Primary and Secondary Education in Hungary

Information on the system of schooling in Hungary, from primary to higher education...

Compulsory education starts at the age of five. Education is free, but parents have to pay for books, stationery and other equipment and school trips. If a family has three or more children they can get the schoolbooks for free.

Pre-schools

Nurseries (bölcsöde) accept children from 20 months to three years of age, and kindergartens (óvoda) from age three to six or seven. In the September after a child turns five, the local kindergarten has to provide a place, and a child has to attend kindergarten for at least four hours a day. Education law is currently changing, and it is possible that from 2013 schooling will be obligatory from three years old.

Elementary Schools

Children attend elementary schools (általános iskola) from the age of six to 14.

Children who are school-ready can start elementary school at six years old, but not later than eight years old. The proposed change under the new education law is that all children who have turned six by 31 August will have to start school the following September.

Most elementary schools offer an after-school programme (napközi) until about 16:00. This is a very basic supervised childcare with no teaching.

Secondary Schools

Secondary schools (gimnázium) admit children from the age of ten to 19, which means that some children attend secondary school for four years of classes, some six, and others eight. Some of the schools have an entrance examination, and sometimes there is an extra year, for teaching a foreign language, or a trade.

When they have finished secondary school, children sit a central exam (érettségi), which also serves as an entrance exam to higher education.

Vocational High Schools

Vocational high schools (szakközépiskola) admit children from the age of 14, until they are 18 or 19. Students are taught the skills needed for a particular job, for example cooks, tailors or car mechanics.

Trade schools (szakmunkásképz?) teach skills to children from the age of 14 to 17.

These schools also conclude with a central exam (érettségi) in general subjects, as well as in the particular trade.

Grading System

There are five grades: 1 is considered a fail and 5 is the top grade. Instead of grades, teachers can give a description of a child's performance, for example “good” until the age of ten, but this system is rarely used beyond age eight. Under the new education law, only grades will be allowed.