Hungarian National Council of Transylvania
on the Shortcomings of the Hungarian Public and Higher Education in Romania
The Hungarian minority in Transylvania claims the following with respect to education in their mother tongue:
1. With respect to public education:
a.) the creation of a Hungarian public education organisation with the powers of a state-run organisation, to serve as a network of school inspectorates for Hungarian schools and which would be responsible for modernising the education process, elaborating curricula, manuals and test and evaluating and qualifying the schools,
b.) the introduction of proper Romanian language tests, i.e. Romanian as a second language type tests instead of Romanian as mother tongue type tests for ethnic Hungarian pupils and students,
c.) the creation of a job position and the allocation of funds for the co-ordination of the Hungarian education within the Bacau County School Inspectorate in order to promote the education in the mother tongue of the Hungarian ’csángó’ community, and the setting up of kindergarten groups and elementary school classes for 'csángó' Hungarians,
d.) lift the restrictions that church schools are facing if wishing to set up classes for lay education purposes,
e.) allow that the subjects ‘Geography of Romania’ and the ‘History of Romanians’ be instructed in the Hungarian language.
2. With respect to higher education:
a.) approval of the Hungarian faculties of Natural Sciences, Humanities, as well as Social and Economical Sciences at the ‘Babes-Bolyai’ University of Cluj / Kolozsvár and the subsequent restoration of the Hungarian language ‘Bolyai’ University,
b.) the Romanian government should financially support the ‘Sapientia’ University,
c.) the creation of state-financed, Hungarian language higher education for engineers, agriculture and fine arts.
How the requests regarding the establishment of a state-financed Hungarian-language university were rejected
First part of May 1990: Delegates of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR) had several discussions with Ion Iliescu, interim President of Romania at the time. The President rejected the idea of re-establishing the Hungarian-language 'Bolyai' University.
1991: The Bolyai Association, having Hungarian university professors as its associates, handed in a memorial to various state institutions, who never never even replied to it.
16th June 1998: Deputies Kónya-Hamar Sándor, Mátis Jeno, Nagy István and Szilágyi Zsolt handed in a bill to the Chamber of Deputies on the establishment of the state-financed Hungarian-language university (bill nr. 165/1998). This bill was rejected on 10th February 2001 after a tergiversation of three years.
26th June 1998: The Parliament Fraction of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR) handed in a bill with the same proposal (bill nr. 176/1998). This bill was also rejected on 10th February 2001.
July 1998: Governmental Order nr. 14 A 378/1998 instructed on the formation of a committee to prepare the initiation of a state-financed Hungarian-language university. The committee completed its tasks. However, the Education Committee of the Chamber of Deputies made further procedures impossible.
September-October 1998: The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR) threatened to quit the government coalition if the steps for the establishment of a state-financed Hungarian-language university would not be taken. The immediate effect was a Governmental Order of 2nd October regarding the establishment of a state-financed Hungarian-German-language university called 'Petőfi-Schiller'.
15th October 1998: The Romanian Vice-Chancellors' Committee qualified the above Governmental Order as dangerous and illegal.
29th October 1998: Anghel Stanciu, the President of the Education Committee sent a letter of protest to the Government pointing out that the Governmental Order regarding the 'Petőfi-Schiller' University is unconstitutional.
November-December 1998: All the parties of the Opposition initiated proceedings against the Government targeting the Governmental Order regarding the 'Petőfi-Schiller' University. Although the court did not sustain the requests of the petitioners, the university was still not founded because of the heavy opposition.
2004: The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR) established a pactum with the Social Democratic Party governing at the time. The pactum contained an agreement that Hungarian faculties will be founded at the 'Babes-Bolyai' University. This initiative also failed, due to the opposition of the University, despite of the fact that 85% of the Hungarian professors and the overwhelming majority of the Hungarian students supported the establishment of these faculties.
30th September 2005: Two professors of the 'Babes-Bolyai' University, Péter Hantz and Lehel István Kovács negotiate the issue of the state-financed Hungarian-language university at various institutions of the European Union. After the negotiations they made declarations in the favour of the re-establishment of the Hungarian-language 'Bolyai' University. The management of the 'Babes-Bolyai' University voiced their protest concerning these declarations in a press release.
17th October 2005: A series of protests were held in four major cities of Transylvania, in which thousands of people asked for the re-establishment of the Hungarian-language ‘Bolyai’ University and the development of an autonomous Hungarian public education.
30th November 2005: A demand for creating three Hungarian faculties at the ‘Babes-Bolyai’ University, signed by 149 Hungarian professors (83% of those involved), was submitted to the management of the University. This step is considered to be of paramount importance by the Hungarian teaching staff, and enjoys the support of the DAHR as well.
Discriminatory measures and circumstances against the
Hungarian language public and higher education
Concerns about the public education
The Hungarian language public education in Romania has a number of shortcomings that remained unanswered for the last 15 years mostly due to political reasons. Nonetheless, these shortcomings are much of a concern as they considerably deteriorate the young Hungarians’ chances to pursue their studies or a career. Moreover, the quality of the higher education process in the Hungarian language is seriously impacted, and, among others, faster assimilation is hastened.
Following is a brief description of the specific issues hindering the development of the Hungarian language public education system in Romania
1. The Hungarian language public education is developed at an average level. Unfortunately, no accurate figures are available on how many Hungarian pupils give up school before graduation or how many switch to Romanian language classes. The 2002 census data however, reveal that there are approx. 93,000 Hungarians in the 15-19 age group, i.e. there should be about 23,000 students in each of the four secondary school years. In contrast, data show that a mere number of 7,200 students take their graduation exams (baccalaureat) in the Hungarian system. The loss is much larger than the national average, as in Romania there are about 1,600,000 in the 15-19 age group, i. e. about 400,000 pupils in each year, including the final year, out of which approx. 180,000 graduated from secondary school in 2005.
Moreover, losses are expected to be higher as the number of Hungarian children in the rural areas is growing and the propensity to go on to high school is lower in the rural areas.
The remedy to this situation is the creation of a public education organisation for Hungarians with the powers of a state-run organisation, which would be responsible for education development planning, elaboration of curricula, preparation of manuals, translation of tests, organisation of teacher training programmes, evaluation and qualification of schools and also, possibly the improvement of life standards of teachers. This organisation would function with the powers of a state school inspectorate. This is necessary as the co-operation with the inspectorates run by the Romanian majority often lacks the responsiveness towards the specific minority education issues.
The creation of such an institution is urgent as with the entering into force of the new Romanian law on education it becomes inevitable that the Hungarian education network in Romania benefit of a single management structure. If this is carried out without the proper financial and intellectual support, the number of pupils and students who would choose to pursue their studies in the Romanian language would further grow, whereas this figure is already worryingly high.
Such an institution would considerably contribute to the development of an underdeveloped Hungarian vocational school system, and would open up new perspectives for elaborating better manuals as well.
2. The Romanian language as a subject matter is taught in school for minority children not as a second language but rather as if that was their mother tongue, and thus, tests and graduation exams are designed as such. Consequently, Hungarian students fail to a greater extent the exams, and are presumably disadvantaged with respect to their chances of admission to higher education institutions.
3. According to point 2 of paragraph 120 of the law on education in Romania the subjects ‘Geography of Romania’ and the ‘History of Romanians’ are taught in the Romanian language in the 5.-12. classes of the Hungarian schools as well. The Hungarian community have requested that these subject matters be taught in Hungarian for over a decade.
4. In the so-called ‘Csángó’s land’ there is no public education institution to teach all subject matters in Hungarian. However, the teaching of the Hungarian language has started from scratches.
The Hungarian language is taught in 13 villages for around 950 pupils by commuter teachers. These teachers are paid a symbolic fee by the Romanian state, while the extension of the education is being blocked by the nationalist management of the schools. Nevertheless, Hungarian language teaching could be extended to further 50 villages and some 10,000 pupils if proper financial support and authority were insured. This imperatively requires the creation of a job position and the allocation of funds for the co-ordination of the Hungarian education within the Bacau County School Inspectorate.
The proper grounds for education in the Hungarian language should be created, first and foremost kindergarten groups and then primary and secondary school classes should be initiated.
In addition, the mass secondary education of ‘csángó’ Hungarians remains an unsolved issue. Until now the Hungarian government financed the education of some 100 secondary school students in Miercurea Ciuc / Csíkszereda. The solution would be the allocation of Romanian governmental funds, and, more importantly, the Romanian government support given to create a Hungarian language secondary school in Bacau.
5. Government funded church schools are regarded according to the Orthodox model as training institutions for priests by the Romanian law on education. Church schools may only start lay education classes, e.g. IT or vocational education classes on a special licence issued on an annual basis by the Romanian line ministry. However, the law does not explicitly state this, so it always depends on the free will of the school inspectorates and the education ministry. We would like to reach that the restrictions imposed on church schools be lifted with respect to their intention to set up classes for lay education purposes.
Concerns about the higher education
Not lesser are the concerns about the higher education. According to the statistics of the Romanian Ministry of Education and Science (2005), the total number of students in higher education is approximately 650,000. The number of Hungarian students is only 29,000, which represents 4.4% of the total, although 6.6% of the population are ethnic Hungarian. Less then half of the Hungarian students, around 10,000 study in Hungarian, which represents 1.6% on the national level. According to the data of the Hungarian Ministry of Education, nearly 3,000 students (0.45%) study abroad in Hungary. State financed Hungarian higher education barely covers a small part of the education needs in fine arts, and completely lacks technical, agricultural or veterinarian training. This happens in spite of the fact that the necessary higher education teaching staff is available. Sapientia University is not given any Romanian state funding.
Teaching of the shortfall professions could be partially solved at the Technical University of Cluj, the ‘Ion Andreescu’ Art Academy, the Agricultural and Veterinary University of Cluj and by setting-up a Hungarian class within the Faculty of Music Pedagogy of the ‘Gheorghe Dima’ Music Academy. However, the two latter institutions refused to allow Hungarian classes. Developments are hindered not only because of the shortage of students, which is due both to demographic reasons and the lack of a proper public education system, but also by the blocking of the restoration of the state financed Hungarian university. The DAHR collected in 1995 over 600,000 signatures in favour of the re-establishment of the state financed Hungarian university, which clearly proves that the Hungarian community stood up as one in support of the cultural autonomy, including the creation of an autonomous Hungarian higher education system. At present time Hungarian higher education activities are organised in 8 Romanian institutions, but only 4 of them are supported by the Romanian government. The flagship institution is the ‘Babes-Bolyai’ University, with approximately 10,000 Hungarian students, out of them approximately 6000 studying in Hungarian; still, the Hungarian academic community at the institution may not take independent decisions. Academic structures are organised vertically, based on classic hierarchy (departments, faculties). Various sections teaching in different languages horizontally cross the university structures, thus, they do not help, but actually create more confusion in its functioning. The classes of the Hungarian section are scattered over several departments, therefore it is difficult to designate a job position covering a specific department. Filled and open positions are now 60% to 40%. Several faculties, e.g. law, economic sciences, geology do not employ sufficient number of teachers who could instruct students in the Hungarian language. The institution, which is very much liked to be called ‘multicultural’, completely misses Hungarian language signs, and rooms or halls named after Hungarian scientists are scarce.
The creation of the Hungarian faculties of Natural Saciences, Humanities, as well as Social and Economical Sciences at the ‘Babes-Bolyai’ University is the most urgent matter as the first step to re-establish the ‘Bolyai’ University. The demand for creating the three Hungarian faculties was signed by 149 Hungarian professors (83% of those involved), and submitted to the management of the University in November 2005. This step is considered to be of paramount importance by the Hungarian teaching staff, and enjoys the support of the DAHR as well. We believe, that the creation of the Hungarian faculties can be achieved in the 2005/2006 academic year from the political aspect as well. The creation of a department is not a genuine solution as the powers of a department are very limited as compared to those of a faculty.
The operating and development costs of the 'Sapientia' University are fully covered by the Hungarian government, while the institution trains Romanian citizens. A considerable part of the costs should be paid by the Romanian government, and the Hungarian state subsidy should cover for the development of the 'Sapientia' University and the improvement of the quality of the full Hungarian higher education in Romania.
To achieve our goals we have taken several steps. One of the most important ones was the European Minority Higher Education Conference. 25 European minorities have sent their representatives to this event. We have succeeded in creating a rather detailed database, which clearly shows that minorities far smaller in number are able to successfully operate a network of higher education institutions. It has also become obvious that, on the European level, it is the Hungarian community in Romania, the Ukraine and Serbia that have to endure the direst circumstances. The database is available at http://conf.bolyai-u.ro.
The technical preparations of the re-establsihment of the ‘Bolyai’ University are underway. Presently, a detailed socio-demographic and economic study is being carried out. It has to be taken into account that the management of the ‘Babes-Bolyai’ University will probably attempt, with the backing of the Romanian political elite, to deny any rights of the Hungarian community, i.e. they will refuse to hand over the fair proportion of the university infrastructure (approx. 25%) as well as the campuses set up in Seklar’s Land. All measures will be taken in Romania and abroad to prevent this unfair attempt.
In perspective, the Hungarian education system in Romania is the closest integration into the education system of Hungary, the creation of independent higher education institutions through the spinning off of the present Hungarian sections, as well as the Hungarian University Consortium to be established with the integration of the 'Sapientia' University.