From 10th to 14th December 2018, I had the opportunity to get to know the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest thanks to the Erasmus+ Staff Training programme. I focused mainly on the Hungarian school and university system, teacher education, the field of data protection and the university library.
After my arrival and first introduction to the city on Monday, I visited the Pannónia Elementary School on the other day. Unlike in Austria, pupils in Hungary do not attend elementary school for four years but for eight years in total, i.e. from the age of 6 to 14 whereas the school attendance consists of a primary education (comparable to the Austrian “Volksschule”) and a lower secondary education (“Mittelschule”). The compulsory school attendance in Hungary lasts ten years, therefore pupils have to attend a lower secondary education institution for two years after completing the primary education. The Pannónia Elementary School is not an ordinary elementary school; just as in Austria, there are language minorities in Hungary as well to which are granted special rights, esp. in the school system. In Austria, the same applies to the Hungarian and Croatian minorities in the state of Burgenland as well as to the Slovene minority in Carinthia. There are 13 nationalities with a minority status in Hungary; one of them is the German speaking minority which is offered bilingual education amongst others at the Pannónia Elementary School. I could visit two German lessons for the pupils of the 5th grade (aged 11-12) devoted to the application of the imperfect tense on the basis of the Grimms’ fairy tales. The classes were structured very interactively and creatively and the children were very active. Learning of a modern foreign language shall be provided in Hungary from the 4th grade of primary education; at the Pannónia Elementary School learning of a foreign language begins with the 1st grade of primary education, in the 4th grade a second foreign language follows. The focus on linguistic competencies is, however, not the only particularity of the school; what attracted my attention was exceptionally good equipment in the building as well – attractive classrooms, many lounges for pupils, projectors in all classrooms, modern special classes for science education and a two-storey gym. This equipment could fortunately be realized in the times of the school self-administration, which was replaced, however, in the recent past by the national central administration of all schools - today such an equipment would be convertible therefore only with difficulty. The Pannónia Elementary School has more than 30 classrooms with approx. 800 pupils and 80 teachers altogether.
On Monday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the Office for Educational Affairs at the Faculty of Primary and Elementary Education and learn more about the teacher education in Hungary. As opposed to Austria, academic education of elementary teachers has played an important role in Hungary for quite some time. The faculty offers three bachelor programmes: “Infant and Early Childhood Education“ (6 semesters, 180 ECTS, entitles the holder to teach children aged 0-3), „Preschool Education“ (6 semesters, 180 ECTS, entitles the holder to teach children aged 3-6) and „Primary Education“ (8 semesters, 240 ECTS, entitles the holder to teach children aged 6-12). I would in particular like to stress that all study programmes at the Faculty of Primary and Elementary Education are offered as full-time and part-time programmes as well; hence, working students are given the chance to study in order to become a teacher, too. Another special feature is the fact that future primary teachers have to choose one specialization subject – they teach general education contents from the 1st to 4th grade (as in Austrian “Volksschulen”), but in the 5th and 6th grades they teach pupils in their respective specialization subjects. Theoretical experience in primary education is followed by lesson observation in primary schools from the 2nd semester on and creating lesson structure from the 4th semester on. In the preschool education, students come across the lesson observation already in the 1st semester, yet working with children experience they later in the 6th semester. Practical education is finished by the so called “final teaching”, i.e. a student must teach one lesson individually whereas its evaluation plays an important role in the overall evaluation of the student. The ELTE also monitors the further development of its graduates by means of a “graduate tracking”.
Since much data from students is processed in the Office for Educational Affairs, its staff have been concerned with data protection and GDPR requirements for many years. I’d like to pay attention to practical studies – no copies of original documents are made within enrolment but rather checked for their authenticity and the data is recorded into the administration programme “Neptun”. The documentation of all study-related processes is carried out electronically; paper documents (attendance sheets etc.) are destroyed after their electronic registration. The reason is that in case of a burglary, stealing of copies of identification documents and their respective misuse can be avoided. As for the international relations, the ELTE is not only active within the Erasmus+ programme, but also has introduced the so called “Stipendium Hungaricum” for students from third countries which is getting more and more popular. This year, there were 60 incoming students at the ELTE – compared to the average number of incomings amounting to 30 – and as for the Staff-Mobility, 16 outgoing teachers and 6 administrative employees as well as 6 incoming teachers and 3 administrative employees.
On the third day of my visit in Budapest, I could attend the German lecture on word formation. Afterwards I could exchange information and experience with the ELTE Erasmus+ coordinator as well as with its data protection officer on Wednesday afternoon – we talked mainly about staff training and the documentation of personal data processing activities.
I was invited to visit the main library of the ELTE on Thursday where I received detailed and interesting information during the guided tour (e.g. that the library is older than the university and emerged from a Jesuit library founded in 1561 – the university was founded in 1635). The library has more than 4 million books, magazines, e-books etc. at its disposal nowadays and employs approx. 50 people. It is the 4th largest library in Budapest and the 8th largest one in Hungary and consists of five reading rooms the largest of which measures 200m2. The library is in close collaboration with many other libraries at home and abroad and its administration has been – just like in most other university libraries in Hungary – carried out for several years with the ALEPH programme. A conversion to ALMA (as it is used by us) is conceivable at present but not current.
On the last afternoon of my visit in Budapest, I had the opportunity to see the city as part of a guided city walk. To conclude my overall impression, Budapest is definitely a city worth seeing where you meet friendly people, and our partner university offers a lot for students, teachers and administrative staff within the framework of the Erasmus+ programme and shows great interest in exchange. Mobility at the ELTE is worth experiencing!