How much is how much when it comes to teachers’ salaries in Hungary

As we know only too well, teachers’ salaries are extremely low in Hungary and teachers haven’t had a raise since the 2008 financial crisis. Given the fairly high inflation rate, at least until recently, the already very low living standards of teachers have further deteriorated in the last five years.

For some time it looked as if the Orbán government had no intention of raising salaries this year. Undersecretary Rózsa Hoffmann kept promising the raise, but the date kept getting pushed out. Eventually, it seems, the Fidesz politicos came to the conclusion that something must give, especially since the election is less than a year away.

The Orbán government had already mandated an increase in teacher work loads. They raised the number of classes teachers have to give each week. When not actually teaching, teachers from here on will have to remain within the walls of the schools for at kleast 32 hours and do whatever the principal asks them to do. And, in addition, the government insisted that if there is a salary raise the practice of paying extra for teaching classes over and above the compulsory work load must come to an end.

Source: qalapwu.com

Source: qalapwu.com

The long, complicated negotiations over salaries split the two teachers’ unions. But now even the more pliant Mrs. István Galló concedes that, although some teachers will do better than before, the majority will see mighty few benefits from the promised salary raise. Mrs. Galló, however, felt that her union had no choice but to reach an agreement with the government because otherwise even those few benefits wouldn’t have materialized. She was convinced that she couldn’t credibly threaten the government with a general teachers’ strike. Teachers are so worried about their jobs that they will settle for very little as opposed to nothing.

According to the final settlement, the raise will be given out gradually between September 1 of this year and 2017. Zoltán Balog promised that come September the teachers will receive 60% of the full amount. That would mean, he claimed, a 34% raise on average.

But then some investigative reporters began scrutinizing leaked documents and came to the conclusion that the numbers didn’t add up, that another 7 billion forints was necessary to reach the 60% figure in September. They concluded that the most the government is planning to give in September is only 50% of the total amount promised.

A few days later Népszava received a leaked document in which they found an 11 billion forint gap between the ostensibly negotiated raise and the actual figures that will appear as a budget item. They came to the conclusion that the government is planning to let several thousand teachers go over and above those who have already been barred from teaching because they either reached or are over the compulsory retirement age of 65. Naturally, the Ministry of Human Resources announced today that not a word of this speculation is true and that “the government counts on the work of teachers who are employees of the state at the moment.”

I myself have no idea how much more money teachers will get from September 1 on. One thing the teachers are already sure of–there will be great disparities in pay. As for the children, they will spend a lot more time in school. So will the teachers. From here on they will have to spend 32 hours in the school itself, during which they will be obliged to teach if necessary. Without additional compensation. So, in the end the salaries might be higher but the amount of work will also be greater. If a teacher until now had to teach only 22 hours and will have to teach 26 hours (and possibly 32), the raise, viewed as forints per hour, might not be much of a raise at all.

Admittedly, there’s a fair amount of fat in the Hungarian educational system. It’s inefficient, and deleterious to educational attainment, to have a school in every village instead of busing kids to regional schools. And having an average class size of 13-14 students in Budapest schools is a real luxury. For instance, in Westport, CT, which is one of the wealthiest communities in the state with a median family income of around $200,000 and a school system to match, the average class size is 21. Admittedly, not all Hungarian schools have such a high teacher: student ratio as the ones in Budapest. I checked out Viktor Orbán’s old high school in Székesfehérvár and found that the average class size there is about 35. Apparently, class size can be adjusted “according to need.”

But not properly compensating teachers may be counterproductive. Thanks to Rózsa Hoffmann, teacher education falls outside of the by now generally accepted Bologna system. It is a six-year course of study. How many bright 18-year-olds would want to commit themselves to paying high tuition fees for six years only to end up in a career that pays miserably and carries little prestige? And that, by the by, doesn’t port well if they decide to leave the country.

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44 comments

  1. Eva: They came to the conclusion that the government is planning to let several thousand teachers go over and above those who have already been barred from teaching because they either reached or are over the compulsory retirement age of 65.

    65 year in some (if not all) cases it is 62 years. They changed the law that a teacher who is eligible to receive a pension has to choose, either to receive pension or continue to teach (public schools only). They cannot have both. As of September 1 many teachers are obligated to retire as their salaries without extras are lower than the pension that they are going to receive. Therefore, many decide to go in pension.

  2. “the government counts on the work of teachers who are employees of the state at the moment.” Another way of balancing the books could be not funding the payrise for teachers who are now employees of the church or other independent foundations.

  3. Teachers will also be put in a “career plan”. That may have to do with further education. But it could also mean the teachers will undergo a new classification which will further reduce their real incomes.

    OT, but about Budapest, as promised: In the castle district several open air bars and cafés have sprung up. One wonders how the licences have been allotted. The (lousy) CBA at the Deli station used to have in a corner near the entrance a separately owned and managed fruits and vegetable stand. That is now also a cubicle with opaque glass for Tobacco trafficking.

    My life-partner will soon have to undergo a gall-bladder operation (in a half-private clinic). She was told to bring her own toilet paper,knife, fork and spoon, a drinking glass, a towel and a nightdress (apart from the usual toiletries and personal medicines). Quite a difference to the eye operation I had in Berne were I was allowed to bring what I wanted, but just as well could have walked in without anything.

    We notice here that people in shops and restaurants are a little more friendly and ready to delivery some acceptable service. Many of them are obviously afraid of losing their jobs. Customers have less to complain except for the hiked prices..

    The automobile club has lost thousands of members. Many cars look and smell as if they hadn’t seen a proper service for ages.

    Many offices (health insurance, tax office) are open only in the mornings – with an exception once a week.

    “Terrestrial” TV is to be discontinued as of September 1 (it goes digital with a minimal number of channels). Many people who don’t have a satellite dish don’t know what alternatives they have and are worried. They are visited by company representatives that sell them set-top boxes for a cable TV that doesn’t exist. (There is only satellite tv or IPTV over the telephone line. They mostly also require set-top boxes, but those are different.)

  4. Cant say I am too impressed with one local school. The children run around going mad in a play field. The two teachers sit on a bench with mobiles and smoking. Physical education “class” a la hongrois.
    Maybe time for school vouchers ?

  5. What about teachers’ pensions ?

    One of my wife’s sisters was a teacher (actually she rose to be headmistress of a school) and she told us that some of her collegues’ pensions are so low (less than 100 000 HUF) that they almost can’t afford heating their flats. Seems that most of them are widows, divorced or “spinsters”.

    So last winter they sat playing canasta with thick blankets on them in their living rooms heated to just 18 degrees.

    They also gladly accepted the used clothes that friends of mine collect for us in Germany – each time we “commute” to Hungary we bring as many as we can transport.

    It feels really strange …

  6. Online shopping. Educattion is next. E-schools. Open University UK could set exams in Hungarian; Brussels could issue international bacc.

  7. The physics department at ELTE is probably the top educational centre in Hungary in Shanghai ranking in the top 150. However ELTE itself is only in the top 400.

  8. As for general education, if retired teachers have nothing better to do than play canasta….
    Hungary is now a province ofGermany, England and France and will remain a province. The gifted will migrate to centres of culture.
    Look at the outmigration from Moravia: Godel,

  9. Po’K :

    Cant say I am too impressed with one local school. The children run around going mad in a play field. The two teachers sit on a bench with mobiles and smoking. Physical education “class” a la hongrois.
    Maybe time for school vouchers ?

    But there are school vouchers of sorts. Parents are free to choose their children’s schools. Not necessarily a good idea because it results in huge disparities between elite and average schools.

  10. Po’K :
    As for general education, if retired teachers have nothing better to do than play canasta….
    Hungary is now a province ofGermany, England and France and will remain a province. The gifted will migrate to centres of culture.
    Look at the outmigration from Moravia: Godel,

    Well, what should those frail old ladies do in winter, when it’s 20 degrees below zero in your opinion ?

    They can’t get out, because the roads are too slippery and not really cleaned from ice and snow.

    And most of them can’t afford a computer and an internet connection …

  11. wolfi :

    And most of them can’t afford a computer and an internet connection …

    But the real problem is that even when they can afford it, they don’t use it. I speak from experience.

  12. @Po’K: “Brussels could issue international bacc.”

    What is that supposed to mean? First of all, it’s not Brussel’s job to organise education. And secondly, the International Baccalaureate (IB) has been around since the 1960s (mostly developed in its present form by Atlantic College) and has become increasingly popular in many countries. It is probably the most intelligent mixture of the German Abitur, the British A-levels and the French Bacc. It includes sportive and creative activities as well as community service.

  13. The move towards teachers being full time at a school has to be good as long as the salary is sufficient. This was I believe proposed by Magyar Balint a number of years back but attacked by Fidesz and the teachers. His proposal was that if teachers worked longer hours then fewer would be needed and this would cover most of the wage rise. As far as I am aware teaching in most countries is a full time job (with teachers in term time often working very long hours) Here by necessity it has become for many a part time job meaning that there is little creativity in lessons and a lack of real feedback to the children. Unfortunately with some of the changes in curriculum this will not be changed and is why a large number of those parents, who want a more international style education for their children and can afford it opt for international or foundation schools.

    As ever the last minute nature of this will set those planning the timetables new frameworks to work within. Along with all the other new initiatives next year could be a chaotic one in schools – PE daily for several grades, activities and compulsory attendance until 4pm, new curriculum guidelines and not least of all – large Grade 1 classes following the change in regulations on kindergarten status. (This should have been phased in over a few years) This year’s grade 1 cohort will be disadvantaged all the way through unless extra places are made available at the good secondary schools and universities when they get that far.

  14. Quietly, I suggest a distinction between children being compelled to attend state schools…against being compelled to sit exams (set to EU standards). This would free education from political or religious sectarianism. And then anybody could be a teacher.

  15. JonB :
    The move towards teachers being full time at a school has to be good as long as the salary is sufficient. This was I believe proposed by Magyar Balint a number of years back but attacked by Fidesz and the teachers. His proposal was that if teachers worked longer hours then fewer would be needed and this would cover most of the wage rise. As far as I am aware teaching in most countries is a full time job (with teachers in term time often working very long hours)

    I think we must distinguish between teaching hours, prep-time, supervisory time, and time off.
    As I am not familiar wit the current Hungarian model, I need to ask if the 32 hour include prep-time and such, or it is 32 hours in classroom and prep after? I just do not want us to jump into conclusions about how little or how much teachers required to work. (For example in Ontario, elementary teachers have the best deal in Canada with 200 minutes of preparation time per five day cycle. Preps are in blocks of not less than 30 minutes each. An additional 30 minutes aggregated within 20 consecutive instructional days. + they have professional activity days and such. In Ontario there is a choice between local schools, Catholic school, French school, French catholic schools, French immersion, Extended French, and optional attendance. Optional attendance means no bussing at all, but it could be sport, art or IB centred education. Kids do not pay for books. I am not saying I am endorsing or not endorsing this model. I am just showing a structure that although its has its financial problems, it provides selection and does not bankrupt the teachers. Young teachers earn very little, but wages rise extremely fast, and pensions are fantastic.)

  16. Dear Minusio,
    Atlantic College is British. There are European programs mentioned by Dr Balogh. You are still talking about “schools”. I am talking about examinations …diplomas. Think internet.

  17. Eva S. Balogh :

    wolfi :
    And most of them can’t afford a computer and an internet connection …

    But the real problem is that even when they can afford it, they don’t use it. I speak from experience.

    Well, for older people it’s difficult to learn new tricks (I also speak from experience – being 70 now) but my wife’s sister for example (she’s older ) uses skype to communicate with her son and grandchildren in the USA and has a group in facebook but she’s lucky – her husband also has a nice pension and they have their own house …

    But my main point really is that in Hungary many pensioners (not only teachers) have such a low income that it’s “too much to die but not enough to live” (an old Schwab saying …)!

    The luckier ones have their houses and get help from the family, but if that’s not the case …

    Just in our village near Hévíz there are several of these typical old houses where half of the building is falling down – it happened several times already that we talked about an “empty house” and then realised that there was some old person kind of “vegetating” in one of the rooms. Sometimes you just realise that a house is occupied because the person gets delivery of a meal every day – surely you know those sets of three food containers that they put on the fence …

    It’s really a sad story.

  18. Another topic – censorship in the making:

    The owners of the portal delmagyar.hu have to pay a fine for on-line comments made by readers against Orban’s chief of staff Lazar.

    Readers became upset when Lazar’s car killed a woman last Fall.
    [There is no news that police started any investigation against Lazar or his alleged chauffeur]

    The portal, by allowing posting the comments “hurt the dignity” of poor Mr Lazar.

    http://nol.hu/archivum/megsertettek_lazar_janos_emberi_meltosagat__felmillios_karteritest_kapott_

  19. I think we must distinguish between teaching hours, prep-time, supervisory time, and time off.
    As I am not familiar wit the current Hungarian model, I need to ask if the 32 hour include prep-time and such, or it is 32 hours in classroom and prep after?

    Teachers here teach 45 minute lessons – so if the teaching load is 21 lesson per week there would be over 200 minutes prep time from those 21 hours. It seems that teachers could be asked to teach 26 lessons a week, this is still not clear. The other hours would be spent on admin and supervision at the discretion of the principal. 32 hours is not a long tome for teachers to be in school per week – just over 6 hours per day when the school day runs from 07:50 through to 16:00.

  20. tappanch :
    Another topic – censorship in the making:
    The owners of the portal delmagyar.hu have to pay a fine for on-line comments made by readers against Orban’s chief of staff Lazar.
    Readers became upset when Lazar’s car killed a woman last Fall.
    [There is no news that police started any investigation against Lazar or his alleged chauffeur]
    The portal, by allowing posting the comments “hurt the dignity” of poor Mr Lazar.
    http://nol.hu/archivum/megsertettek_lazar_janos_emberi_meltosagat__felmillios_karteritest_kapott_

    The good news is that Magyar Hirlap will also pay for comments and writers made by their readers against Hungarian Jews as it “hurt their dignity”. (NOT!)

  21. Po’K :

    Dear Minusio,
    Atlantic College is British. There are European programs mentioned by Dr Balogh. You are still talking about “schools”. I am talking about examinations …diplomas. Think internet.

    I’m also a great fan of the idea of using the internet for educational purpose. Already a great deal of college courses from very good universities are available. Even with people with advanced degrees might be interested in learning something new outside of the professional interests. A few months ago I listened to lectures on Roman architecture and just lately about British common law. Right now I’m thinking of a course on American constitutional law given by a professor of the Yale Law School which is one of the top law schools in the country. What an opportunity.

  22. Sorry, I also would like to include with my previous comment that there is

    JonB :
    I think we must distinguish between teaching hours, prep-time, supervisory time, and time off.
    As I am not familiar wit the current Hungarian model, I need to ask if the 32 hour include prep-time and such, or it is 32 hours in classroom and prep after?
    Teachers here teach 45 minute lessons – so if the teaching load is 21 lesson per week there would be over 200 minutes prep time from those 21 hours. It seems that teachers could be asked to teach 26 lessons a week, this is still not clear. The other hours would be spent on admin and supervision at the discretion of the principal. 32 hours is not a long tome for teachers to be in school per week – just over 6 hours per day when the school day runs from 07:50 through to 16:00.

    15 minutes in my humble opinion is not enough to be considered as prep time. It just enough to get the books out, and visit the washroom. If the teacher is on a rotary schedule w/o his/her own classroom, it is just enough to run to the other class, or with his/her own classroom to set up the room for a different grade (chemistry, biology, etc.). Of course I am not talking here about grade 1 teachers. There is a reason for the minimum of thirty minutes chunks. Having said that if they only have 6 hours to teach each day that would leave them with 120 minutes prep. If the teachers would require 36 hours, that would leave them with 360 minutes prep. If you give them 7 hours to teach, that would live them with 10 minutes pre for a week.

  23. Eva S. Balogh :

    Po’K :
    Dear Minusio,
    Atlantic College is British. There are European programs mentioned by Dr Balogh. You are still talking about “schools”. I am talking about examinations …diplomas. Think internet.

    I’m also a great fan of the idea of using the internet for educational purpose. Already a great deal of college courses from very good universities are available. Even with people with advanced degrees might be interested in learning something new outside of the professional interests. A few months ago I listened to lectures on Roman architecture and just lately about British common law. Right now I’m thinking of a course on American constitutional law given by a professor of the Yale Law School which is one of the top law schools in the country. What an opportunity.

    ..and if anyone thinks it is easy to do the exams, let me tell you it is not. A course I took had online tests, but we had to go in to do an open book exam. 80% of the class failed (not me, I am proud to say).

  24. Schools are the problem. No more than telephone switchboard operators will they abolish themselves. I would guess they are about 10% efficient without counting going there.

  25. Dr Balogh,
    Please would you give the link for school enrolment and class sizes.
    thank you for your time

  26. @Po’K. “Atlantic College is British. There are European programs mentioned by Dr Balogh. You are still talking about “schools”. I am talking about examinations …diplomas. Think internet.”

    Try to read more carefully. I was talking about an internationally recognised pre-university exam (that happened to be largely developed at Atlantic College which is not British but international).

    The Internet is surely a helpful auxiliary means, but most kids use computers for playing games, professional people to get their jobs organised, the elderly for skyping and as an intelligent typewriter and means to send and receive emails. Most people I know – of whatever age – have no or a chaotic folder or bookmark system, and hardly anyone can type in the necessary keywords in Google to get a usable hit. Also, most only know Google, although in my list of search engines there are about 70, and I’m sure there are many more. So much for computer literacy you want to use for people to learn something.

    @Éva. The Amercan system of highschool, college and university can only be compared at university level..An American student will be accepted at many European universities after he. passed his B.A. But I agree that courses in further education given by eminent experts are a huge opportunity. But you need a decent education first to make use of them.

    Slightly OT as we are talking about teachers, but because of my Hungarian girlfriend I have direct insight into Hungarian scholarly life, both at university and Academy of Sciences levels (the latter being a particular feature and remnant of former Soviet block countries). The degree of corruption, accepting low standards, lack of foreign-language knowledge, plagiarism, etc. is unimaginable. Recently, at a conference in Györ, a professor read the same paper twice under different titles!

  27. I’m also a great fan of the idea of using the internet for educational purpose. Already a great deal of college courses from very good universities are available. Even with people with advanced degrees might be interested in learning something new outside of the professional interests. A few months ago I listened to lectures on Roman architecture and just lately about British common law. Right now I’m thinking of a course on American constitutional law given by a professor of the Yale Law School which is one of the top law schools in the country. What an opportunity.

    Eva, internet courses are not necessarily a welcome development in US academia; they could have their downside ( I guess it all comes down to how they are used). This letter from two professors at San Jose State is quite thought-provoking (and apologies, as it is really OT)

    http://chronicle.com/article/The-Document-an-Open-Letter/138937/

  28. Dear Minusio,
    Sorry I read carelessly. (now at the back of the class) Atlantic College is not British but Welsh (St Donat`s Castle) with affiliates in Singapore and Canada. I was thinking of something closer to home like the Bologna Process extended downwards. And sadly Hungary does not have a RNLI lifeboat.

  29. @Po’K. Atlantic College is situated in South Wales. It is neither British nor Welsh. It is international. It was the first of a string of twelve so-called sixth-form colleges that form the group of the United World Colleges. All are international schools with students (almost all of them on national scholarships) from more than 120 countries. All of the UWCs lead to the International Baccalaureate.

    As I and my kids were there, I know what I am talking about – in contrast to many others who don’t even know how to retrieve the available information from the Internet.

    Can we – please – leave it at that?

  30. As things stand, the pay for teachers is so poor that the vast majority of teachers are simply supplementing other household income. For this reason, over 90% of Hungarian staff rooms appear to be female – though senior staff appear to be disproportionately male. Also for this reason, many teachers – especially those at the lower end of the pay scale (who will see very little increase in salary) and those from single-income households, have been forced to supplement their income with a variety of other jobs including private tuition etc. Can someone tell me – have they really only got 5 weeks to jack in their other jobs and try and figure out how to make up the lost income? A sudden 50% increase in workload clearly makes things very difficult indeed. And for those with any doubt, we’re talking net annual salaries of round about £3000, with many perks that teachers previously enjoyed – such as half price rail tickets – now removed.

  31. Dear Minusio,

    Yet another insult from you ? Ill-bred or too well bred ?
    Exchange ideas not personal abuse.
    I apologize to everyone for having to post this. Sorry.

  32. An,

    Thanks for the reminder, it came out on index yesterday and I thought it was something new. my bad!

  33. My understanding (quite possibly wrong) is that, under the current system, children are taught in the mornings only, and are free to stay after lunch and do their homework, or take that homework home and do it there. The bus timetable certainly supports this idea as, during term time, the extra school busses are not at 3:30, as they would be in the UK, but just after lunch.

    If my understanding is correct, what will happen to homework under the new system? Will there still be time to do it at school, or will less be given, or will they simply be expected to do it in the evening after a long day at school?

  34. Good question. yes, at present Hungarian kids go home remarkably early – and the number of home-alone kids (some very young) in Hungary I’ve always found slightly alarming … for some of them this is just a couple of months after the enforced-nap cotton wool regime of kindergarten. The leap from unnaturally prolonged infancy to independent is startling here.

    Also, for teachers 32 hours is NOT just 32 hours but more like 50, once marking and lesson preparation is factored in – and all for less than the social security would be in certain other EU countries – AND after 6 years of expensive university attendance. It would all be a little less of a problem without this new flat tax …

  35. Ivan :
    Good question. yes, at present Hungarian kids go home remarkably early – and the number of home-alone kids (some very young) in Hungary I’ve always found slightly alarming … for some of them this is just a couple of months after the enforced-nap cotton wool regime of kindergarten. The leap from unnaturally prolonged infancy to independent is startling here.
    Also, for teachers 32 hours is NOT just 32 hours but more like 50, once marking and lesson preparation is factored in – and all for less than the social security would be in certain other EU countries – AND after 6 years of expensive university attendance. It would all be a little less of a problem without this new flat tax …

    Maybe you want to answer #16 and #27 as prep time was brought up there. Can you tell us how does what you say here fits in to any of the models? I mean in Canada (that is what I am familiar with) teachers also have to teach, prep and mark.

  36. @Some1 … yes, that’s normal. What is NOT normal is the net £3000 in what is fast becoming a very expensive country – and the flat tax. This makes teaching in Hungary, except for a select few at the top, almost a kind of work-fare.

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