Language exams play an important role in Hungarian higher education. Most degrees require at least one exam certificate and students can’t get their degree until they have the required language exam papers. From 2020, students won’t even be able to begin their studies at a university if they haven’t had a language exam. This new rule has stirred controversy among both students and teachers.
Speaking a foreign language is essential. This is a statement we often hear nowadays. While there’s definitely a great amount of truth to it, the government’s decision is far more complicated.
Language use is very important for most people, yet not for every career, even those requiring university degrees. While speaking a foreign language helps, it’s not necessary to do so to be successful in every position. For example, a teacher who teaches PE doesn’t need to speak multiple languages to do his or her job. It’s then logical to ask why a person like this would be denied their degree or even the ability to begin studying just because they haven’t completed a language exam.
Nearly 100,000 Hungarians Haven’t Received Their University Diplomas, Because They Haven’t Passed Language Exams
According to Index.hu, out of 199 congressmen (the majority of which made the language exam mandatory for entrance to university), 98 haven’t acquired a language exam certificate of their own. Seven have a B1 level degree, which wouldn’t be enough to get into university, let alone graduate. Nine have taken either the verbal or written portion of the language exam. This means that 114 congressmen (58% of Parliamentary electees) wouldn’t be able to attend university from 2020. Ruling parties Fidesz and KDNP have the worst ratio regarding this, with 65 and 64% not having the required language certification. Although other parties — including Jobbik and MSZP at 36 and 33 % — also have a relatively high percentage of congressmen that would fail, Fidesz and the government are responsible for the new rule.
Language proficiency goes beyond having a paper, and this is the case with several Hungarian politicians. Many politicians, including PM Viktor Orbán and former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, speak English at a conversational level but don’t possess a certificate. Some argue that having a certificate is not as important as being able to use the language in real life. That might be true, but language proficiency still needs to be tested somehow. This is especially true if it’s part of being accepted to university.
This gets even murkier if we delve deeper. For instance, what does this new rule mean for students with dyslexia or other learning difficulties? So far, the government hasn’t said how it plans to address this.
Even those without learning disabilities have a hard time learning foreign languages as the quality of education has been under heavy scrutiny for years. Many students need to take private lessons in order to complete the exam. Unfortunately, however, most families don’t have the resources to finance such a pricey process.
This isn’t the first time the government has tried to inspire young people to learn a foreign language. Earlier this year, it announced a language program which would allow high school students to travel abroad and practice the language in real life.
featured image: students waiting for the results of the university point limits to be announced; via János Marjai/MTI