Touring Szechenyi Istvan School of Trade: A Secondary School

This is one of the original light fixtures from 1912

This is one of the original light fixtures from 1912

another light fixture form 1912

another light fixture form 1912

This is how the secretary use to make the students schedules before computers

This is how the secretary use to make the students schedules before computers

One of the classrooms

One of the classrooms

Inside the elevator that has not been remodeled

Inside the elevator that has not been remodeled

A picture of me in the library

A picture of me in the library

Today, January 9th we had our first school visit. We visited Szechenyi Istvan School of Trade. We had a tour of the school, which was built in 1912, and then visited with some students. The tour was really fun because our tour guide, an English teacher at the high school, was so excited about everything he was showing us and was very proud of the school. He mentioned at least three times how impressive it was that this school was still standing after going through both World Wars. The school did appear a little run down but it still had its beauty. It would cost over 1 million US dollars to renovate and the school doesn’t have that kind of money. One of my favorite things our tour guide pointed out to us was the light fixtures. Some of the original light fixtures from the early 1900s were still present in the building and were absolutely gorgeous! Then he told us to look down the hall at what they had been replaced with and they were just plastic light coverings. I also thought the doors were all very beautiful. They were my favorite color, a teal color, and had intricate designs painted onto them. He took us around to the teachers lounge and offices, pointing out everything that was from the early 1900s. We also saw a schedule board and I loved it! It was this board on the wall that the secretary in the school would use to manually create student schedules. I have never seen anything like it before. Once thing I noticed about the classrooms was how bland and plain they were. Not much covered the wall, they still had chalkboards and the rooms were covered in books or other various materials as they are in the U.S. This surprised me. In Mexico the schools were like this; rather plain and in areas or buildings where there was space. Contrasting this to America where even in the school district I grew up in, a poorer school district, schools are built to be schools and have specific music rooms, lunch rooms, classrooms, and office spaces. I was expecting the schools in Europe to be similar to the schools in the United States. Szechenyi Istvan School is not a poor school either; I was told it was about average. Next we went into a tenth grade English class and talked with the students. We asked them questions and they asked us some. After that we went into the library, had some delicious coffee, and talked with some older students in the 13th grade who were getting ready to graduate. Once again, I was blown away by the hospitality of the people here in Hungary. It was the tenth grade English teacher who offered us coffee and of course gave us a chocolate to go along with it. It was so sweet of her. The older kids, one kid in particular had a lot of questions for us. I thought it was interesting how his first question was why Americans are so fat and why we eat so much junk food. I think we just said because it is cheap and easy. I had some other thoughts about this though. I think it is because everyone or most people in America have such busy lives that they resort to fast food for themselves and their family because they do not have time to cook. It is also true that in America healthier food is more expensive. It is so much cheaper to buy a liter of Coke then to buy milk. Also, relating to the overweight statement children do not walk as much as children here. Also, this secondary school just added P.E as a mandatory class for all grades. I took one semester of P.E. in my secondary school. I was impressed by how much more willing the kids in the 13th grade were to talk to us in English and to ask us questions.
It was interesting to learn that all of the students grade depends on their final exam. They said they have assignments throughout the year but they do not matter. They sometimes complete them and only do it as preparation for their final exam. They take national exams at the end of each course that determines their grade. They receive a percentage on that exam and it is covered to a 5- similar to an A or a 4, 3, 2, or 1. I believe they need a 3 to pass the course. I do not know how I felt about this for many reasons. On the students end, if they do not test well they will not have grades that accurately reflect their learning. This makes me think of a saying one of my biology professors had last Fall. She would always say if we mess up on one or two tests it is not the end of the world because we had 4 exams in that class and about 20 quizzes plus lab work and she told us that gave us many opportunities to show her what we know. These children do not have that opportunity. If my grades were all determined by national tests I do not believe I would look like as strong as a student as I am. Also, I believe this would cause the teachers to only teach to the test. I wish I would have asked the two English teachers we talked to if they had a curriculum and what guided their lessons.
It was also so interesting to me how the students pick their high schools. They decide if they want to go to a trade school, vocational school, traditional school and where they want to apply. Some of the children at this secondary school traveled 45 minutes to an hour each way to get to high school. They picked this school for Business. It was hard enough for me to pick a major in a University at age 18. I cannot imagine picking a focus at the age of 14 for secondary school. From what I observed the behavioral issues seemed better at this school. The kids got to class on time and treated their teachers with much more respect. I was wondering if this had to do with the fact that they picked this secondary school and more or less wanted to be there. I feel like these students had a higher value for education then seem by American students in secondary school.
One last set of observations I had related to the after school opportunities and school sports. They did not really exist here. All the children said they would go home after school. A few did hip hop, or swimming lessons. Those activities were not associated with the school. Other children sang in their church choir or held after school jobs. In American schools, so much is offered outside of school. In high school when I did dance team in the morning I would be at the school from 5:45 am to about 5:00 pm and would come back for study groups or sports games. I would also have an activity every night of the week after school. In the elementary school I volunteer at in Tacoma, there are so many after school programs. I work with two sisters who are at the school from 7 am to 6 pm most week nights. There is such a sense of opportunity in America. The two girls I work with have a hard home life but they are still given a chance. They have activities to do after school and someone to help them with their homework every night. I wonder what children who live in Budapest who do not have good home lives do after school? I learned so much from this tour and loved talking with the students.

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2 Comments

  1. Korea used to have that same system, where grades depended on exams, and I found out through some research that it still is, for middle school. High school grades now depend on your rank among the rest of the students of the same school (so it’s incredibly competitive). Also, during my senior year, a lot of people (mostly college students or those who just graduated) told me that college has that exam-based grading system. My cousin told me that he often didn’t go to his classes, and he knew someone who only showed up for the syllabus in the beginning and final exam at the end. What’s more, they all told me that all colleges were like that (if they knew each other I would have sworn they were all in on the joke). Being the gullible fool that I was, I never asked teachers or advisers to confirm their statements, and grading systems aren’t topics that college advertisers go into without being asked specifically. Therefore, I continued to believe my grades would depend entirely on my final exams right up to my first class at PLU last year. Would you believe me if I told you I was absolutely terrified of classes when I first entered college?

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  2. Amy,
    I absolutely love the pictures you included in your blog! I think that the history and culture that the building embraces makes the school that much better. Tibor clearly carried a lot of pride for the school and was honored to be a part of the staff. This definitely has to have a positive impact on the actions of the teachers. If you love the location of your job, it is easier to love the job itself! I really enjoyed reading this:)
    Lauren

    Reply

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