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A conservative view on Hungary’s poor PISA performance

January 7th, 2017

A conservative educational philosopher offers explanations for Hungary’s underperformance in the regular international competence test. He lists differences in educational traditions compared to western Europe, and the failure of efforts to improve education levels among the Roma, among the reasons.

In Magyar Idők, philosopher Katalin Pók dismisses the claim that the PISA results (See BudaPost, December 10, 2016) have declined as a result of the government’s mistaken educational policies. ‘The first shocking PISA test scores appeared in 2010’ she writes. She argues that the PISA questionnaires filled in by 15 years old every three years reflect what she calls a western approach to education which is based on pragmatism, as opposed to the traditional Hungarian theoretical approach based on factual knowledge. She thinks Hungary should include more practical elements in national school curricula. Nevertheless, schools situated in well-to-do areas performed very well in successive PISA tests and the average was ‘pulled down’ by the schools attended by underprivileged children. Hungary has thus failed to level out standards, which is partly due to the fierce opposition of human rights activists to special public or Church schools for Gypsy children who accuse the initiators of racial segregation. Pók is convinced that the enormous handicap of children coming from culturally underprivileged families can never be fully compensated at school, but admits that performance in this field has definitely been insufficient so far.

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