The Mayor Takes Us to Kindergarten!

In Budapest, there is a mayor for each of the districts who acts like a superintendent of schools.  What luck–we got to meet the best one!  No really, he was so passionate about education and proud of the work his teachers accomplished–which is every teacher’s dream, right?  After a talk at his office about how the school district works, we were off to visit a kindergarten school before an elaborate lunch in our honor.  Wow.

Here is the necessary background: Kindergartens can be public or private–many parents opt for private ones because they want the best for their kids (such as smaller class sizes and foreign language instruction…)  However, schools in Hungary are not designated by district, but by choice, so teachers and principals work hard to make their programs attractive.  This is also important because with twice as many teachers and schools than needed, the threat of having your school shut down is always real.  Nonetheless, schools are half funded by the state and the other half comes through district taxes.

Kindergarten is a three year experience; children are approximately 3 to 6.5 years of age.  As far as I can tell, there is little emphasis on reading and writing–more on alphabet knowledge before primary school begins at age 7.  As you can see, there is naptime for all!

In this case, the children seen in the photos are kindergarten age, but they are part of a summer “camp” that acts as daycare for working parents.  The children are allowed to be in the program for as much as 10 hours a day, but most of the school building was closed off since the majority of kids are vacationing with their parents for the holiday.

My favorite part was seeing how much of the school is cared for by the teachers–you can see them embroidering more pockets for the children while they nap.  All the paintings, organizers, cubbies are labeled with little pictures to act as identifiers for everything from cups to combs to art folders.  Each room has a theme and teachers take pride in the results of parent satisfaction surveys, which are posted in the lounge for all to see.

In the end, there was a sense of familiarity about the place.  Pictures of special events in the hallway, schoolwide “zoo” for biology study, a playground full of equipment and even a daily attendance board with name tags.  Also familiar are the issues the school faces: children who have unstable homes or learning difficulties are given extra attention and planning.

Every child should be so lucky to be part of such a caring community of learners–the building was almost empty, but the sense of pride was still tangible.

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