Following last week’s nationwide teacher demonstration and the removal of the state secretary for public education, representatives of the Hungarian government, teachers and various associated bodies met on Tuesday to discuss union demands for improved conditions in the schools sector. The talks were also attended by the national teachers’ corps, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as the association of large families. Of the two largest teacher trade unions, PSZ and PDSZ, PSZ declined to attend the meeting.
Among promises made by the human resources minister, Zoltán Balog, was fast action to settle salary arrears and resolve dispute over the employment of teachers about to retire. Adhering to a key demand, he also confirmed that the process of evaluating the performance of teachers would be simplified. He said the roundtable was convened to make it clear that the government is keen to resolve problems in public education, together with teachers and parents as well as students and experts. László Mendrey, the head of teachers’ union PDSZ, and Péter Madarász, the director of a secondary school in Miskolc, whose teachers recently staged a demonstration with demands for better conditions, voiced satisfaction with the talks, saying they had been free to raise all issues and that it appeared talks may lead to a positive outcome.
Meanwhile the opposition parties continue to criticize the cabinet over the troubles of the Hungarian education system. Csaba Molnár, deputy head of the left-wing Democratic Coalition, called the consultations between teacher representatives and the government a “sham”. Molnár said that the central state organisation which manages schools (Klik) should be scrapped altogether. He insisted that “the government has shown no intention of pursuing meaningful talks with teachers and is reluctant to improve education”. The opposition Socialists said public education is still in a state of crisis, unchanged from the time when the talks started. Party and group leader József Tóbiás said the curriculum needs to be radically reduced, school directors should regain their powers, teachers must be given autonomy and the freedom to select textbooks and their salaries should be raised.
The green opposition LMP party accused the government of merely consulting with its “friends”, and demanded that funds drawn away from public education be restored. The opposition Együtt said the roundtable was a “pitiful pretense”, while PM party demanded expansion of the roundtable. PM Co-leader Timea Szabó said the roundtable was a “joke” that does not include “real representatives” of teachers and pupils. Anett Bősz of the Liberals said the roundtable was “empty” and the government only was paying lip service to the serious problems that exist in education. Radical nationalist Jobbik party said no significant progress could be expected as long as the government fails to agree that basic reforms are necessary in public education. Schools and professional organisations have indicated that excessive burdens have been placed on children and teachers, Jobbik lawmaker and head of the cultural committee Dóra Duró said.
via hungarymatters.hu and MTI photo: Zsolt Szigetváry – MTI