An unpublished interview – Ildiko Orosz answers the questions of the Hungarian web portal

„The Transcarpathian Hungarians are Separatists, or Perhaps Only Kyiv Does Not Hear Them” On September 26, an article with this title was published on the web portal, which contained some vague statements about the Ferenc Rakoczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute, which did not describe the reality and viewpoint of the institute.

Although the author of the article did ask Ildiko Orosz, the rector of the higher education institution, some questions but her answers have not reached the readers. The editorial board of the Azonnali portal states that it is not possible to publish them. To provide objective information, Ildiko Orosz sent the interview to Kárpá, which is published below without any changes:

– To my knowledge, the teaching in the institute is conducted almost entirely in Hungarian, diploma papers are written in Hungarian, and state exams are also in Hungarian. My first question is, what prospects do students with almost a Hungarian diploma have in Transcarpathia and Ukraine? Where can they get a job with this diploma? Are they going to work in Hungary after graduation? Does the diploma issued in your educational system correspond to a Hungarian diploma?

– Diplomas awarded by the Ferenc Rakoczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute are equivalent to diplomas received at any other university of Ukraine, since the specializations are state-accredited and the diplomas have a state registration number issued by the Ministry of Education of Ukraine. The Diploma Attachment is issued in Ukrainian and English and contains the subjects taught here and the credits earned for them. In 2005, Ukraine joined the Bologna system of education. This means accession to the European Higher Education Area, so the state-accredited diplomas awarded here are valid in those countries that have joined the Bologna system, i.e. in Hungary as well.

According to the legislation of Ukraine, compulsory subjects in the curricula are centralized, the universities are given less opportunities to teach their own subjects, so our diploma is equal to other diplomas of Ukrainian universities, and also provides possibilities for employment on the state labor market on the same level as other diplomas do. In Ukraine, in the last decades, social capital has a value on the labor market, so our students, like other Ukrainian students, seek opportunities for self-realization at home or abroad. We are neither worse nor better than citizens of any neighboring country, in which many intellectuals are seeking prosperity abroad as well. Due to the economic and political situation, the level of emigration from Ukraine is higher than in the neighboring countries. But this applies not only to Hungarians. Of course, everyone goes in the direction that is appropriate to their mentality and capabilities, so the Hungarians are more likely to choose Hungary, and a significant number of people are going to the Czech Republic for higher wages.

– Since I discuss the issue of emigration in my article, and in my opinion, the Ukrainian law on education only increases the tendency of Hungarians to emigrate, and what efforts does the Berehove Institute make to ensure that students who receive a diploma stay at home?

– The role of our institute in the region is mainly to provide local Hungarian youth with equal opportunities to obtain a higher education diploma and to represent the Hungarian intelligentsia. A student who comes to us for 4-6 years of study, as a rule, not only acquires knowledge but also finds friends, develops relationships, and is thus much more attached to the region than those who have received a diploma abroad or in other areas of Ukraine. This is evidenced by the employment rates of our graduates, who not only occupy a pedagogical position in Hungarian language schools. More than 600 former students work in this position, but also a significant number of them are village mayors, officials, journalists or entrepreneurs.

– I have the idea that the Berehove Institute is a Hungarian higher education institution that actually prepares students for the Hungarian labor market. How true is this thought?

– The Berehove Institute is an educational institution that operates in accordance with Ukrainian laws, issues state-accredited diplomas, but does not receive any financial assistance from the state. Taking into account the sources of support and the spirit of the institution, we can call it Hungarian. The Ukrainian labor market is open to our students just like that of any other country that recognizes diplomas awarded by Ukraine. The employment of former students usually depends on several factors, these include: how viable a country is, its political and economic atmosphere, how realistic your plans are, whether you find the job that fits your vision. I do not think that our graduates are any different from those of Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Romania or other European countries. Young people are looking for the best opportunities for self-fulfillment. If they find this opportunity at home, then they stay here, if somewhere else, then they move in that direction. I do not think that Transcarpathian Hungarian youth should be put between limits: „stay only at home” and „you can only work in Hungary”. Each graduate is an individual with their own vision of the future, as in every country, their plans are influenced by political and economic circumstances, but this is true not only for the Transcarpathian Hungarians.

– I heard that 15-20 percent of students are of Ukrainian nationality, who are not from Transcarpathia, but from Ukraine. Since the institute is an open educational institution, it cannot say no to Ukrainian-speaking students. However, they do not speak Hungarian, so how do you handle their education? What specialties do they study and for what purpose?

– This school year, about 1400 students are studying at the Institute daily or extramurally. According to the latest statistics, we have seven students enrolled from other regions of Ukraine, five of them are undergraduates and two postgraduates. The number of students who do not speak Hungarian is 19. There are also those who have graduated from schools with Ukrainian language of instruction, so they have not studied Hungarian language and literature. The number of such students of the first two years 56. We do not have much opportunity to measure the level of knowledge of the Hungarian language. Since 2008, a centralized entry system has been operating in Ukraine. School graduates may enter institutions of higher education if they pass external independent testing successfully. Applications for admission to higher education can also be submitted electronically through a system developed and managed by the Ministry. The list of subjects for entry is determined by the Ministry. According to the law, in order to study in any specialty, it is necessary to pass the final exam in the Ukrainian language. If one does not reach the minimum number of points, they are not able to enter an institution of higher education. In addition to the Ukrainian language, one must pass two other exams. Graduates can choose between mathematics and Ukrainian history, and may choose another subject from the Ministry’s proposed list, but Hungarian language or literature are not listed among them. Based on the results, the electronic system classifies applicants according to the number of budget-financed and paid vacancies. This means that our institute, like other educational institutions, meets its students after enrollment, so we do not know which of them is fluent in Hungarian. As we are accredited in Ukraine, we must accept everyone, even if we do not receive financial assistance from the state. In general, our institution is tolerant and open to all. According to our philosophy, in the region where we reside, intellectuals must speak not only their native language, but also the state language and one European language. In the 21st century, English is popular and it is also the language of science.

Accordingly, we have developed a language education strategy for our institution. Every student who has studied at a Hungarian school must study Ukrainian as a professional language for the first three years, despite having already completed a national final exam in Ukrainian. This is important in order for them to be able to process the educational literature in the Ukrainian language in the future. For MA/MSc students a foreign language exam is compulsory, so each student has the opportunity to further study a foreign language of their choice.

This also applies to those who do not speak Hungarian. They have been studying Hungarian as a foreign language for four semesters. Students whose first language is Ukrainian is the first two years of their native language. This also applies to those who do not speak Hungarian. They study Hungarian as a foreign language for the first four semesters. Students whose first language is Ukrainian study in their native language for the first two years. In order to ensure equal opportunities, we provide textbooks and manuals in the Ukrainian language, conduct seminars in Ukrainian, and everyone has the right to choose the language of the exam or any survey. Students whose native language is Ukrainian are also learning Hungarian as a professional language in order to be able to use the educational literature in Hungarian. I believe that our institution is most tolerant of Ukrainian-speaking students, although we do not see such an attitude towards Hungarian-speaking students in other educational institutions, even in Transcarpathia. I can honestly say this from my own experience.

– There are also rumors that in the future the Transcarpathian Hungarians will have to pass the entrance examinations of higher level in order to enter a higher educational institution of Hungary. Why was it necessary? Who initiated these changes?

– In Hungary, as in all countries, the respective ministries decide on entry procedures within their area of competence. The changes are usually stated in the laws and regulations on education, which are established by qualified legal bodies in accordance with the order of the country and in accordance with the philosophy of the political majority elected by the population. As I mentioned earlier, since 2008, there has been a centralized university admission system in Ukraine, which requires a successful completion of an external independent evaluation. The system was designed to measure the level of knowledge of high school graduates using a single measurement tool across the country, thus providing further training for the best graduates. If equal opportunities are provided in such a system, i.e. everyone has to pass the exams in their former language of instruction, the tests contain questions that were included in the curriculum. In the long run, such a system helps to ensure an adequate level of knowledge and to balance the differences in quality between schools of different levels at the national level. With a sport metaphor, it is a „knowledge tournament” where the same conditions and rules apply. The best players of the championship will reach the finals. In Ukraine, the Ukrainian language and literature are subjects that do not provide equality, as they use a single standard for both native speakers and those for whom this language is a second language; in addition, students must complete tests designed for those of humanitarian specialization. In Ukraine, this is expected from the future kindergarten teachers, teachers, physicists, mathematicians, engineers and others. Figuratively speaking, it is tournament in Ukrainian language, in which fish and birds compete in „the rules of flying” or „rules of swimming.” As the basic material is compulsory for all schools, in other subjects the tests are provided in the language of instruction, written in one locality at a time, and evaluated under the same conditions, to give a real picture of the level of knowledge of the entrants. If Hungary introduces a similar system next year, it means that they are also organizing a national „championship of knowledge”, which will allow the best players to qualify for the finals. The Transcarpathian Hungarians, if they wish to continue their studies in Hungary, can enter this tournament, will have the opportunity to challenge themselves and eventually qualify for the finals. This probably excludes smart players who do not participate in either the Ukrainian Championship or in the Hungarian one, but may qualify for the finals as they can be admitted by converting grades of subject groups, based on the results of their schools.
Why the change was justified is not my competence, not ours, not the competence of the Transcarpathian Hungarians.

–And last but not least: what do you think is the danger of the Law on education ? Does it speed up migration processes or help Hungarian-Ukrainian cooperation? How do you see the future of the Hungarians in Transcarpathia?

–The biggest danger of the Law on Education is that it violated the constitutional rights granted to national minorities in Ukraine. It is a dangerous precedent for the whole country that constitutional rights can be overruled. There is a further risk that Ukraine has violated many of its previous international obligations by adopting this law. It is also of grave concern that, by adopting the law, Ukraine has violated cooperation agreements with a number of neighboring countries in which minority rights were guaranteed. The circumstances surrounding the acceptance of the law are also of concern as they were in breach of Parliament’s rules. Similar previously enacted laws were repealed by the Constitutional Court but this did not happen in the case of the Law on Education. All these facts point to a strong democratic deficit that poses the greatest threat to the democratic development of Ukrainian society and adversely affects the relations between the country and its neighbors, including Ukrainian-Hungarian cooperation. Social processes, especially migration, are usually influenced by the combined effect and complexity of economic and political processes. In Ukraine, economic and political processes have bottomed out over the last 4 years. As a result, the feeling of discomfort, prospects of much of society have led them to seek prosperity elsewhere. This is a common phenomenon, as we know from the Foreign Minister’s statement in 2018 that 1 million citizens leave the country every year. This includes the Hungarians of Transcarpathia. Their decisions have also been greatly influenced by the laws on education and language, which significantly undermine and violate the rights of minorities, which are likely to be impacted by this law more than other Ukrainian citizens.

As for the future of the Hungarians in Transcarpathia, I am not a fortune teller. I can only say an instant thought, based on the experience of the recent processes. The development of our future destiny and our future is largely independent of the Hungarians living here. If the people who live here think that they can live and flourish as a Hungarian minority in a country where their constitutional and legal rights are guaranteed by the state, along with providing a living, they probably will stay. At present, they experience that Europe and the great powers do not respond as much to the violation of their rights as to the violation of the rights of other national minorities. They use double standards that can cause a dangerous trend across Europe in the long term.