Hungarian public education faces challenge of nearly 600 teacher vacancies as school year begins

For years, teachers’ unions, parents, and educators have been sounding the alarm that no one will soon be left to teach the students. But the government’s position is that everything is fine: they say enough teachers could start the 2023/24 school year without disruption. However, data from the Hungarian Public Service Job Portal, which collects job advertisements in the public sector, paints a different picture of the teacher shortage.

Gergely Gulyás, the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, said a few days before the start of the school year on 1 September, that there are enough teachers in Hungary, “In this sense, there is no shortage of teachers.” He added, however, that it is difficult to find teachers in certain subjects.

Although the government consistently denies that teacher shortages are a real problem in Hungarian public education, others mostly agree that the problem is real. This is reflected in the job advertisements on the public sector job portal, which show that the 2023/24 school year started with nearly 600 teacher vacancies in Hungarian public education.

Maths teachers are the most demanded

The Public Service Job Portal allows anyone to browse job vacancies in the public sector, including open positions in Hungarian public education. Filtering for the terms “teacher”, and “educator”, we found a total of 557 advertisements on 4 September, the number of teachers still wanted by institutions at the start of the school year. However, this number varies daily, with more than 1,000 job vacancies in August.

We found 317 teacher vacancies on the Civil Service Job Portal nationwide. Kindergarten teachers came in second with 128. In the same period, 69 special education teacher positions were advertised. Days after the start of the school year, 13 applicants were still awaited for the post of head of establishment or deputy head of establishment. The data shows a high demand for development teachers and teacher trainers.

We analysed the number of mentions of each subject in the teacher advertisements published on the portal. Data showed that during the start of this school year mathematics teachers are the most in-demand, with a total of 61 mentions of this subject in the job advertisements.

There are also many vacancies for music, English, physical education, and IT teachers, and a shortage of teachers with science qualifications.

By geographical location, Budapest, with the largest population, has the highest number of teacher vacancies (83). However, the problem is not limited to the capital. This year, after the capital, Szigetszentmiklós (16), Karcag (8), and Debrecen (7) have the highest number of teacher vacancies, and there are also shortages in many other areas of the country.

In addition to teachers, we have created a map displaying the number of advertisements for kindergarten teachers. Budapest also has the largest shortage (16), followed by the county capitals, which have the highest number of vacancies for kindergarten teachers in the autumn. Győr stands out with 4 job ads, followed by Debrecen and Miskolc with 3-3.

Teacher shortages are a long-standing problem, but it could become much worse

Teacher shortages are not a new phenomenon in Hungarian public education. According to estimates by the Trade Union of Teachers (PSZ), there were 16,000 teachers absent from the system at the start of last year. We wrote on 1 September 2022 that the Public Service Job Portal was looking for nearly 800 teachers nationwide, with most of the ads for maths teachers. According to the data at the time, apart from the capital, Miskolc, Szeged, and Kecskemét had the highest number of teacher vacancies,

The comparison of 2022 and 2023 shows little change. At the beginning of the 2022/23 school year, the shortage of science and English teachers in public education was also a problem. In our article and video in October last year, we focused on the increasingly critical situation that schools do not have enough teachers to teach children.

According to the recent data from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH), the number of vacant posts in education has increased to 7620 by the second quarter of 2023. This is almost 800 more than three months earlier. The situation can only be exacerbated by the status law, often referred to as “revenge law” by its opponents.

Several teachers have resigned in the wake of the law’s adoption. In a survey, more than 5,000 teachers have said they would terminate their employment if the law came into force. In mid-July, the vice president of PSZ told Átlátszó that the number of teachers who had resigned or initiated their retirement was around 2,000. We also spoke to teachers who have left the profession to find out the reasons behind the growing number of teachers who, despite their sense of vocation, are deciding not to return to teaching from September.

Job portal made from millions

According to the public procurement notice, the job portal was developed in 2019, and the contracting authority was the Ministry of Interior. The website was part of a project worth 297 million HUF. But it also included the development of 3 other subsystems. Seven bidders tendered for the job, and the winning bidder was Noispot Innovations Kft.

We wrote about the company in 2015, when we reported that more than HUF 2.2 billion in EU funding had been won since 2011 by members of a network of companies that included the owner of the “blind software”, which was subsidized with half a billion forints in EU funding but which the stakeholders say is fake. Noispot Innovations Kft. came into the picture as a professional subcontractor to the project owner.

The Szeged-based company’s successes started after 2019, when it tripled its net sales in a year, with profits rising from HUF 5.6 million to HUF 114.5 million in 2020, a 20-fold difference. Last year, it had net sales of HUF 1.14 billion and a profit of HUF 31 million.

However, the operation of the job portal is not without problems: in July, for example, the site was unavailable for a week, and the operating company claimed an application error. At the time when we collected the ads, the site didn’t really work either, it loaded only after several refreshes, and it wasn’t even available in all browsers.

Written and translated by Luca Pete and Zita Szopkó. The original, Hungarian version of this story is available here.