The Educational Laws in Romania
and Their Bearing on Hungarians
On June 28, 1995 the Romanian Senate and House of Representatives
correlated and passed the Educational Law No. 85/1995. Next day fifty three
members of the opposition—Hungarians and Romanians alike—called the
Still before the Trianon
Peace Dictate, on December 19, 1919,
The Minorities Agreement of Paris declared that Romanian
citizens could be limited in the use of their native tongues in private and
religious life, in public life and in a court of law. Therefore, in regions
where nationalities other than Romanian live in significant numbers, the government
is obliged to guarantee public education in the native language concerned.
Chapter 11 of the said agreement laid down that “
Prior to this, on December 1, 1918—when the Romanian National Council called for a meeting of the Romanian population at Gyulafehérvár to decide in the matter of union with Romania—a resolution was published, section III/1 of which announced: “...the co-inhabiting nationalities will receive full national freedom: education, public administration and the service of justice will be in their own native tongue...”
In the following we shall briefly touch upon the subsequent fate of their voluntarily made resolution and the obligations undertaken before the great powers only with regard to education.
Already in the academic year of 1919-1920 tuition in Hungarian language was cancelled in 900 elementary schools, while university education was abolished altogether. Secondary education in Hungarian was eliminated in government school by the middle of the decade.
Following the Second Vienna Award, the Hungarian school
network was restored in
After World War II, the relative stabilisation of the political and economic situation, but most notably the deceptive tactics of the Gróza government, made the restoration of the Hungarian schools, as well as the establishment of new ones, possible. In the academic year of 1946-47 there were already 1,036 government and 754 church schools, of which 184 were secondary.
Following the nationalisation (1948), there were 383
kindergartens, 1,320 elementary schools (grades 1-4), 440 junior high schools
(grades 5-7) and 93 secondary schools available to Hungarian children and
young people. After the Autumn of 1947 Hungarian
schools were established in
However, nationalisation was accompanied by educational reforms, which in most of the cases adversely affected the Hungarians. Theoretical teaching was replaced by technical colleges of Romanian-Hungarian faculty. In places where Hungarians lived in isolated pockets, their schools were closed down one after the other.
At that time the four Hungarian polytechnics and universities were still left alone. The Bolyai University of Science in Kolozsvár had eight departments, the Medical and Pharmaceutical Institute of Marosvásárhely had five, the Art College of Kolozsvár had for and the Agricultural Institute, also in Kolozsvár, had one department.
After the revolution and war of liberation of 1956—in the events of which Transylvania’s Hungarian population took an active part—certain measures were effected to improve public morale. Some of the institutions of theoretical education were restored, the famous schools of several hundred years standing were allowed to be named after illustrious Hungarians (Ady, Kölcsey, Brassai, Bolyai...), and school anniversaries could be celebrated. However, the situation changed for the worse in the Autumn of 1958, with the brief period of ‘privileges’ coming to an end. The “fight against Hungarian cultural separatism and nationalism” was launched.
In February 1958 János Kádár and his team visited
As soon as the illustrious guests returned to
In 1968, when the draft of a new Educational Law was
debated in the Great National Assembly (Parliament), the Minister responsible
mentioned nationality education for the first time in years. He proudly announced
that “more than 240,000 children belonging to
Presidential decree no. 703 was issued in 1973, compelling the schools in every Hungarian settlement to set up classes in Romanian, regardless of the number of students. For Romanians, three students were already enough to set up a Romanian class, while the corresponding number for Hungarians was twenty-five. As a result of the decree, the Hungarian schools vanished from small Hungarian villages and isolated pockets of Hungarian communities. To make sure that the schools stay open, in many places the teacher or the teacher couple enrolled some of the children (at least three) in the Romanian class. In this way the teachers and the children could all stay in the village. In several Hungarian settlements the authorities forcibly set up Romanian classes by intimidating the parents and the children.
After 1985 the practice of posting to Hungarian villages
teachers who could not speak Hungarian began, while Hungarians were sent to
remote Romanian regions. In many instances, one half of a teacher couple was
given a job in
As seen from the above passages, immediately before,
as well as shortly after, signing international agreements the Romanian state
promised far-reaching rights to the Hungarian population, incorporating them
in the documents and “endorsing ” them with signature.
Soon after this, however, the GOAL takes precedence, meaning the establishment
After the fall of the regime in December 1989, many
people entertained hopes about the realisation of the Hungarians’ rights in
These changes also affected the area of education in Hungarian, bringing rapid results first of all in the predominantly Hungarian Székelyföld. Initially the return to the original arrangements was smooth, but when the earlier leaders saw that they could avoid retaliation for their crimes, they once again became active. The prominent nationalist and anti-Hungarian teachers, party functionaries and secret police compiled the “Har-Kov Report”, in which they declared themselves the victims of persecution by the Hungarians of Székelyföld and the martyrs of the Romanian nation. Among other people, they were the ones who initiated the measures against education in Hungarian. Their actions culminated in the pogrom of Marosvásárhely.
The series of protests and demonstrations throughout
The Education Law’s section regarding the “minorities”
As a result of the HDUR’s
protest, the European Parliament passed a resolution within a summary procedure,
In response, the government and all the parties in
But how could a law be “exemplary”, when it declares that:
--in every settlement classes have to be organised and run in Romanian language;
--in secondary schools the Romanian language and literature should be taught according to the program and textbooks used in Romanian schools;
--in secondary schools Romanian history and
--vocational teaching should be done in Hungarian, both in vocational training schools and in post-lyceums;
--the language of both the entry and the final examinations at all levels of education must be Romanian;
--in higher education tuition is allowed in minority languages only in teachers’ training colleges, art colleges and medical schools.
A Detailed Analysis of the Educational Law’s Effects on Minorities and the Foreseeable Consequences
A) The limitation of education in one’s native tongue
“The right to study their native tongue is guaranteed to persons belonging to national minorities, along with the right to be educated in the language; the modes of carrying these right into effect should be specified in separate laws.”
Paragraph 118 of Chapter XII in the Educational Law is in accordance with the spirit of the paragraph quoted above:
“Persons belonging to a national minority have the right to education and training in their native tongue at all levels of schooling.”
In stark contrast with this, in the following paragraphs the Law, instead of regulating the guarantees of the constitutional right, methodically limits this right to the extent that amounts to the deliberate elimination of education in one’s native tongue.
a) Paragraph 1 of Chapter 8 endorses the practice employed in the 1970s and 1980s:
By carrying this law into effect in Hungarian villages, where there is no demand for schools and classes in Romanian, the authorities can put pressure on the parents to enrol their children in Romanian classes and schools. And in the case of small schools, on the pretext of the shortage of funds only Romanian classes will be set up, even if there are no more than two or three Hungarian children enrolled in them, thus abolishing countless Hungarian classes and schools. There are numerous examples for this practice from the Communist era.
b) According to Paragraph 2 of Chapter 9, the state supports the received religions only through the organisation of their specific secondary and higher education institutions, as well as through the training of church officials. Regarding educational institutions of other categories, the religious denominations can organise them only within the framework of private education, without receiving any state subsidy.
In 1948, following the
government’s decree No.
After the fall of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, the Hungarian churches reclaimed their property, including the ecclesiastic schools. Paragraph 1 of Chapter 166 of the Law concerned excludes the possibility of giving these schools back to their rightful owners, at the same time prohibiting even a partial restoration of the network of ecclesiastic schools.
c) By making Romanian the mandatory language used in teaching Romania’s geography and Romanian history, as well as in the vocational courses, the Law limits the non-Romanians’ right to study in their native tongue, while excluding the possibility of their training in their native language:
“The above subjects are to be taught on the basis of the curriculum and textbooks designated for Romanian classes. Examination are to be held in Romanian.” (Paragraph 2 of Chapter 120.)
In those branches of learning, where the entry exams are held in the subjects mandatorily taught in Romanian (law, history, art history, economics, veterinary sciences, agricultural sciences, etc.), the Hungarian students are at a disadvantage in comparison to those pupils who learned these subjects in their native tongue.
d) Chapter 23 declares the following: “In the state-run higher education institutes, if requested but subject to conditions specified in this Law, classes and departments can be organised in the training of teachers and artists in minority languages.” This clause limits higher education in minority languages to two areas--the training of teachers and artists--prohibiting the training of economists, engineers and legal students.
e) The most damaging section of the Educational Law is Chapter 124:
“At every level of education, the entry and final exams are to be held in Romanian. In schools and classes as well as in vocational training courses where the language of education is a minority language, examination in that language is permitted.”
Since the vocational training courses, technical colleges, master schools, post-lyceums and higher education courses are almost without exception in the Romanian language, Hungarian applicants have to compete for admission with Romanian students in Romanian in subjects that they studied in Hungarian.
B) Education in Hungarian Today
In an attempt to demonstrate the danger posed by the Educational Law with the help of concrete figures, we shall present the current situation of education in Hungarian. We would like to point out that the previous legislation limited the practice of education in Hungarian less severely.
Of the 79,508 Hungarian children (6.4 per cent of the total number) enrolled in elementary schools for the academic year of 1993-94, only 4.9 per cent studies in schools where the language of education is Hungarian. In the case of the isolated Hungarian communities, the proportion of Hungarian children studying in Romanian classes can be more than the half of the total number.
The systematic Romanisation of the vocational training courses has been going on for years.
In secondary education, 5.64 per cent of the students are Hungarian, yet only 4.2 per cent can study in Hungarian. There are areas (light industry, transportation, telecommunication, food industry, sport, commerce, etc.), in which the language of education is exclusively Romanian. By contrast, the start of entire Hungarian classes are approved in construction industry, machine industry and timber industry.
In counties where Hungarians live only in isolated pockets, vocational training courses in Hungarian are practically non-existent.
Of the 390,681 students
attending vocational training courses in
In the academic year of 1993-94, there were 25 vocational training courses altogether in four counties and 12 institutions. Even here, 70 per cent of the subjects were taught in Romanian. Vocational training in Hungarian is, therefore, practically non-existent.
In higher education, the language of education is Hungarian only in the training of teachers and actors. Hardly any Hungarian students are admitted to university courses in economics, law, history and philosophy. Of the 11,932 students studying law at the country’s state-run universities, only 98 (0.8 per cent) are Hungarian. Similar conclusions can be deduced from the relevant figures, broken up according to departments and nationalities, of the Babes-Bolyai University of Science.
By now less and less people realise, and still less care, that in the not so distant past Romania’s “province” known as Transylvania was the foremost seat of learning and intellectual life for the Hungarians, the Romanians and the Saxons alike.
Today even the mere utterance of the word ‘autonomy’ irritates the Romanian public. This is so, regardless of the fact that, wherever they had been in majority, they themselves had enjoyed local autonomy in the past. To find an example, one only has to think of the ‘kenéz’ courts of the Romanian districts of Hátszeg, Déva and Jófő in Hunyad county, where justice was done according to “Romanian law” even as late as the middle of the 15th century.
In 1675 Princess Zsuzsanna Lorántffy founded a school on the estate of Fogaras “for the glory of God and the betterment of the Vlach nation”, where the language of education was Romanian. This was not a rare example during the past centuries.
Even during the First World
War, the Hungarian state maintained 2,408 Romanian schools in
The Saxon population of
As to the higher education
of Hungarians in Transylvania, in addition to the universities of Pécs, Buda, and Pozsony, a network
of colleges were established in
We have already described the conditions today in the above passages.
The community of Hungarian nationalities (and not “minorities”!) continues its peaceful campaign for its rightful demands. Addressing its message to the more reasonable sections of the Romanian people, the Hungarian community want to make one thing very clear at its demonstrations rallying hundreds of thousands of people all over Transylvania, as well as in its proclamations and memorandums sent to the international organisations: ”The mother tongue—the guarantee of our national survival—is not a bargaining chip.” It demands that the Romanian authorities give us the opportunity to realise full self-government, including a cultural autonomy, which would guarantee the establishment of an independent Hungarian educational system, from the kindergartens to the universities. Last but not least, it demands the return of the church property, the schools built from the Hungarian congregations’ generous donations.
These demands do not amount
to more than the obligations