The school year begins - Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities on the importance of public education for national minorities

For the national minorities that are constituent elements of the Hungarian State, the possibility to preserve the use of their mother tongue and the encouragement of the young generations to master the language of their community and use it on an everyday basis are of key importance in the preservation and continuous development of their identity. In addition to the families, the key scenes of mother tongue education are the institutions that provide education for the national minorities, where it becomes possible to educate the children who belong to these communities fully or partially in their mother tongues.
As the Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities, I would like to draw attention to the importance, achievements and challenges of national minority education in Hungary, on the occasion of the beginning of the new academic year 2017/2018. Pursuant to Point b), Section 12 of Act CLXXIX of 2011 on the Rights of Nationalities, a person belonging to a nationality has the right to learn his mother tongue, to attend public education, education and cultural heritage events in his mother tongue. Under Section 19 of the same Act, as a collective right, these communities are entitled to establish and operate institutions and to take over institutions from other agencies. The children and young people who belong to these communities have the right to kindergarten education, elementary education, nationality boarding services, secondary and grammar school education, vocational education and higher education. The right to education in the mother tongue, as well as the right of these communities to organize education are regulated by the further provisions of the law in detail.
It has by now become a general phenomenon that those children who receive nationality education start their studies from various levels of competence in their mother tongue, so the first task of the teachers of the national minority communities is to build strong language skills and promote communication in the mother tongue. While there are challenges faced in the situation, promotion, training and succession of national minority teachers, they perform their tasks with great commitment, for which they deserve gratitude.
Although one can witness upward tendencies and considerable development, there is still a lot that remains to be done in the field of providing textbooks and teaching aids for national minority education, especially in the case of those of our national minorities who cannot rely on any support from beyond the border of Hungary, either due to the lack of a mother country or to the level of relations with the mother country. The same holds true for the situation of teacher training, the detailed analysis of which you can find in my report on higher education for national minorities published this year, which I co-authored with the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights.
On the occasion of the beginning of the academic year 2017/2018, I find it important to emphasize that the educational programs for national minorities provided by Hungary, as well as the institutions of national minority education, which are by now mostly maintained by the national minority self-governments, can only fulfill their mission of preserving the identity of the national minorities if an increasing number of parents who declare themselves members of a national minority in Hungary decide to use the opportunities provided to them and they enroll their children in institutions of national minority education. The standards of education in the schools for national minorities should serve as guarantees for that the education aimed at the preservation of the language and identity of national minorities at the same time provides training of high quality standards, from which access to further education is also offered. 
I would hereby like to express my gratitude to the teachers and parents for supporting the national minority education of children through their perseverance and work involving a lot of sacrifice, and for their giving perspective to these communities.

Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, Prof. HC
Professor, Deputy Ombudsman