a recent report on the so-called “pink education” compiled by the Hungarian State Audit Office (SAO/ÁSZ) has caused a stir in both the Hungarian and international media.
The report reveals that between 2010 and 2021, more women entered higher education in Hungary each year than men. In the fall semester of 2022/2023, the proportion of women among students enrolled in higher education was 54.55%. The proportion of women among graduates was even higher in the last decade, around 60 percent, due to a higher dropout rate among male students.
Secondary education is the gateway to higher education and, according to the data, the overrepresentation of women begins there. 58.1% of those admitted to higher education and almost 70% of those admitted to full-time higher education came from primary schools, where the percentage of girls is 55.4% (in all types of education secondary, the proportion is 49.6). According to the report, the change in gender ratios may have been driven by the ‘feminisation’ of the teaching profession. In 2021, 82 percent of the 96,000 teachers in the national public education system were women.
The report cites research showing that the average intellectual ability of men and women is not different, but “there are differences in the distribution of intelligence and in some subskills.” In their own research, the authors asked parents and teachers (a representative sample of 700) how they perceive the gender gap and the importance of different attributes/competencies in education.
Like the bibliographic data, the perceptions of the respondents showed significant gender differences for all attributes. According to the respondents, the most feminine attributes were emotional and social maturity, diligence, verbal fluency, manual dexterity, good oral and written expression, tolerance for monotony and precision, punctuality. Instead, the most masculine qualities according to them are: technical aptitude, risk taking, agility, spatial awareness, entrepreneurial spirit and logic.
According to respondents, attributes that are perceived as more feminine are more important in public education.
The authors point out that creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technical and technological skills are necessary for the optimal development of the economy, to alleviate labor market problems, and to improve competitiveness and sustainability. They explain that more emphasis should be placed in public education on the transfer and development of competencies and skills to meet the changing needs of the labor market in the long term, education should prepare young people, regardless of gender, for independent adult leadership successful and effective participation in the labor market.
The report notes that three of the compulsory subjects in the graduation exam are humanities (Hungarian literature and grammar, history, foreign language) and only one is from the field of STEM (mathematics). The authors warn that children may be at a disadvantage in terms of high school certificates and higher education. They suggest equalizing the number of humanities and STEM subjects among compulsory subjects, to prepare students for everyday life and the job market.
The report states that the phenomenon of so-called “pink education” has a series of economic and social consequences.
If education favors feminine characteristics, it undermines social mobility and equality of opportunity. A lower assessment of masculine qualities can cause mental and behavioral problems for male students who are unable to display and develop their abilities optimally. It is important to note that this is just a warning and a hypothesis from the authors. In their own research, the vast majority of teachers and parents (79 and 87 percent, respectively) said that in their opinion, public education does not disproportionately favor female or male skills. The authors note that responses were based on subjective impressions.
The overrepresentation of women in higher education can also cause demographic problems, making it difficult for young people with almost the same level of education to start a relationship. The authors explain this statement by citing data showing that women with a college degree are more likely to marry a man with the same or higher educational level, while men do not necessarily have the same preference. If recent trends continue, there will be 1.8 female graduates for every male graduate in OECD countries by 2025, the authors added.
Although it certainly contains unfortunate and ambiguous wording, the report can hardly be accused of machismo.
It was supervised, edited and created by six experts, only one of whom is male.
Several international media outlets have published misleading summaries of the report, ignoring the data and explanations cited, and highlighting only certain conclusions out of context. the BBC he wrote that “an increase in female graduates could make women less likely to marry and have children.” the BBC it has also ignored that it was not the authors or the ASZ who classified certain characteristics as feminine or masculine, but rather the literature cited and the parents and teachers interviewed by the researchers.
the Telegraph he expresses it in an extremely misleading and simplistic way: “Hungary tells women: you will not find husbands if you become smarter than men.”
Of spiegel incorrectly wrote that the authority assumes that female abilities are disproportionately favored in public education, but as mentioned above, this is only a hypothetical caveat as research has shown this is not the case.
According to The Republic, the authors of the report say that “if women spend too much time studying, they will not marry, have children or contribute to the development of the nation.” No such conclusion is drawn in the report, nor is there any value judgement.
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