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High School Students to Attend Free Language Courses Abroad

Júlia Tar 2019.02.18.

Up to 140 thousand Hungarian high school students could have the opportunity to attend annual language courses held abroad, said Miklós Kásler, the Minister of Human Resources. The program would cost 90 billion forints (284 million euros) and would be accessible to students in either their first or third year of high school.

The English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) attempts to rank countries by the average level of English language skills. According to the most recent edition, Hungary is ranked 21st out of 88 countries and is 18th in Europe overall. In 2012, the country was in the top 10.

This is just one survey concerning one language. However, Hungarians are generally thought to be unskilled when it comes to speaking foreign languages.

Kásler pointed out that the Hungarian language is “unique” and that there are “no similar languages surrounding us.” So, for Hungarians, “it is difficult to learn foreign languages” as a result.

Miklós Kásler, the Minister of Human Resources. Photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI.

However, there may be even bigger problems where Hungary’s public education and teaching methods are concerned. Hungarian teaching is often criticized for focusing too much on lexical knowledge and language teaching is no exception. For students, a language exam is important if they want to be accepted by a university and get a degree. Last year, nearly 100,000 Hungarians didn’t receive their diplomas due to lacking such an exam.

In the evaluation, the written section of the exam matters more than the oral portion. This is why students are expected to be very familiar with grammatical rules. Consequently, they focus less on improving their speaking skills and face problems when having to use the language in real life situations.

Forcing students to speak another language abroad while participating in the scholarship program would probably help address these issues. However, the execution of the program raises some questions. Language learners would have to stay with families while abroad, and prior to any placement decisions being made, the families would need to be checked for competency. Also, even if they are divided, there is a huge amount of scholars that need to be settled.

New Scheme Announced To Support Foreign Language Learning In The Secondary Schools

This isn’t the first time the government has supported students traveling outside the country. In 2010, “Határtalanul!” was introduced, and the winners of the program took a class trip abroad. The goal of the program is to ensure that every elementary school student has the opportunity to visit a foreign country. Additionally, students are given a chance to connect with other Hungarians both living in Hungary and outside of the border.

The language courses will be organized during the summer and are expected to begin from the 2020/2021 school term.

featured image: illustration; via ldatschool.ca