Education has long been a high priority in Hungary. In 1868, approximately simultaneously with several countries in Western Europe, Parliament passed a law on compulsory schooling for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Student competence in Hungary at both primary and secondary level has always tended to be high, especially in mathematics and nature-oriented subjects. The communist regime meant strict state monopoly for the education system with strong centralization. This monopoly was abolished completely in 1990, when the state’s role became to financially support the schools, while local authorities were allowed to widen their influence through decentralization of the administration. A new school law was adopted in 1993 with the aim of modernizing the school system by increasing the number of years of general education subjects, raising the quality of especially the secondary school and increasing the admission to higher education. The reforms to some extent meant a return to the time before the communist regime. Thus, the organizational differentiation at the secondary stage has been given more space. However, the tough economic situation has meant cuts and some deterioration in education.
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The Hungarian school system consists of an 8-year school from 6 to 14 years, divided into a primary and a lower secondary school. Then followed three types of higher secondary school, an academically oriented gymnasium, a vocational school with elements of general subjects which also aim to provide skills and internships in broadly defined occupational areas, and a school for specialized professional workers. Higher education is provided at over 70’s colleges and universities, where a significant proportion of students participate through evening and correspondence courses.
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In 2000, independent candidate Ferenc Mádl was elected President of Parliament. It was necessary to conduct 3 electoral rounds because Mádl did not get the necessary 2/3 of the votes in the first two rounds. In 2001, Parliament passed the controversial Status Law that allows Hungarian descendants living abroad – primarily in Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia – to carry a special identity card that temporarily entitles them to work, study and receive health care and travel assistance. This year, the Hungarian economy grew by 4.2% and unemployment fell, placing the country at the forefront of Eastern European countries. The same year marks the country’s 1,000th year of consolidation of the country as a nation. It happened, among other things. by restoring a 1934 monument, marking the nation’s 4 biggest tragedies: the defeat of the Tartars, Turks and Habsburgs, as well as the Trianon Treaty, which caused the nation to lose 2/3 of its territory. Under communism, the monument had been demolished and the purpose of the reconstruction was to make events alive and present.
In the 2002 elections, a coalition of socialists and liberals won the parliament, and former Foreign Minister and economist Peter Medgyessy was elected prime minister. Former prime minister Viktor Orbán was criticized by the new government for selling over 500,000 hectares of good agricultural land that had belonged to the state. Orbán stated that the purpose of the sale was to give the small farmers land before the new government sold the land to large companies. The new prime minister was forced in the same year to admit that he had worked in the counter-espionage in 1970-80, but he refused to cooperate with the KGB. He stated that the purpose of his work was to maneuver Hungary towards joining the IMF, without Moscow discovering it.
In 2003, Parliament changed the Status Act of 2001. It had been criticized for its discrimination against other ethnic groups and for interfering with the sovereignty of neighboring countries. The Government Coalition had several sections of the law removed, including a section recognizing Hungary for a “united nation without borders”. Romania and Slovakia, where a significant minority of Hungarians live, had declared that the law interfered with their sovereignty and discriminated against other ethnic groups. According to some observers, the reason for Hungary’s amendment to the law was that the EU had demanded this to include Hungary as a member.
In 2003, Hungary made military bases available to the United States ifbm. the superpower invasion of Iraq. On May 1, 2004, along with nine other Eastern European countries, the country was admitted as a member of the EU, thus growing from 15 to 25 countries.
In August, Parliament appointed a new Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány, who in September passed a vote of confidence of 197 votes out of Parliament’s 384. At a military ceremony in November, Gyurcsány declared that Hungary would withdraw all its 300 soldiers from Iraq by the end of March 2005 He further stated that the soldiers would stay in the country until after the elections in January 2005. Both public opinion and the opposition pressed to get the country’s troops out of Iraq. The most prominent opposition politician had initially agreed to the war, but since changed his mind and now advocated the withdrawal of the troops.
No president could be elected in either first or second parliamentary elections. Only in the third round, which only required a simple majority, in June 2005 was Parliament appointed László Sólyom as new president. He was deployed in August. The April 2006 election was won by the Socialist Party with 40.26% of the vote.