Logo of ICEVI-Europe and link to the Home Page

4th Workshop
Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe

[ Previous: Welcome by Gabriella Papp | Table of Contents | Next: Europe in Motion by Solveig Sjöstedt ]

The Education of Hungarian Children with Visual Impairment in Transition
by Beáta Prónay, ELTE Bárczi Gusztáv Faculty of Special Education, Department of Visual Impairment

The changes in the education system for Hungarian children with visual impairment at basic education level are possibly very similar to the changes in most of the other countries in Europe. In some of the countries mainstream education is more advanced; in others it is less so but under transition and in the rest it is at the doorway. Our system is in transition.

Traditionally in this country visually impaired students studied in special schools. Special education for them started in our country in 1825-26. The Hungarian system was very sensitive to changes and progression. At the beginning of the 20th century some of the Hungarian experts e.g. Zoltán Tóth with his book published in 1927 "The imagery word of the blind" was internationally well known and was citied in the German speaking areas (Pálhegyi, 1997).

Special education on a basic level for the visually impaired students was developing as early as 1870. Sz. Mihályik dr. in his book "The Blind" is already mentioning the importance of "mainstream education": for certain blind children education together with their peers in the local school is the best solution (Tóth, 1984. 53. old.). A. Szily dr. also in 1910 in the Hungarian quarterly of special education wrote an article about the advantages of mainstream education for the visually impaired student based on correspondence and reports in international quarterlies about the Chicago and Milwaukee approaches (Tóth, 1984. 118-122).

The theory of mainstream education was familiar in Hungary already in the late 1960s, in the 1970s. A few practical examples of mainstream education are also known from that time by the professionals. I would not be honest if I declared that it also has been popular. The changes started in the 1990s. One of the most important aspects was the new Educational Act in 1993. Although it is a new Act it has been modified several times already. The most important modifications were the one in 1996 and the other in 2003. The 1993 Education Act declared the right of all students to study in their local schools.

In 1993 there was the school for blind children, the school for physically and visually handicapped children run by the catholic church and a school for partially sighted children in Budapest. There were two others were in the country: the school for partially sighted children in Debrecen and a school run by a foundation for visually impaired children and for vocational training in Pécs. In these schools approximately 650-700 visually impaired and blind children between the age of 4-16 studied previously.

Number of children in special education formerly

The sudden decrease in the number of students who wanted to study or continue their studies in the special schools brought about changes in the demands towards the special schools. These demands called for changes inside the schools. These changes did not take place in the catholic school for physically and visually handicapped children. In Pécs the number of students from their region increased, just as the number of children with MIVI. In Debrecen a growing number of blind children from 8 counties from the Eastern part of the country asked for education besides the children with low vision. In Debrecen there was a need to build a resource centre too, to serve the region. In the School for Partially Sighted Children in Budapest the challenge was to increase the function of the resource centre, to reach out more effectively, to improve the help for the visually impaired students and their teachers in the local schools and to involve other centres in service provision. The school in Budapest at the same time completed the development of its education for intellectually disabled visually impaired students, too.

The School for the Blind, which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2001, had to face also a great challenge. With its high quality staff the school had to develop new strengths in unknown fields. It started to increase the number of students and trades taught in the vocational school, the resource centre increased the number of staff and the subjects they covered. The number of children with multiple impairments has increased, the department for deafblind children has opened. In the vocational school, which was established in 1987, five trades are taught at the moment and two others are under development (rug-weaving, basket-work, pottery, flower arrangement, computer operator - ceramics, leather craft). In this academic year, 220 students started their studies in the school. More than 1/4 of them are in the vocational school, 1/3 are typically developing blind children, a bit less than 1/4 are MIVI children.

In the School for Partially Sighted Children in Budapest the itinerant teaching services started more than 20 years ago. Originally, they provided support to the whole country. Recently they share their task with the school in Debrecen and also with a resource centre in Kaposvár in the Southern region. In both centres there is a need for professional consultation, too.

This itinerant teacher service provided support for 103 students in their own schools during the last academic year. Six schools were visited regularly in Budapest.

As a resource centre they offered ophthalmologic examination to 74 students who study in mainstream education. Twenty-seven of them were advised to use different optical aids by the professionals of the resource centre. During the school period at 450 occasions 640 toys, or devices were borrowed by families from the centre. Individual intervention was offered to 28 pre-school age children while 15 children participated in group intervention on 32 occasions. Out of the 153 students supported in secondary education 76 were previously studying in special school and 77 in mainstream.

On open days organised by the centre 19 kindergarten teachers of 13 children and 62 teachers from basic education of 50 students participated. Some of them (25 person) visited the centre more then once.

Different services offered during the 2003/2004 school year
Kindergarten age 47
Pre-school 32
Pre-school all together 79
1st grade 26
1-4 grades 81
5-8 grades 112
Basic school all together 218
Follow up of secondary education students 153
All students 450
Numbers served in September 2004
Pre-school 53
Basic school 204
Secondary and higher education students 195
Sum 452

Number of staff working for the resource centre including itinerant service:

Itinerant teacher service in the School for the Blind in Budapest started in 1994. The service provides support in the whole country from pre-school to university level. They visit children in 25 different localities across the country. In basic education 47 students (21 students in 1-4 grade, 26 students in 5-8 grade), in secondary education 20 students get support. Approximately 15 pre-school children are regularly visited. Out of the more than 80 children who are served 20 children live in Budapest. For the time being, this service is the only one offering support for blind students.

As a resource centre they offer help to children, parents and other professionals from mainstream education. Intensive training is offered to all these groups. This training is organised 1-2 times yearly and is very popular.

Six teachers work full-time and an other 3 part-time for the service. There is a co-ordinator who supervises the workers.

Difficulties in itinerant teachers services:

The best-qualified professionals live in Budapest and work for the two services introduced above. This means that professionals have to cover wide distances. Public transportation is slow, poor and finances do not cover the necessary costs. Only one of the services has a car (S. for the Partially Sighted).

There is a low number of itinerant teachers to a large number of consumers (students, schools, educational staff for training, parents, etc.) to be served in several destinations.

There is an absence of special equipment or knowledge of how to use it in the integrating schools (CCTV, Low vision devices, Braille material, special computer technology, etc.).

The provision of Braille materials is not organised and not financed by the state. The Braille production for basic school is solved by the school for blind children covering the needs of consumers in the whole country without legalised financial background. The liberal use and choice in schoolbooks is very demanding and impossible to serve even in one single school level.


The 1993 Act and its modifications have several weaknesses.

The infrastructure and the financial bases for educational support in this new system has not been established.

The services depend on the professionalism of the resource centres and the educational authority tries to keep up with it.

There is a new type of professional needed for these services and our higher educational system is struggling with its inner problems to solve the Bologna agreement in stead of developing new curricula meeting the demands of the field.


[ Previous: Welcome by Gabriella Papp | Table of Contents | Next: Europe in Motion by Solveig Sjöstedt ]