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A new law being drafted by the Education Ministry would mean that only people with university degrees could teach. The draft in question is meant to bring Hungarian law in to line with the Bologna agreement, but it contains an extra rule that would radically change the structure of teacher training in Hungary. And this change has not been fully thought through.

Currently, primary school teachers need a four-year college degree, secondary school teachers a five-year university degree. There were special regulations for technical education. The draft would mean that all teachers would need a five-year masters degree. It is possible that people qualified to teach technical subjects would rapidly find jobs elsewhere. But most people with degrees in Hungarian or music would have difficulty finding work without a valid teacher's diploma. The result would be huge numbers of unemployed graduates.

The new system would make existing colleges less attractive: they would be unable to give their students a teaching diploma. To survive they would need to obtain university accreditation. If they are assessed fairly, then many of the colleges would fail in this goal. They do not have enough graded lecturers, and nor can they carry out research of international standard. But if they are allowed to become universities, perhaps out of pity, then there would be 15-20 new fake universities, which would eventually start giving out fake doctorates. No question: standards would decline.

The mirage of "harmonised teacher training" fails to recognise the very real differences that exist between the various types of school. Take two extreme examples. A piano teacher with a four-year college degree at a small-town music school may well do fine work, but this does not mean that he is necessarily the right person to prepare the best students for the Conservatory. The other extreme: if the law is applied consistently, then technical schools would need to fin teachers of carpentry, cooking and cosmetics with university degrees.

I do not believe that the minister is doing this out of malice. He is under pressure: the pedagogical lobby wants to secure advances. It wants to strengthen its position in the universities and get more teaching time and especially more jobs. Behind the high-minded pedagogical ideals there lurks raw material interest.

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