On 8 and 9 May 2015 the ECNAIS executives Simon Steen and Per Kristensen visited Budapest as invitees of the Hungarian Association of Private Schools (AME, www.maganiskolak.hu ).
Upon the request of Mr. György Horn, chairman of the Association, they were received by the State Secretariat of Education. Simon Steen and Per Kristensen were accompanied by Zsofi Bak, vice-chair and executive director of AME and representative in ECNAIS’ MCM.
The role of ECNAIS: encouraging dialogue
The executives of ECNAIS got the opportunity to introduce ECNAIS, its tasks, goals, activities, and also the active role of AME within ECNAIS.
They also reported about the Round Table discussion in the European Parliament on 27th January 2015 in Brussels, organized by ECNAIS, which was drawn into the attention of Mr. Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner of Education, by Mr. György Horn
At the meeting the declaration on “Promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education” from the Council of the EU Education Ministers in Paris, 17 March 2015 was brought to attention.. In this declaration the Ministers of Education of EU states agreed to strengthen their actions at national, regional and local level in the field of education by encouraging dialogue and cooperation among all education stakeholders.
The State Secretariat reported on the process of educational themes in Hungary since 2010, when the current government came to power. It was ensured that the independent sector in Hungary operates by the same legislation as the state schools either in ways of financial or pedagogical questions.
Though the national curricula gives a compulsory base to all schools, independent or alternative schools are allowed to apply for permission to teach their own curricula. All these applications have been accepted a full 100 percent by the government. Financing the salary of Hungarian pedagogues is the task of the state, and the state acts accordingly.
Both sides agreed on the slogan of ECNAIS that for the good of the children, state and independent sector should work together: “It’s ECNAIS’ objective to complement rather than to compete with national systems,” said Simon Steen
The discussion was evaluated positively by both parties.
In the afternoon Simon Steen and Per Kristensen visited the headquarter of AME, and met with representatives of the Association: members of the board and member schools.
The informal but informative meeting with leaders, founders and owners of art schools, vocational schools, schools for children with special needs, drop-outs, second-chance schools, gymnasiums etc., went in good atmosphere with lack of formality, but with changing lots of information. It was emphasized that the morning meeting at the ministry should be put into the real context.
Steen and Kristensen stressed the importance to convince the public about the value of the work of AME and the independent schools. They painted the bigger picture: 20 percent of the European students go to independent schools. This number is not negligible. This number can be used as a base for the fight for AME’s aims and goals. ECNAIS offered help to achieve AME’s goal.
Annual General Meeting
On Saturday AME organized its Annual General Meeting. Simon Steen and Per Kristensen gave lectures (see documents for download) on the European situation of independent education. This was followed by a round table with the Hungarian economist, Julia Varga and the Hungarian professor of education, Dr. Gabor Halasz.
Julia Varga showed figures of the Hungarian independent school sector reflecting on the European situation. Dr. Gabor Halasz reflected to all three lectures. His opinion about the future of education in Hungary was that state and private education at some point will have to use each other’s strength, because both work for the good of the future. He underlined that the ongoing developments in society are in favor of independent schools.
Simon Steen stated that independent schools reflect the growing diversity within society. They offer parents a variety from which they can really make their own choice for the school of their children. When the government guarantees equal public funding for state schools and private schools, independent private schools can be open accessible for all children.