The Association of Hungarian Independent Schools

| June 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Zsofi Bak

Some 10% of kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools, technical colleges, trade schools and colleges in Hungary belong to the Association of Hungarian Independent Schools (AHIS), founded in Budapest in April 1992.

Its founder chairperson was György Várhegyi, who believed strongly in the need for a new kind of professionally trained teacher. Várhegyi also believed that parents had the right to choose a particular kind of education for their children. Presently, the AHIS board comprises 15 presidency members, a three-member ethical committee and a threemember supervising committee. The AHIS operates openly as a prominent public benefit organisation and does not participate in political activities.

Open to all

Membership of the AHIS is open to any educational institution that is maintained by legal entities, private individuals or nongovernmental and non-clerical organisations or foundations that agree with its aims, accept and enforce its constitution and ethical codex, whose joining the association is accepted by the presidium and who then pays the membership fees. The AHIS board judges the results of a self-evaluation process and awards the title of ‘Qualified School/Kindergarten of the Association of Hungarian Independent Schools’ to worthy institutions.

What does the AHIS offer?

The AHIS creates opportunities for schools to find out about various issues concerning them such as teaching methods, school administration and curricula. It also provides a forum for schools and other stakeholders to discuss and solve their legal, judicial, professional and financial problems. It advocates the interests of independent schools and communicates to them views and suggestions on laws-in-progress concerning their activities, and protects member schools from any kind of discriminatory interference from government.

The AHIS also regularly organises conferences, forums, meetings and other professional programmes in accordance with the demands of its members. On these occasions, members can discuss current professional problems such as official controls, educational law, pedagogical programmes, the organisational and advocacy work of the AHIS and the rights and roles of independent schools.

The Independent Pedagogical Institute

The AHIS also founded and maintains the Independent Pedagogical Institute, which started its work in October 2001. It offers general services such as professional counsel, monitoring, evaluation and training, as well as initiating innovative education developments and publicly representing professional autonomy.

Working for the rights of independent schools The AHIS is intent on reviving traditions, such as music teaching (in Hungary, the only form of private teaching allowed during the socialist era was music) and advocating the adaptation of reputable alternative methodologies such as Waldorf, Montessori or Rogers pedagogies and cooperative and differentiated teaching methods. The AHIS also represents the legal and financial interests of its member schools to protect their rights to equality, emancipation and equal opportunity. Currently, private education has nothing to do with public education, although private schools must teach the compulsory National Curriculum. A few public schools have implemented some of the alternative pedagogical methods the AHIS advocates, such as child-centredness, self-evaluation, differentiated work in class and collaborative teaching and learning.

ECNAIS and others

The AHIS also works towards garnering international respect for its member schools by advocating the need for organised improvement and best practice in schools. To this end, we are a member of independent educational organisations such as the European Council of National Associations of Independent Schools (ECNAIS).1We also urge our member schools to foster positive connections with both national and international professional education organisations.

Current economic conditions have led to the AHIS creating a solidarity fund to support its members’ financial activities where necessary, by granting credit or by other appropriate support.

The freedom to choose

A range of previous research suggests that pupils achieve more, and better, at independent schools. In an overview of European research, Dronkers (2004) concludes that this is the case in Belgium, France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Scotland, and to some lesser extent in Germany.2 It was Milton Friedman who famously said, “Choice produces competition. Competition produces quality.”3 At the AHIS, we believe that offering parents the freedom to choose where they want to school their children is a powerful tool for improving educational service.

References:
1. See: http://www.ecnais.org/object-aims/#.
2. See, for example: Corten, R. and Dronkers, J. (2004) “School achievement of pupils from the lower strata in public, private government-dependent and private government-independent schools: a cross-national test of the Coleman-Hoffer thesis.” Available at: http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/programmeforinternationalstudentassessmentpisa/33680669.pdf.
3. See, for example: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Friedman.html.

Category: Winter 2014

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