This Working Paper grew out of our contribution to the first phase of the large-scale research project "Reducing Early School Leave in the European Union" (RESL.eu) that engages in exploring the causes and the perpetuating mechanisms behind the disturbingly high – in certain cases: increasing – occurrences of early school leaving (ESL) in nine member states of the European Union. The aim of the first phase of RESL.EU was to review and assess the prevailing domestic and transnational policies as well as the contributions of national and international civil society actors to tackling early school leaving and to reducing the proportion of early school leavers to ten percent by 2020, i.e. to the authoritative level that has been set by the European Commission as part of the Horizon 2020 framework.
This Working Paper introduces some of the main controversies that characterize the policies of the educational administration while deeply affect the scope of maneuvering of all stakeholders in Hungary. It is pointed out that most of the tensions follow from a Janus-faced approach by the state: while the notion of ESL is used in communications with Brussels and in official statistical reporting, the concept does not exist in domestic policies, and neither does it appear in strategic thinking. The paper reviews the consequences of these controversies in some key areas of education (ranging from segregation to the lowering of the age of compulsory education and to the recent reorganization of vocational training) and reveals a slow-down of remedial actions which largely remain invisible due to the lack of normative standards of anti-ESL developments.