Domestic PoliticsEducation

“Taygetos Act”? – Hungarian President János Áder Signs Controversial Amendment To Public Education Law

Hungarian President János Áder signed a recent amendment to the public education law. Áder said he had consulted with the ombudsman for educational rights prior to signing the legislation, and was assured that worries around the amendment were not justified.

The President also noted that the “directions and content” of the new law were approved by several professional organisations including associations supporting children with special needs. “Those organisations have voiced clear support for stipulations of the new law,” János Áder said. He added he hoped that their approval would convince parents “scared by assumptions not supported by the word of the law”.

Earlier, green opposition LMP criticised the amendment passed by parliament on May 30, saying that it would infringe on the constitutional rights of children to protection and education, and discriminate against the disabled. The opposition Socialist and Democratic Coalition parties also opposed the amendment and said they would request a Constitutional Court scrutiny.

In a statement, educational ombudsman Lajos Aáry-Tamás said that the amendment aims to motivate the children, their families and their teachers not to “give up” but to work together to boost their performance. Several other measures facilitating a successful school carrier will stay in place, such as longer preparation times at exams and the possibility to choose oral exams over written ones, he said. The amendment came as the result of a two-year cooperation with experts, the Gusztáv Bárczi College of Special Education and the bodies responsible for special needs diagnostics among them, Aáry-Tamás added.

The amendment has triggered mixed reactions in Hungarian media as well. In left-wing opposition daily Népszava, psychologist Dániel Juhász reiterated his condemnation of new legislation which abolishes the current waiver which allows children who suffer from mild development disorders to give up courses in subjects they have difficulty in understanding. In a letter to the authorities, Juhász branded the amendment adopted in Parliament on Tuesday a ‘Taygetos Act’ (a reference to the Spartan habit of throwing deformed or weakly children into a chasm on Mount Taygetos) and the label has been extensively used by the opposition in its critique of the new law. Juhász has been widely criticised for alleging that pupils unable to understand certain subjects would now be regularly shamed and thus traumatised, while the law did not refer to serious cases of dyslexia or dyscalulia as he claims. He now writes that it should be up to psychologists to judge in each individual case whether children with development disorders should be compelled to follow certain courses at school.

Meanwhile in pro-government right-wing daily Magyar Idők, Éva Bonczidai, an art development teacher replied that psychologists are in fact in charge of that decision under the new law. If they find that the disorder is grave, they will exempt the pupil from following certain courses. If it is mild, on the other hand, exemption is the wrong solution, she believes. Specialised care is needed to overcome a hurdle instead of surrendering. She believes the law is intended to helping children with mild cases of development disorder rather than throwing them from Mount Taygetos.

via hungarymatters.hu and budapost.eu; photo: György Varga – MTI