The EU's new 'Europe 2020' strategy sets five headline targets - broken down into national objectives agreed among the bloc's member states - that EU countries should strive to meet collectively.
Regarding education, the European Commission proposed cutting the early school leavers rate to below 10% from the current 15% and ensuring that at least 40% of youngsters have a degree or diploma.
''The Ministry [for National Resources] takes on the challenges of the EU target,'' an official in the office of Rózsa Hoffmann, state secretary for education, told EurActiv Hungary when asked about the early school leavers' target.
''There is already an improvement in the numbers of early school leavers compared to 2000 (13.9%), but the last 2-3 years have shown stagnation and variation (2009: 11.4%; 2008: 11.7%; 2007: 11.4%),'' the official stated.
However, the national target suggested by the Commission for Hungary regarding early dropouts is 8.4% - which is not realistic, according to the ministry.
''Because of probable future demographic trends, the target of 8.4% – according to the current situation and extrapolated from the trends regarding the national goals – is not realistic,'' Rózsa Hoffmann's team believes.
The state secretary instead supports a national target of 10%. ''Knowing the fact that in the past ten years, with a demographic equilibrium, a 2.5% reduction has been possible, it is reasonable to take on a 10% target,'' a ministry official told EurActiv.hu.
Boosting number of young people with diplomas
The other facet of the education target is increasing the number of young people with a university degree or diploma from less than a third to at least 40%.
The national target proposed by the Commission for Hungary is 33.8%, which would mean a significant increase from the current rate, which stands at just 22.4%.
The Ministry of National Resources believes the target is achievable – as demographic trends predict a positive effect in the coming years.
''Today, 69% of young people (between 20 and 24) enter higher education. In 2020, this age group will be 30-34 years old and approximately 34% will have a university degree. This means that to achieve the target, we do not need to increase the number of people entering higher education but reduce by 6% the 35% who drop out from university,'' the ministry official said.
The ministry therefore plans to review the language exam system, as in many cases in Hungary, an exam is a condition of receiving a diploma. There is also a need to reconsider the lessons learned from the Bologna Process, EurActiv.hu can reveal.
The ministry supports a differentiated approach. ''The target is not to enhance the absolute number of diplomas, but to increase the number of those university graduates who can be useful on the job market,'' the ministry stated.
'Youth on the Move'
'Youth on the Move', which will be launched on 15 September, is one of seven so-called 'flagship initiatives' in Europe 2020.
It aims to improve the performance and international attractiveness of higher education institutions in the EU and raise the quality of all levels of education and training, combining excellence and fairness.
'Youth on the Move' will seek to enhance EU educational programmes like Erasmus, Tempus and Leonardo Da Vinci, promote entrepreneurship through mobility programmes and launch new youth employment policies to encourage young people to take up apprenticeships and traineeships.
It will kick off with two experimental campaigns – one in Hungary and one in France. The key goal is to raise awareness among 16-30 year olds of the advantages that mobility can bring to their lives.
The Hungarian event will take place on 8-9 October in Millenáris Park in the capital, Budapest. It will be accompanied by cultural programmes, concerts, project exhibitions, experience-sharing and professional forums.
Hungary lagging behind on student mobility
According to Károly Manherz, Hungary's former secretary of education, it is just as well that Hungary is one of the first to launch 'Youth on the Move' – because the country is lagging behind most EU member states when it comes to student mobility.
Countries participating in the Bologna Process have set the target of raising student mobility to 20% by 2020, but Hungary is currently at 4% and can only realistically reach 8%.
Teachers' language skills also leave a lot to be desired, so luring foreign students to Hungary is a problem too. 11.2% of students studying in the UK are from another country, while in Hungary, the share is just 3.3%. Spain and Italy lag even further behind, with 2.9% and 1.9% respectively.
Based on current trends, the number of foreign students in Hungary by 2020 could reach 30,000, yet with an efficient strategy even 60,000 is realistic, according to education experts.
Katalin Kurucz, head of the higher education and R&D department at the Tempus Public Foundation, says mobility tendencies can be enhanced through finance. ''In the Czech Republic, the state complements European Union assistance through the Erasmus programme with the same amount from its own resources.''