One of EI’s national affiliates, the Workers Councils’ Teacher Branch, KPSZ-KPT, has recently expressed their desire to initiate democratic negotiations with policy-makers on reforms to take effect in the Hungarian education system in 2013.
Proposed education reforms
The reforms in question dictate a new division of teacher working hours as well as an increase to the working hours per week currently expected of educators.
The new reforms to be implemented in the Hungarian education system as of September 2013 are as follows:
· The number of state-financed lessons will be increased by 97 per cent on ISCED 1 (the International Standard Classification of Education) and by 34 per cent on ISCED 2 and 3, resulting in a total increase of 65 per cent. Therefore, the education system needs to account for an increase of 65 per cent in teacher working hours.
· The new division of teacher working hours will see that 80 per cent of weekly working hours, meaning that 32 hours/week, will be payable for teachers meeting the requirements of full time employment status using the Information Network on Education in Europe’sterminology. Of that 80 per cent of teacher working hours, 55-65 per cent (meaning 22-26 hours /week) will be reserved for usual classroom teaching and additional lessons for working with pupils who are gifted or with special needs, to be conducted in small groups. This new role will replace the current mandate of only 22 contact hours for gifted or special needs students per week.
· The remaining unpaid 20 per cent of weekly working hours may be spent as teachers see fit. The reason
o The KPSZ-KPT does not support the current suggestion for school head supervisors to declare 100 per cent of the “working time” to be spent in school.
o Unusual or extra special assistance hours will not be paid after the 55-65 per cent of teacher working hours (22-26 hours) has been spent as a legal circumstance. Most of those teaching hours are still not paid today, which is totally illegal; the KPSZ-KPT wants to change this.
· A mandatory employment of teacher assistants, 1 per 100 pupils.
· A new teacher career salary model will could be implemented, starting with an approximate 50 per cent average increase.
A call for negotiation
The KPSZ-KPT has specifically asked that teachers’ job descriptions need to be made clearer, and they’re stressing a need for the Ministry to employ a more adequate number of teachers to improve the quality of public education for all.
Most of the teachers currently employed could unfortunately lose their jobs under the new amendments, and the KPSZ-KPT is proposing that dismissed teachers be employed as teacher assistants as a way to counter-act the loss in work force.
“We believe that the amendments are being discussed are a necessary implement due to financial pressures following the regional economic crisis. We are in discussion with current policy-makers as opposed to participating in organised demonstrations against them. We must be prepared for negotiations in an effort to set a new policy on the right path to progress and to achieve our goals.”
The KPSZ-KPT would like to pursue negotiations with the Ministry of Education on topics such as: establishing an equal opportunity for poor children to have an equal access to the education that they deserve, developing respect for all educators and all other staff working in the field of education, and facilitating positive outcomes in terms of both teacher salary increases and in defence of proper school facilities.”
Communication is the key
EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen supports the KPSZ-KPT’s desire for a democratic negotiation, stating, “We commend our Hungarian colleagues’ desire to be deeply involved in current policy reforms to the education sector, and we ask that the Hungarian Education Ministry engage in a collaborative dialogue with the KPSZ-KPT as well as other teachers’ unions.
Let me reiterate that EI calls upon the governments of all nations to embrace their responsibility in provisioning the rights to quality public education for all citizens. Engaging unions in dialogue about important policy reforms is a healthy way for governments to gain unanimity amidst times of difficult decisions. ”
Van Leeuwen also said that, “We would like to see a commitment from Hungarian authorities to reinforce efforts globally towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All Goals.”