Minority Educational Institutions - In a decade's time
We focused on the dilemma of minority educational institutions in 2001-2003. We participated in two researches, both of which helped us to understand, phrase and - to a certain extent - clarify this issue. The first research, which was lead by Dénes Berényi and supported by the NKFP, concentrated on the utilization of the support that was provided for the transborder Hungarian academic work. The other research, which was lead by me and supported by the OTKA, studied the issue of minority education.
We met the problem of cross-border relationships, minority education, the expansion of higher education and the incorporation of minorities in the 1989/90 years of transition. First, we examined the cross-border relationships of compulsory education originally in the North-West region of Hungary (Győr, Sopron, Burgenland), later in the South-East area (Szeged, Szabadka, Temesvár). These were only rough initiatives, the cause of which is to be explained by our improficiency regarding the topic and our methodological immatureness. Another justification is to be found in the fact that compulsory educational relationships cannot be characterized as peculiarly cross-border due to the categorization of compulsory education as the obligation of individual states.
Our concentration on the education of cross-border regions has been necessarily originated from our previous ranges of interest (examining and analyzing the schooling degree, literacy and educational supply of local and regional communities). Consequently, we cannot state that we have started something anew; we wished to continue the research that we have already begun.
Before 1989, we did not even coquet with regional and educational researches whose scope crossed our borders - we could have never done it due to the nature of state borders. At best, the regional-social movements that crossed administrative boundaries were taken into consideration when we were studying the spatial behaviour of education and culturalization. As the borders opened up, the awakened regional and social communities emerged as new research topics both because of the new economical perspectives - in the North-West region of Hungary and near Bécs - and the traditions that survived state borders - Hungarian minorities near the Southern, Northern and Western borders of the country.
The Partium - or the region that we started to call by that name - was a real historical formation, which also suits the local patriotism of Debrecen. It is historical in the sense that this region has been the district of Nagyvárad (following the former episcopate of Várad) since the second half of the 18th century when Maria Theresa introduced a new administrative division of territories. This division was kept by the Calvinistic church in the Tiszántúl region even when the district was already divided to three because of state borders. After the transition, these historical roots inspired the current endeavours - as it had occurred in the history of Europe or this region several times before. Inter alia, minority (Hungarian) higher educational institutions whose establishment and preliminary steps were supported by Debrecen or Nyíregyháza and were nurtured by my colleagues and myself.
We already possessed the necessary knowledge and experience when we turned to the empirical research of the Partium searching for the different varieties of cultural and educational cooperation that crossed state boundaries. We defined two of them, the traditional and the instrumental ones to refer to the economic and cultural nature of collaboration. We considered these relationships - generally the examination of the education and civilization of minorities in the Carpathian basin - as the specific tasks of Hungarian educational comparatistics. At that time, we did not apprehend that these special export types of European education to the Third World, namely that educational export based on economic collaboration was found long-term, are also differentiated in the field of comparatistics - this was a later development.
We have found that the problem of minority education is not only typical to our region - or to the Carpathian basin or Central- and Eastern-Europe - but it exists throughout Europe. However, minority education issues are hardly institutionalized in political terms and are barely present in official statistics or international reports. The current (political) form of Europe was built up from the mosaics of individual states and it survives as a union of states. In turn, these states were formed with the partial elimination of minority autonomies. Although there exist national communities, territorial autonomies and civil initiatives - even freedom won by arms - but one will not find these in legitimate educational statistics that we or international organizations used. They were not recorded, even if they clearly existed, since they were not registered at a national level or they were documented as affrays. This is why we turned to the local-regional (governmental, public, minority, voluntary, community, denominational) initiatives.
The transition was not a single moment - the so-called "kairosz" - but a long period, a period that can be unmistakably divided into three parts. The first phase has already been described as the disengagement and secession of Eastern-Europe from the former soviet structure. The second phase is the period of finding and creating identities for the newly established states and vivified societies as well as the new political concentration of the unstable governments. This process can be clearly described both by tracking the predestination of minority politics and politicians, and the examination of higher education politics such as accreditation or the Bologna-process. Nevertheless, the social and political shock caused by the transition came to an end with the serial accession of states to the European Union.
It is a question that if civil societies resign, what will remain from the ambitions they desired or did at the moment of transition. What will remain from the institutions that were established within those gaps of political control that occurred while the previous governments became loose or unstable and the local ones (alternative, civil, community and autonomy) wished to build things bottom-up that they hardly dared to dream about? We have found the embodiment of these dreams in the form of those "new-born universities" that were instituted during the moment of transition. The researches from 2001-2003 were about them.
Did we segment the period of transition well (from splitting up to accessions)? Did we percept well the exhortation of civil societies at a historical moment when bottom-up-managed higher educational institutions were established? Is it really their destiny to support the political carriers of their founders while bounding our future to those? What has happened to the institutions that were visited and examined at the beginning of 2000 by the end of 2000? We are questing for these answers in the form of a forthcoming research.
By what means shall we research them? During the last decade, we experimented with different methods by merging them with those that are called "qualitative" by research-methodological handbooks. As for what can be called "qualitative", we can simply say that everything (or almost everything) that is not "quantitative". With the help of the methodological culture that was accustomed and brought by the concerned people from the Kádár-era (quantitative, "evidence based"), we could not register revolutions but the ways that effected them. It was not even appropriate to talk about revolution in that sociology, posterior we understand why that dramatic moment was not - and is not even today - the subject of research. At best, it was the subject of artistic fascination. We can register momentary situations by recording and analyzing statistics, and if we are blessed, by ordering these we gain time periods, which can be explained as social changes. However, this is not the authentic reality. We are not able to portray the bottom-up establishment of institutions - a social act, a decision- with quantitative methods. We need something else to be able to do that.
Those who lived through the transition - with its tragedy and dignity - already know that they must demise and transmit the information that decisions (political acts) can only be understood and explained by analyzing dramatic models. It is correctly called case study if case does not mean example but existent events. This approach is novel in contrast to quantitative researches if it does not seek for statistical populations to draw samples from but events that are performed by actors. These are not "phenomena", which we aim to describe and explain, but these are acting people (group of people), which we attempt do understand.
This epitome was composed within the confines of the TERD (Tertiary Education and Regional Development, The role of higher education in regional transformation) research. The research was financed by OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund). The original version of this epitome was performed at the annual conference of the R+D Higher Education Center of the University of Debrecen, 24th June 2008 in the DAB (Academic Committee of Debrecen of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) hall, Debrecen.
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