Hungary

Péter Balkányi
László Ostorics
Educational Authority,
Department of Educational Assessment and Evaluation

Language and Literacy

Introduction

Hungary is an independent democratic nation in Central Eastern Europe in the Carpathian Basin. It borders Slovakia in the north, Ukraine in the northeast, Romania in the east and southeast, Serbia in the south, Croatia and Slovenia in the southwest, and Austria in the west. The country, which is landlocked, covers 93,036 square kilometers. The lowest point geographically is 78 meters above sea level and the highest—Kékes Peak in the Mátra Mountains—is 1,014 meters above sea level.

The country has 9.97 million inhabitants, with a population density of 107 people per square kilometer. The population is decreasing at a rate of 0.25 percent per year. Hungary’s capital and biggest city is Budapest. There are 19 counties in the seven regions of the country. Hungary’s bigger cities are, in order of decreasing population size, Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged, Pécs, Győr, Nyíregyháza, Kecskemét, and Székesfehérvár.

Unlike other countries in the region, Hungary is relatively homogenous ethnically. In addition to the Hungarian majority, Hungary is home to Roma, Germans, Slovaks, Croatians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Serbians, and Slovenians, along with smaller ethnic groups. Ninety-nine percent of the country’s population speaks Hungarian as their first language.

Hungary has been a republic since 1989 and a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1996, of NATO since 1999, of the European Union since 2004, and of the Schengen Agreement since December 21, 2007. Hungary also is one of the founding members of the Visegrád Group. Hungary’s economic output positions it as an OECD member and therefore a developed country.

Language and Literacy

The official language and the language of instruction in the Republic of Hungary is Hungarian. However, minorities such as Croatians, Germans, Romanians, Serbians, Slovaks, and Slovenes have their own institutions within the educational system. In 2010, 4.6 percent of students attended minority operated mother tongue, bilingual, or language teaching schools or kindergartens. As of 1999, additional minority education classes may be organized when at least eight parents within a minority group in a settlement with a non-Hungarian mother tongue ask for it. If the number of children is insufficient, parents may request that the local government organize mother tongue and culture classes in connection with school education. These classes operate as a department of the school or as a separate language school, or traveling teachers can be hired. Since 2004, classes have existed in Bulgarian, Greek, Polish, Armenian, Ruthenian, and Ukrainian. The largest minority in Hungary is the Gipsy community; its institutions of cultural education cater to 3.8 percent of children.1