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Secondary school matriculation examinations are held every year at the beginning of May. However, this year it is also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It was uncertain for a period of time whether the exams will be held as usual, or the government will decide to postpone or even cancel it. Then the government’s education task-force proposed simplifying the final exams this year to only comprise written tests and to be held at the usual time if possible.

Earlier, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, said that graduation exams will start on May 4th and will, for the most part, comprise written tests only. Oral exams will only be organized for subjects for which written tests are not an option.

Only students who require exam scores for their higher education applications will be eligible to take the exams, which concerns 83,000 students. The exams will be organized over a period of around two weeks. However, students also have the option of postponing their exams to the autumn if they are concerned about their health and understand that they will not be able to apply to universities due to their postponed exams.

However, on Sunday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán inspected the Magyar Imre Hospital in Ajka, where he told hospital director Zoltán Nagy that according to experts, the culmination of the epidemic can be expected on May 3rd in Hungary. This raised concerns from both students, teachers, and parents, who said that this may threaten the health of students and teachers as the peak of the epidemic coincides with the graduation exams.

Later, state secretary of public education Zoltán Maruzsa, announced in a video message that school graduation exams will go ahead but the dates they are taken may be changed if the state of the epidemic justifies doing so.

He added that organizing exams amid the flux of the epidemic presents serious challenges to everyone, including students, teachers, parents, and administrators, but success was contingent on working together.

Coronavirus: Reducing School-leaving Exams to Written Tests Proposed by Gov’t Taskforce

Maruzsa also said that a way has been found to hold the exams in the safest way possible, adding that they will be confined to written tests and everyone will be provided with protective gear. Maruzsa added:

“…if epidemiological factors justify moving the date, the relevant decision will be made.”

Last week, both opposition parties and the Teachers’ Union (PSZ) proposed alternative solutions to how graduation exams are organized this spring, saying that the government’s solution posed too much uncertainty and is a risk to students’ health. Teachers Democratic Trade Union (PDSZ) called on teachers to prevent graduation by taking a coordinated leave.

Right-wing Jobbik, for example, has submitted a draft resolution to Parliament, proposing that secondary school and university students should be offered final exam grades based on their averages, while left-wing Democratic Coalition is calling for the matriculation exams to be postponed indefinitely.

Coronavirus: Opposition and Teachers Union against Organising School-leaving Exams This Spring

The trade union of teachers (PSZ), said the government’s information about the graduation exams was vague. PSZ said its main concern was whether it would be safe for 83,000 students to travel to school to take the exam under the current restrictions.

However, according to the government, canceling the exams altogether would have resulted in “a chaotic situation around the higher education application process that we cannot afford.”

Yesterday evening, the PDSZ published Zoltán Maruzsa’s recommendation on its Facebook page, sent on April 20th to the institutions regarding the organization of mid-level matriculation examinations.

According to the letter, teachers with a teaching qualification with whom the institution has no legal contract may also be involved in the graduation exams. It is also clear from the letter that preparations have begun for graduation examinations. Maruzsa wrote that if a sufficient number of colleagues are not available to oversee the examinations, the school should notify the maintainer or the government office so that the problem can be addressed in a timely manner.

featured photo: Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI