Hundreds of people took part in a demonstration on Kossuth Square on Saturday to protest an amendment to the law on public education. At the end of the event, a national student strike was announced for September 13th, when all students are asked to stay home to express their protest against the unilateral changes by the ruling parties. Also, five opposition parties have already turned to the Constitutional Court, as they think the new amendment does not comply with the requirements of the rule of law and are unconstitutional.
The demonstration, organized by two Waldorf secondary school students, took place in Budapest in front of Parliament.
In the event’s Facebook post the organizers said they would not stand idle while the government set about “destroying the public education system” and dismantling alternative schools. It is “unacceptable to systematically lower the standard of education” and “to deprive teachers of their freedom,” they added.
As an expression of their protest against the changes to the law, all students have been asked to stay home on September 13th.
On Kossuth Square, the organizers also distributed their demands:
- When appointing heads of institutions, teachers, parents, and students should have the right to comment and agree.
- More money for education in the budget, also to be increased over the years in proportion to the GDP.
- Trade unions and civil organizations should be significantly involved in the legislation process.
- The government should grant textbook alternatives. Every class and every teacher is different, thus everyone has the right to choose the best textbook for themselves.
- Reduce lexical curriculum and the over-burdening of students and teachers. Fewer lessons and less administration.
- Competitive Salary: Increase salaries for teachers, school secretaries, special education teachers, and those directly involved in education.
The protest was held in reaction to the Hungarian parliament accepting an amendment to the law on public education On July 12th.
The changes include:
- national authorities will decide whether to grant private student status
- national authorities will also decide, based on expert opinion, whether a 6-year-old child should stay in nursery school for another year or not
- deprive the faculty and parents of their right to comment or have a say on school head appointments
- children can only receive an exemption from compulsory kindergarten (starting at age 3 by default) at parental request only until the age of four
- at least 70 percent of the alternative schools’ curriculum has to be the same as the national curriculum
- teacher candidates can start their work without a language exam
- the foreign language books including textbooks, exercise books, and dictionaries of more than two publishers will be available for the students
Many professional organizations have been protesting against the new amendment. According to a statement by the Trade Union of Teachers (PSZ), it is regrettable that Parliament has accepted it, in spite of the many objections coming from professionals. They add that despite the strategic agreement with the Ministry of Human Resources, the Union has not received the draft in advance.
“As it is known, the demands of the PSZ (wage increases, reduction of hours) have been unsuccessful even after almost a year of negotiations, so the union has started to prepare for the fall protest,” they said.
Opposition turns to Constitutional Court
The opposition has also been heavily criticizing the new law. The parliamentary groups of five opposition parties have turned to the Constitutional Court to annul amendments of the public education law.
At a joint press conference of the Socialist Party, the Democratic Coalition (DK), nationalist Jobbik, green LMP and Párbeszéd, Socialist Ágnes Kunhalmi said the amendments “do not comply with the requirements of the rule of law” and are “unconstitutional,” harming the basic right to freedom of information, the freedom of opinion, and children’s right to education.
In reaction, ruling Fidesz said that the amendments of the law on education are in place to protect children’s interests, adding the opposition “has the upcoming local elections and their own power games at heart, not the interests of the children.”