The Let’s Teach for Hungary initiative is based on the insight that it is rewarding to share our knowledge and to experience how others can also benefit from it.
A more down-to-earth approach to the motivation behind the initiative is our awareness that, like everywhere else in the world, there are less fortunate small towns and villages in this country and we need to ensure that their population also has a chance to succeed in life. The government does not support providing financial aid or basic income as the solution, since such tools tend to preserve the current state of affairs. Creating opportunities for a successful academic life and labor market options is a better solution, as studying and work better pave the road to progress.
We reviewed domestic and international research and arrived at two major conclusions. The first is that children living in these small towns and villages need role models to show them that there is a world full of opportunities outside their direct environment and perceived limits. The message is that they can accomplish great achievements by studying to the best of their potential. Secondly, it has been shown that the academic results of talented young people who participated in mentoring initiatives in the U.S. or the U.K. improved by as much as 15-20 percent, the equivalent of having studied their subjects for 2-3 additional months. Beside improvements in their academic results, their unauthorized absences also decreased. These are very positive results and we are seeking similar effects.
Thus, we have created a predominantly peer mentoring based program with two aims. On the one hand, we wish to support small town and village dwellers in successfully completing their studies; on the other hand, the Let’s Teach for Hungary program is about mutual learning and support, strengthening Hungarian communities.
The Ministry for Innovation and Technology, the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI), the Klebelsberg Center (KK) and the National Conference of Student Governments (HÖOK) have joined forces for this purpose. Of course, this does not exclude the possibility of other organizations or businesses joining us in the future. As a matter of fact, broad scope of participants is desirable.
Primary school students living in small towns and villages are the target group for the Let’s Teach for Hungary program. The participating mentors are to show them the excitement and opportunities existing beyond their direct environment - zoos, museums, secondary schools, businesses - to give them an idea of how many different professions and versions of the future they can choose from. In other words, the purpose is to help them bring out the best in themselves, whether that is in the form of vocational training, a high school diploma, further education, sports, arts and last, but not least, employment in the labor market.
The Let’s Teach for Hungary program rests on 4 main pillars: university mentor program, secondary school mentor program, HÖOK mentor program and business mentor program. Although these mentor programs are the central elements of Let’s Teach for Hungary, the program also encompasses other pillars which we plan to announce in the near future.
The first four pillars of the Let’s Teach for Hungary program:
University students participating in the university mentor program will start working with a given number of 7th grade students from one of the participating primary schools. This means sharing experiences, for which a scholarship of HUF 30 thousand per month is given and can be supplemented by additional benefits, if effective results are shown. One university student may take no more than four or five primary school students under their wing to help them successfully complete primary school and to continue their studies in a secondary school. Mentors also open the eyes of the primary school students to the exciting world beyond their own small town or village (e.g., zoo, cinema, museums) to motivate their growth.
The university course that is a pre-requisite to participating in the program was available at the participating universities - University of Pécs, Miskolc, Nyíregyháza and Debrecen - in the initial year of 2019. The course covers the most important skills and competences required for mentoring activities. The fact that the courses filled up very quickly (usually in less than one day) clearly demonstrates the level of interest in the program. For example, the course at University of Debrecen filled up in four and a half minutes. The originally planned number of seats in the courses had to be increased. Over 500 university students started their preparations for becoming a mentor during the spring term.
The secondary school mentor program allows students to perform their 50 hour community service requirement in one block. Essentially, the secondary school students participating in the program spend 4-5 days in a small town or village primary school and participate in events with the primary school students after classes (after-school club, study hall, sports activities). The program is managed by Gabriella Hajnal, the president of KK.
The ten year-old HÖOK also joined the Let’s Teach for Hungary initiative by supporting underprivileged first year higher education students in their integration into university life.
Last, but not least, the business mentor program is aimed at businesses and their employees. Companies can join the program by opening their doors and production plants to primary school students, allowing them a peek into their operations.
As initiator, ITM [Ministry for Innovation and Technology] is responsible for the full coordination of the program and thus participates in managing all of its pillars; however, the ministry plays a key role in developing and managing the business mentor program.