners with SEN;
- children and learners with integration, behavioural and learning difficulties;
- children and learners with outstanding talent.
From the pedagogical aspect, SEN refer 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). It is a condition where a child’s specific features differ from the average to such an extent that their possible development can only be achieved by specific (special) means, methods and teaching aids.
According to the Act, the following children may belong to this category: those eligible for special treatment due to physical, sensory (visual, hearing), intellectual or speech disabilities, those with multiple disabilities in cases of simultaneous occurrence of several disabilities or those with autism spectrum disorder or other psychological developmental disorders (severe learning, concentration or behavioural difficulties) on the basis of the committee of experts’ opinion. The committee of experts’ activities are regulated by Decree 15/2013 (II.26.) of the Ministry of Human Resources on pedagogical assistance services.
Neither the previous nor the current Act on Public Education includes any provisions where children with disabilities 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 as a criterion. Children/learners with SEN have the right to receive special education and conductive education within the framework of special treatment, after their eligibility is determined. Special needs education is provided for in line with the committee of experts’ opinion.
Parents can select the educational institution that provides the most appropriate education for learners with SEN on the basis of the relevant committee’s expert opinion, in line with the needs and the possibilities of parents and children.
The education of children or learners with SEN in kindergarten, educational institutions and halls of residence shall be:
- conducted in a special educational, conductive educational institution, kindergarten group or school class, established for this purpose; or
- conducted in 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 the following conditions:
- the involvement of a special educator or conductor with appropriate skills to educate the learners and perform developmental teaching according to the type and extent of the learners’ SEN, special curricula, course (text) books and other instruments;
- in case of individual progress education, inclusive kindergarten education, school education, a special educator or conductor 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.
Decree 32/2012 (X. 8.) of the Minister of Education on the issue of the Guideline for kindergarten education of children with special educational needs and of the Guideline for school education of learners with special educational needs includes the following 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): a state occurring because of 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 is 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 the following 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 and to environmental effects as a consequence of which temporary or permanent disorders may appear 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, in disorders relating to speech perception and cognition, in impairment of speech rhythm, in delayed graphomotor and visuomotor co-ordination, and in 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: it refers to 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: a state existing throughout a person’s life and characterised by the fact that, due to impairment of body structures, specifically human functions – such as communication, speech, motion, intelligence and sensing-perception – show a severe disorder in at least two fields. The person’s psychophysical performance differs extremely from the average, so that they are significantly restricted in their activities and in 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 severity 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.
According to Act CCXXXII of 2013 on the Textbook Market, all learners with SEN are entitled to free textbooks.
According to Act LXXXIV of 1998 on Family Support, families with a child with a long-term illness and/or severe disability shall receive an increased family allowance. However, not all families with children qualified as having SEN (disabilities) are entitled to an increased family allowance. This allowance is due only to families whose child needs permanent or increased care and/or supervision because of a long-term illness or severe disability 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. – is entitled to verify the long-term illness or severe disability.
According to the 1998 Act on Family Support, a mother shall receive childcare leave until the child is three years old. The father (after his child is one year old) shall also receive a childcare allowance during that period. The parents of a child with a long-term illness or severe disability may receive this allowance until the 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. People holding a public health card are entitled to certain medicines and medical aids, defined in a decree issued by the Minister of Health, free of charge.
Adult relatives who take care of a person with a severe disability who is reliant on care – irrespective of age – or who is permanently ill or under the age of 18 shall receive a nursing fee. The amount of the nursing fee is determined each year by the annual budget act. The period for which a nursing fee is paid shall be considered a pensionable service period.
Act LXXXIII of 1997 on the Services of the Compulsory Health Insurance System and its implementing decree, as well as the Government Decree on reduced fares of public passenger transport, jointly ensure that children/learners with disabilities – and, if necessary, not more than 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 until the introduction of Act I of 1985 on Education, because the qualifications obtained in such schools did not entitle learners to continue their studies. In 1985, these schools were closed 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 such schools was a significant step towards providing professional education to learners with disabilities.
The 2003 amendment of Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education extended the traditional national categories of disability. It included children with autism and children with learning difficulties due to other psychiatric developmental disorders, which result in severe and permanent learning impediments, in the category of people entitled to special care. Since the number of children and 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, the rules pertaining to diagnosis were amended and the population concerned was fully reviewed in 2007.
Now, the significance of selection mechanisms and medical diagnosis aspects in the inclusive education of children and learners with SEN is decreasing. There is a growing emphasis on the development opportunities adapted to different educational needs.
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.
The classification 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 Education Guidance Service also provides therapy and family care. According to the Act 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
A main duty of public education is to provide for early childhood development before school and to 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 includes any provisions where children with disabilities have to be educated 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, 70% of learners with disabilities participating in the public education system receive education in an inclusive methodological framework.
The main priorities for education and inclusive education in 2014–2020 are determined by the National Disability Programme 2015–2025, the Human Resources Development Operational Programme 2014–2020 and the Public Education Development Strategy 2014–2020.
The objectives of these strategies are:
- developing the SEN welfare system that provides the ability to recognise individual needs and characteristics and relevant additional services;
- strengthening inclusive education in mainstream institutions;
- strengthening the role of Unified Special Educational, Conductive Educational Methodological Institutions (USEMIs) in inclusive education;
- improving support for children with severe and multiple disabilities;
- developing pedagogical assistance services;
- improving quality-based early childhood education and care;
- career-building, further education, career counselling system, dissemination and practice of individual transfer programmes,
- transition (individual transition plans).
Regarding the EU 2020 objective to improve competitiveness and the employment rate and to reduce early school leaving, Hungary has committed to reducing its national early school leaving rate to 10% by 2020. A national strategy to prevent early school leaving has been completed and received government approval in November 2014 (1603/2014. (XI. 4.) Gov. decree). The early school leaving strategy introduced an early school leaving data collection and early warning system in the Act on Public Education from January 2015. It aims to establish an early warning system and to define learners who are at risk of drop-out.
Last updated 05/04/2018