Hungarian Heritage Museum
On Saturday, January 10th, we drove to the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Museum at the Galleria on East 9th Street to attend a program on Hungarian Education since 1989 when the Soviet Union surrendered control of Hungary. Before the program started, we visited with Ms. Eva Szabo, President of the Hungarian Heritage Society and Ms. Edith Lauer, Chairman Emeritus of the Hungarian American Coalition who welcomed us there and were glad that Margaret W. Wong took an interest in what they were doing. First, we heard from Dr. Rita Gardosi, Ph.D.; who teaches at CSU as a visiting Fulbright Scholar, Hungarian Language and Culture in the Dept. of Modern Languages. Dr. Gardosi was in grammar school in Hungary in 1989 so she is part of the first generation educated under the new system. She talked about the years of 1949-1989 when the Soviet Union was in control in contrast to what is going on today. Under the old system everything was controlled by the government, it was compulsory to learn Russian (there were foreign language restrictions), there was no religious education, and practical/vocational training was stressed. There were a few good things about this such as illiteracy being addressed and higher education was made attainable to everyone regardless of income.
Today, largely due to the Hungary Act of Education of 1993, students have been granted the right to study without restrictions, local schools are more independent of the state, learning Russian is no longer compulsory, a wide range of foreign languages are offered, schools are attempting to find the right balance between stressing arts and sciences, and there is an emphasis on life-long learning. Today English is by far the most popular foreign language but people also want to learn German, French and Spanish as well as Asian Languages. For a while, the Russian language was not a popular course but it is coming back now due to the desire if not necessity to have economic dealings with the Soviet Union.
Dr. Gardosi was followed by Dr. Piroska Taborosi, Associate Professor at Morrisville College, New York. who talked about her experiences visiting schools in Hungary. Dr. Taborosi was actually born in Hungary but her family immigrated to the United States when she was only five years old. She talked about visiting a school in Budapest where teachers were trained and was greatly impressed with the hands-on time that the new teachers spend actually working with the children and the way they are supervised by mentor teachers. We learned that during the average week a teacher spends 32 hours in contact with the students but only 12 hours of that time is spent instructing them; the rest of the time is spent dealing with them in such capacities as playground supervision, etc.
It made us feel good to learn that the United States is not alone when we struggle with such issues as finding the balance between using the computer as a learning tool and using it too much, centralization of education (i.e. the same standards/curriculum for both a city school and a country school), and the best way to service children with special needs.
Today's program got spirited when Dr. Gardosi spoke of the Pioneer Movement which was a form of scouting imposed by the Soviet Union upon the young people of Hungary in order to indoctrinate them into their ideology. Several of the people present had immigrated to the United States from Hungary and were Pioneers when they were younger and, very understandably, did not have good things to say about their experience with it. We, ourselves, are just happy that the Pioneer program no longer is and that healthy scouting has been reinstated in Hungary because we love going to Hungarian Scouting Day every year at German Central Farm in Parma.