Music Education in Hungary
I. Political Background
Hungary is a republic with 19 counties (regional administrative units). The education system is the same all over the country.
II. School System and Structure
Most schools in Hungary are state run, but church-run schools also exist (following the social changes in 1989 the churches – primarily the Catholic – regained the right to operate denominational schools) as do private schools, so-called foundation schools. Education is compulsory until the age of 18.
There are various ways in which the programmes of the elementary and secondary schools (academic secondary schools and upper schools) combine and lead on to the next level:
· Primary schools lasting four (in most cases), six or eight years, or the long form (elementary and secondary school combined) lasting 12 years
· Secondary schools (academic secondary schools/upper schools) lasting four years (ages 14-18), six years (ages 12-18) or eight years (ages 10-18).
It is possible to move to another school after the 4th, 6th or 8th grade or to attend the 12-grade school right from the start.
This means that the following combinations are possible:
· 8 + 4: primary school (4 years from ages 6-10) and lower secondary (4 years from ages 10-14) + upper secondary (4 years from ages 14-18)
· 4 + 8: primary school (4 years from ages 6-10) + secondary school (8 years from ages 10-18)
· 6 + 6: primary school (4 years from ages 6-10) and lower secondary (2 years from ages 10-12) + secondary school (6 years from ages 12-18)
The final exam ("Matura") is taken after 12 years of schooling.
III. Music Education in Schools
Music education is compulsory at every school in Hungary from the 1st to the 10th grade. The final school-leaving exam enabling university admission was introduced in Hungary in 2005. It is organised in two levels and pupils can choose between the basic level and the upper level. This also applies to music. The upper level is usually for academic secondary schools that place particular emphasis on music.
In the past few years there has been only one compulsory singing lesson per week. In the local schools' programme, schools have the chance to run more lessons for important subjects of their choice (e.g. one extra singing lesson per week; a dance lesson or choral music), but only very few schools choose these options. Generally subjects such as information technology and languages are given priority.
If desired, so-called "higher standard classes" can be created. If this is done for music the number of music lessons is set at three per week (in the past there were five music lessons per week plus choir lessons at the “music primary schools”).
IV. Music Curricula
Since 1995 the national curriculum has been the determining document for education at state institutions. It serves as the basis for putting together the local schools' programmes and stipulates that music education at school must play an important role in developing a child's sensibility, intellect and character. The primary aim of music education is nurturing a love of music and the opportunities provided for experiencing music are geared to this target. By understanding, appreciating and reproducing music the children learn to communicate with and through music. Through works from the music literature they can share in the traditions of Hungarian and worldwide culture. Recognition of these values helps them to develop musical taste.
The national curriculum divides the tasks serving children's development into two areas of aptitude:
1 the ability to create music, and
2 appreciation and recognition.
The ability to create music serves the development of the capacity for interpretation by means of singing in keeping with the Hungarian music education tradition. The material used in the initial stages is first and foremost Hungarian folk theatre containing song and folk songs themselves, with folk songs from other cultures and art music being subsequently added in ever increasing proportions. The other skill covered by the ability to create music is improvisation. In the course of this creative and enjoyable activity the children are taught to express themselves artistically by using the elements of music they have learnt and also by combining them with movement and drama.
For the development of appreciation and recognition of music, experiencing music by listening to it is of particular importance. Going beyond a purely emotional response to music children are made familiar with instruments and their timbre. When they are older they also learn about the characteristics of the epochs in the history of music and the foremost composers and their works. For these skills it is necessary to train the ear. Listening to music is synonymous with thinking about music: it includes the opportunity for comparison, abstraction, analysis, gaining an overall view and forming concepts at one and the same time. The aim of learning notation is to make the connection between the music as heard and the score, in other words the basis of understanding music.