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Former President Sólyom Blasts Government’s “Ruthless” Education Policies

By Ferenc Sullivan // 2016.04.29.

Former President of the Republic László Sólyom has blasted the Hungarian government’s “agressive, ruthless and centralising” style at a conference on the situation of public education in Hungary.

The conference, organised by the Eötvös József group of conservative-leaning intellectuals, was held with the attendance of several well-known public figures, including economists Attila Chikán and Péter Ákos Bod, writer András Lányi and András Schiffer, co-leader of the opposition green LMP party.

Delivering the conference’s opening speech, László Sólyom, who served as President of the Republic of Hungary with support from the now-governing centre-right Fidesz-KDNP alliance, explained that the Eötvös József Group addresses problems which politics has not yet been able to solve, such as poverty, health care and public education. Concerning the latter, he said that the “bravery” of teachers demostrating in Miskolc should be recognised but the education system is “unreformable” without visions of greater dimensions.

Mr. Sólyom, a retired jurist, university professor and academic, said that society has to be a kind of “counter-society” instead of replicating society in its current state. It has to form an island which enables children to resist everything they see in television and on the street; in this sense, the problem is not with the content or direction of educational reforms but with the method of their implementation, which, according to Mr. Sólyom, was “agressive, ruthless and centralising”.

In recent months, Hungarian teachers have staged several nation-wide demonstrations and strikes against the cabinet’s education policies, to which the government reacted with the dissolution of the KLIK central school management authority.

Mr. Sólyom has previously indicated his support for demonstrating teachers by showing up in a chequered shirt – a symbol of the teacher unrest movement – at a gathering outside a Buda school in March.