Proposals of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association regarding the teaching of Hungarian and Hungarian-language education in Ukraine

The Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association sent a letter regarding the Hungarian-language education in Ukraine to Hanna Novosad, Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine. This letter was also sent to the editorial staff of Karpá, we publish it without any changes.

Our association continues to await the implementation of the Venice Commission’s proposal to amend Article 7 and replace the existing provision with a more balanced and clear text, as this is the most appropriate solution in this case.

Ultimately, the notion that restrictive and discriminatory provisions of Article 7 could be eliminated in the course of its implementation by a special law or by-law dependent on the existing law would create an irreconcilable legislative conflict. This was evidenced by the amendments made on April 25, 2019 to the Law of Ukraine on Higher Education, adopted in 2014, including Article 48, which addresses the issue of the language of instruction in higher educational institutions. In the previous version of the aforementioned law, namely Article 48, paragraph 3, the regulation was the following: “… higher educational establishments of private ownership in Ukraine have the right to freely choose the language of instruction …” So, passed in 2014, after the Maidan, the law allowed private universities and institutes to choose their language of instruction in accordance with the resolution of the Venice Commission. In 2019, the same parliament that passed this law, citing the basic Law on Education of 2017, restricted the language of instruction for private higher educational institutions to Ukrainian. That is, in the current version of the Law of Ukraine “On Higher Education” this item has already been deleted, and the following regulations remained:

«1. The language of the educational process in higher education is the state language»

«3. The use of languages ​​in higher educational institutions is determined by the laws of Ukraine On Ensuring the Functioning of Ukrainian As a State Language and On Education»

Therefore, we are rightly concerned with the intention to amend Article 7 in education laws, as it is not guaranteed that they will be amended in a few years due to legal conflict of interest.

That is why we continue to insist on the amendment to Article 7 of the basic Law on Education as follows: “Ukrainian community and private property educational establishments have the right to freely choose their language of instruction.” We continue to hope for the preservation of existing rights to study in our native language, to improve the quality of native language teaching in public schools instead of narrowing the educational opportunities in the native language. Keep providing Hungarian textbooks for all subjects at all levels of education – from kindergarten through high school.

Regarding the stages of education, we recommend the following to ensure the rights of minorities and preserve the culture of minorities:

  1. In the case of a kindergarten education which may be conducted in the native language, the curriculum for the study of the native language and folklore developed by our Association, as well as its methodological basis, should be developed or approved, as it has not yet been adopted at the state level.
  2. At the elementary school level, we face the following problems:

4.1. The current standard does not allow minority schools to teach a foreign language at a level similar to that of Ukrainian schools because a smaller number of hours is available. According to previous practice, the description of the number of hours specifically stated how many lessons can be devoted to Ukrainian, national (Hungarian) and the chosen foreign language. For the academic year 2019-2020, this was modified by giving the languages ​​a total number of hours and then establishing a different regulation on the number of hours required to teach Ukrainian, which takes up more than half of the total number of hours. The remaining hours can be divided between Hungarian and foreign languages. Either the native or a foreign language can be taught properly. In our correspondence, the ministry made it clear that we could choose Hungarian as a foreign language or English, both being European languages. This calls into question the legal status of the native language of minorities, attributing it to the category of foreign languages, as if we were immigrants in our own homeland. We have suggested increasing the number of minority language lessons by the number of foreign language lessons available for Ukrainian schools. This would mean 2-3 additional hours a week. Thus, Ukrainian, native language and foreign language would be taught in as many hours as in Ukrainian schools, although in the Hungarian class the students would have 2-3 lessons more each week, but it is accepted and even requested by the parents themselves. The answer was that it could not be provided because of the danger to the health of the children, and it would be necessary to spend the same amount from the state budget for each child, if the Hungarian students received more, it would violate the rights of Ukrainians. If this remains in force, the rights of national minorities will be violated, since they will not be able to study their native language and a foreign one on the same level as the students in Ukrainian schools.

2.2. The adopted standard on Ukrainian does not take into account the specifics of minority languages ​​and contains a completely unrealistic set of requirements. The curriculum promotes assimilation, not integration

Our suggestions:

Make it compulsory to teach a foreign language in elementary grades from second grade, as in Ukrainian schools, 2-3 hours a week, as in Ukrainian classes. For this purpose, extend the language base for minorities to the number of foreign language lessons taught in Ukrainian schools. Thus, the Ukrainian, native language and foreign language would be taught in the same number of hours as in Ukrainian schools, although in Hungarian classes the students will have 2-3 additional hours per week, but it is accepted and even requested by the parents themselves.

Develop a realistic state standard requirement for the Ukrainian language, which takes into account that this language is a second language for Hungarian children.

  1. 3. At the level of basic secondary education:

3.1. After graduating from elementary school, 40% of subjects must be taught in the state language: this is total discrimination, which makes quality education in general subjects impossible. On the one hand, it requires an immediate change of language in the transition from elementary to basic education, which is a pedagogical nonsense in the case of almost all subjects. In other words, if a child studied science at the elementary school level in Hungarian, how can you teach them geography or biology in Ukrainian the following year?

3.2. Expecting a specialist teacher to prepare students for a change of language the following year with the same amount of hours is also absolutely absurd, since the teacher is obliged to teach that particular subject not the language; and this would also result in poor quality of education.

3.3. If a student lives in a non-Ukrainian language environment, there are completely unrealistic expectations about learning Ukrainian, as some plans require knowledge of Ukrainian at levels B2 by the end of the 9th grade (or even C1, according to some plans) from an average Hungarian elementary school graduate. And this is so while the current program is not intended to develop language competences or communication skills at all, but is almost exclusively focused on grammar rules and their application as if the students already spoke Ukrainian. Teaching Ukrainian literature is the same for students of Ukrainian schools and minorities, so it is unrealistic to implement it in a qualitative way; in addition, the world literature previously taught in terms of the Hungarian literature subject is now planned to be taught in Ukrainian.

3.4. Knowledge of the state language is currently assessed by the final exam, which is at the same time the entrance examination for Ukrainian philological education, and is equivalent to the C1 level. The tests do not measure language competences, but rather grammatical knowledge at the level expected of future humanities graduates. Last year, minority school graduates were given a lower passing score, but this does not apply to the language group, which, in turn, was included in the high school diploma, so many were unable to p because they did not achieve the minimum required score.

3.5. The Ministry of Education has not taken steps to reform the teaching of the state language, and the current system does not, in essence, provide for the acquisition of the state language in the system of national minority schools at the level of state education.

Our suggestions:

We see the possibility of ensuring the quality of Ukrainian language learning not in increasing the number of hours, but rather in reviewing standards and related programs, taking into account the language specificity of the minority. In addition, it is important to provide adequate didactic resources: modern textbooks, workbooks, school dictionaries (which exist, but not for learning Ukrainian as a language), professional dictionaries, etc. Since the independence of Ukraine, no academic or school vocabulary has been compiled from the state budget. The vocabularies we work with in our schools have been compiled by teachers from Uzhgorod National University and Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute and published at the expense of the Hungarian state. The first step would be to develop a large academic dictionary, and then the rest, preferably at public expense.

When planning to teach Hungarian and literature, consider the following:

  • curricula and curriculum requirements should be adapted to those in force in Hungary because in terms of language and literature teaching, the important thing is what is effectively used in a country where that language is official, because this is where the qualified professionals are;
  • Hungarian-language educational institutions should be able to adapt and use Hungarian textbooks and workbooks at least in Hungarian language and literature to ensure the availability of textbooks. It would also be economically advantageous for the Ukrainian state.

In order to preserve national identity and develop self-knowledge, the teaching of the subject of Hungarian folklore should be introduced at the expense of compulsory lessons in 1 hour per week in grades 5-6 and history of the Hungarian people in grades 7-8-9, in one hour per week as well. Our Pedagogical Association has developed and published educational programs and textbooks in History of the Hungarian People, History of Hungarian Music. Please allow them to be included in the official program.

When designing a curriculum for subjects that affect identity development, such as art, singing and music, the characteristics of Hungarian nationality should be part of the curriculum and set of requirements.

  1. 4. At the high school level:

4.1. The new high school standard in Ukrainian language and literature is designed to be at the same level as the C1 language exam. The proposed standards do not take into account the fact that Ukrainian is a second language for minorities and do not require students to develop language skills, but remain grammatically oriented.

4.2. If the concept of foreign language teaching at the elementary school level does not change, Hungarian children will not be able to study, for example English, again after primary school, or they may be forced to join the educational process without having learned the language.

4.3. At the secondary school level, teaching 60% of subjects in Ukrainian is expected to close or significantly impair the schools. At the high school level, we strongly reject this and treat it as a complete restriction on existing rights: a coercive tool to achieve assimilation.

4.4. There is no centralized assessment from the native language of minorities in independent examination centers, which is abusive and discriminatory.

4.5. The existence of minority education is being jeopardized by the restrictions on enrollment in secondary schools, which are planned to be introduced from 2020. For example, at the secondary school level (grades 10-11), it will be possible to open a class only if at least 40 students are available.


Our suggestion:

Make it possible to pass an independent external native language exam or take a Hungarian language final exam in Transcarpathia. The requirements and content of the Hungarian final exam should be adapted to the requirements in force in Hungary;

Continue to provide the opportunity to take the final/entrance tests in professional subjects in Hungarian. We fear that the provisions of the Law on Education will be very disadvantageous for minority schools. The Ministry should take into account that the majority of national minorities have the same requirements, such as the minimum class sizes, which in most settlements will mean the termination of these schools. Here, the ministry, in the light of other European experiences, should use positive factors to maintain national minority education institutions.

  1. Higher education

5.1. In 2019, the same parliament that approved the :aw on Higher Education in 2014, which allowed private higher education institutions to choose the language of instruction independently, subsequently citing the Law on Education of 2017 as a higher priority, restricted the language of instruction to private higher education.

5.2. It is still not possible for minority languages ​​to be part of the central system of final exams. Although an internal final exam is allowed, it is not part of the state’s system of independent assessment. It is not possible to apply for the native language exam in the admission procedure. You can take the English, German, French, Spanish exam, but not Romanian, Slovak and Hungarian, although they are all official languages in the EU.

5.3 The new law on higher education also makes it impossible to obtain higher education for national minorities, even in the case of private universities. Because the external testing system allows assessment of knowledge only in Ukrainian. That is, even if someone has studied Hungarian at a higher education institution, they will still have to take the final exams in Ukrainian, which puts graduates of Hungarian higher education in an extremely disadvantageous situation.

5.4. The new law on higher education also aims to limit the autonomy of private universities by allowing the rector’s title to be granted only to persons whose accreditation has been approved by the Ukrainian state (for example, associate professor). This is also significantly different from European standards.

5.5. The accreditation process under the law on higher education still contains extreme standards. For example, the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute is not able to accredit the kindergarten pedagogy department because there is no person with a doctoral degree who would also have obtained a basic education as a kindergarten teacher.

5.6. The work of private universities is complicated by the process of naturalization of diplomas and degrees obtained abroad. There is also no positive shift in this matter.

5.7. The rules of employment of foreign professors remains too bureaucratic. Regional administrations need to contribute to their implementation. They cannot apply for a temporary residence permit and cannot work without permission. They must apply for a temporary residence permit every year, otherwise they cannot obtain a work permit and tax ID. The degree of professors is credited to the number of qualifíied lecturers of the institution, but only if it is naturalized, which can only be initiated by Ukrainian citizens, otherwise it is a very bureaucratic and sometimes humiliating procedure, especially for an internationally recognized scientist.

We suggest:

  • Allow to take the Hungarian language exam/entrance exam at the independent assessment centers. Keep allowing exams in Hungarian for all subjects.
  • With regard to private universities, continue to ensure that the language of instruction is chosen by the institution’s holders and, accordingly, that final examinations are taken in the language of instruction.
  • Accreditation standards should be adapted to European ones.
  • Simplify the procedure for obtaining a residence permit in Ukraine, as well as obtaining a work permit by foreigners
  • The procedure for the naturalization of degrees obtained abroad should be simplified and a new convention should be signed with Hungary