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Hungary - Restructuring VET to better meet labour market demands

ReferNet Hungary

The labour market’s discontent with the structure, quantity and quality of training for skilled workers and the obvious shortcomings of the VET system have compelled the Government to remedy these problems. Its new policy includes shortening VET and strengthening the dual model by including less theory and more enterprise-based learning.

A number of new draft laws that will have a significantly impact on VET are to be adopted before the end of the year. New laws on general education, higher education and VET will transform both the institutional structure and the financing of VET. The ‘training levy’ paid by enterprises – an important source of VET financing – may also be changed.

  • Some of the most important changes planned include:
  • restructuring of programmes to train skilled workers,
  •  simplification of the qualification structure and vocational examinations,
  •  the transfer of ‘advanced level VET programmes’ (ISCED 5B) from VET and the national qualifications register to higher education, and
  • the transfer of TISZKs (térségi integrált szakképző központ, regional integrated vocational training centres) from local government to central government with the aim of speeding up the integration process within TISZKs.

The current mainstream structure of szakiskola (vocational school, ISCED 2 or 3), providing two years of general and pre-vocational education and two or three years of VET, will be replaced with three-year vocational programmes. Students will be able to enter vocational school on completion of primary and lower secondary school. From the second year, most students will receive practical vocational training in an enterprise under an apprenticeship contract. Graduates of szakiskola will then be able to attend a two-year general education programme to obtain a ‘light’ secondary school leaving certificate that would allow them to participate in post-secondary level VET.

In szakközépiskola (secondary vocational school, ISCED 3A-ISCED 4C), the Government intends to bring back the fundamental features of the pre-1998 VET structure. This will ensure VET that runs in parallel to general education from grade 9 to 12, covering theoretical and practical vocational training. Students will then be able to take a ‘vocational secondary school leaving examination’ (szakmai érettségi) and obtain a certificate (though not a vocational qualification), which would qualify them for certain jobs. They can then choose whether to start working, go on to study one more year for a post-secondary level vocational qualification, or enter a higher education programme in the same field.

VET professionals have differing views on these measures and professional associations have expressed their discontent at not being consulted on the preparation of the new legislation. Critics point out that the new system will not allow enough time for the development of key competences. This could increase the number of young people with poor reading and learning skills who leave education and training early and are at risk of exclusion from the labour market. There is a danger that the gap between szakiskola and programmes leading to higher education could grow even wider. As a result, the already highly selective Hungarian education system could become more polarised and ultimately give up on students from disadvantaged groups.

The Government intends to encourage enterprises to participate in training provision by concentrating the resources provided by the training levy on financing practical training in enterprises. However, as the Hungarian VET Association (Magyar Szakképzési Társaság) has noted, Hungarian SMEs do not currently have the human and material resources necessary to provide training that meets vocational requirements.