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Education: Debate Heats Up Over Hungarian Students’ Foreign Language Skills

Tamás Székely 2017.02.09.

Many hard-working students have no chance of passing their intermediate-level language exam in grammar schools because the public education system has not prepared them sufficiently well, the head of the Language Skills Association told daily Magyar Nemzet.

Zoltán Rozgonyi said the human resources ministry, responsible for the education portfolio, had no idea what was needed in terms of material and human resources to guarantee the appropriate level of language education in schools. No one knows why, given the high number of hours devoted to language teaching, so few students manage to take an intermediatelevel language exam, he said. Students who supplemented their public education language-learning by taking extra lessons in private language schools had no problem passing their exam, he noted. Rozgonyi said that László Székely, the public ombudsman, had written a report accusing the government of stipulating the requirement for all students to pass an intermediate-level language exam from 2020 without having made the necessary preparations.

A leading Hungarian business lobbyist, however, has defended the government’s policy requiring all aspiring undergraduates to pass an intermediate-level foreign language exam from 2020 after the public ombudsman cited shortcomings in preparations for the move. Head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry László Parragh said the success of future generations in the job market hinged on attaining foreign language skills, and efforts should be made to reach the target. Regarding the ombudsman László Székely’s recently released a report suggesting the government had not prepared the ground for its policy passed in 2014, Parragh said that whereas the report contained broadly correct information, its final conclusion that the policy should be abandoned “is wrong”.

“Conditions for learning a foreign language are in fact not ideal,” he said, referring to under-qualified teachers and a lack of language courses among deficiencies. “But this is not a reason to either postpone or amend the 2020 deadline,” Parragh said, arguing that it would be a “big step backwards”. Knowledge of foreign languages and digital skills are vital in today’s world, he said, noting the importance of English but also arguing that knowledge of a single foreign language was not enough. Parragh said there was ample time until 2020 for students seeking to attend university to learn a foreign language at the required level.

via hungarymatters.hu and mno.hu; photo: delmagyar.hu