Friday, 5 September 2008

Major changes at the Pető Institute

‘Three pillars’ to future professional training

Franz Schaffhausser’s presentation to the 4th ACENA Conference in Chicago provides the first opportunity for the world outside Hungary to hear about the radical developments proposed for the Pető Institute, particularly in its professional training courses. This is not the end of the changes to be proposed. Next to be announced will be plans for changes in the Pető Institute’s conductive services.

It is in the very nature or plans that they should evolve: the overview that follows represents how things stand at the moment and is a summary of Franz Schaffhauser’s conference presentation. It is followed by my own brief comments and annotation.

Plans for change
The aim of the changes is ‘the renewal of Conductive Education’ [at the Pető Institute] rather than further ‘continuing tinkering’. This renewal will involve ‘restatement of ‘the holistic approach’, to incorporate implementation of the latest medical, biological, neurological and psychological advances, and take account of ‘methodological experiences’ to develop an evidence-based practice.

The Institute’s profile will change and be extended. The immediate effects of this will primarily affect the training of conductors but changes in how conductive services will be provided will soon follow. General pedagogy will gain in importance alongside conductive pedagogy, while ‘prevention and rehabilitation’ will constitute the third pillar. The development plan includes for the differentiation and integration of the three pillars and, during the last academic year (2007-2008) the Institute has already established an organisational framework for these training and research profile.

Professional training

For some years now the Pető Institute has trained ‘conductor-teachers’. This will cease when the last cohort of students already enrolled for this type of training finish their course, and is being replaced by a new BA training course for ‘conductors’, the first cohort of which started training in September 2006. This change will fit in with the European Union’s ‘Bologna process’ for harmonising higher educational qualifications across the Union. To meet Hungarian requirements for practical qualifications the BA training course will be for four years / eight semesters in duration.

Also to be launched is a second major training program to run alongside, a BA in pedagogy with a specialism in conductive pedagogy. Further, in the more distant future, there may also be training for ‘conductive therapists’

Starting in February 2009 there will be a higher-education course in ‘youth protection’, a specialism for conductors in appropriate provision for young people with cerebral palsy.

Also soon to begin is a masterate program in conductive pedagogy, targeted at qualified conductors, a group for which there has been to date no adequate post-initial training. Aims of this course are to prepare conductors to teach the theory of conductive pedagogy, prepare them for research, and provide ‘legal and management’ skills. The course will run for three or four semesters, depending upon candidates’ previous learning and experience, and will be open to conductors holding the Pető Institute’s new BA qualification.

‘Adult education’ [continuing professional development for conductors] will also be arranged, through short and long, regular and irregular courses, to incorporate ‘anything that could not fit into the MA program’.

The future

To manage this extended operation the Institute is being completely restructured.

The Rektor – overall direction

Institute of Conductive Pedagogy (with its own Director)
Theory of Conductive Pedagogy Department
Applied Conductive Pedagogy department
Inclusive Education Group

Institute of Human Services (with its own Director)
Department of Pedagogical Psychology
Department of School Education and Methodology
Department of Social Sciences
Department of Special Pedagogy

Department of Adult Education

Department of Neurorehabilitation

The Pető Institute looks forward to establishing joint research and joint training programs with institutions in Hungary and abroad.

The intended result of all these changes will result in the Pető Institute’s gaining:

- greater flexibility in research and training
- greater effectiveness for the practice of conductive pedagogy
- greater ‘assertiveness in the market’
- greater attraction for joint projects in research, training and marketing
- greater readiness for any other level of collaboration.

It is hoped that official approval will be granted to change the name ‘Pető Institute’ to reflect these intended changes.


The switch to the BA training for conductors (rather than conductor-teachers) is already under way and the course in youth protection is scheduled to begin in February of next year. Other intentions may take longer to fulfil and, in Hungary as elsewhere, the resources will have to be found, financial and human, to translate plans into reality.

This major reorganisation at the Pető Institute responds in part to that institution’s own historical crisis. In part, though it is also an urgently requires response to changes at the and even supra-national levels. Recent national higher-educational reforms in Hungary require that there should no longer be single-subject colleges. All colleges will now have to teach at least two major programs. The Pető Institute had been struggling for some time now to find a solution to this conundrum. At the same time, it also has to meet the requirements of ‘Bologna’.

My impression at the ACENA conference is that not knowing much about the Pető Institute, Hungary or Europe, many of those present were somewhat bemused at what all these changes were about (‘Hungarian solutions to Hungarian problems,’ I heard,).

For myself, I shall probably not feel confident in understanding it all, especially potentially ambiguous terms like ‘youth protection’ and ‘rehabilitation and prevention’, till I see what they mean in practice. I will also, like many around the world, wait to see what the status of the new BA (or should I write ‘BAs’?) will be in the eyes of education authorities outside Hungary.

And what, I shall be asking along with every one else, will be the distinct areas of competence of graduates holding a ‘BA in pedagogy with a specialism in conductive pedagogy’? What should we call them? What might they do?

The term ‘International Pető Institute’ seems less commonly used now. I shall also await with interest to see whether the Institute will continue to offer on-site training for foreigners or whether any training of foreign conductors will in future be done only through collaborative projects elsewhere (a new such collaborative programme is already anticipated, in Moscow, to be elaborated on in a forthcoming posting on Conductive Education World).

It will be also interesting to see will be how already trained alumni of the Pető Institute might access the new masterate course.

Most interesting of all was to experience Franz Schaffhauser’s extraordinary openness and the new transparency of the Pető Institute under his leadership. ACENA is to be congratulated for offering him this platform to express these.



Schaffhauser, F. (2008) Plans for change at the Pető Institut, Presentation to the ACENA 4th National Conductive Education Conference, Institute of Rehabilitation of Chicago, 28-29 September

Higher-education reform in Hungary

Recent national higher-educational reforms in Hungary require that there should be no further single-subject colleges. All colleges will now have to teach at least two major programs. The Pető Institute had been struggling for some time now to find a solution to this conundrum.

Conductor-training and ‘graduateness’

Conductor-training in Hungary has not previously been to first-degree level and is not recognised as such in countries across Europe (including the United Kingdom) – though the qualification has sometimes been accorded first-degree status in the United States.

Conductor-training at NICE has been to first-degree level from its outset in 1997.


The Bologna Accord is intended to be in place by 2010

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