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Janos Toth, PhD

Janos Toth, PhD

Hall of Fame Class of 2007

Janos Toth, PhD, is the founder and managing president of the Hungarian Folk High School Society which has grown to 126 member organizations in Hungary. He transformed Hungarian Adult Education to democracy, pluralism and international interaction. As the first president of the European Association for Education of Adults (EAEA) he strongly contributed to the integration of partners and organizations of one dozen Central and Eastern Europe countries from communism towards a European adult education culture. With a legacy of over 30 years he is respected worldwide as a national and international leader in adult education.

As head of the adult education department of the National Institute of Culture (Hungary) he had already fostered international connections during the 1980s by exploring Hungarian and Western adult education traditions of the 20th century that had occurred before the dictatorship of Stalin. By launching a research and publication series to examine these traditions he strengthened the democratic and trans-national orientation in community development, civic and voluntary organizations, and rural development, which were questionable during the communist regime. 

By establishing with others the “European Symposium on Voluntary Association,” a co-operation between Hungary and the Netherlands, he developed (during communism) international civic relations. During the 1980s he initiated revival of folk high school activities, launched by the church and social democratic movements before the communist times.

With all these activities he prepared and supported the transition from communism to democracy and international contact. Through his active role, non-governmental organizations in adult education were included in the first freely elected government’s agenda (1990). Similarly, he contributed to legal regulations that followed about adult education and training in Hungary.

On the larger national scene, through consultation and lobby work, he helped shape the legal framework for adult education in Hungary, including the adult and community education law of 1997 and the passing of guidelines on local government and civic organizations. For the new adult education law in 2001 Toth organized an international expert seminar with the involvement of the Ministry of Education, including comparison with British, German, and Slovenian law-making. 

Based on his suggestion, important national institutions (“National Council for Adult Education” and “National Accreditation Committee of Adult Education”) were established. He also helped formulate the adult training and lifelong learning reform program supporting Turkey’s access to the European Union, and has lectured at various universities and colleges (Debrecen, Jászberény, GödöllŒ, Pécs). 

As board member and vice president of the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE), as vice president and president of EAEA, which consists of 114 adult education organizations in 41 countries, he developed the stature of adult education in many countries and also in the European Commission. 

Toth initiated the EAEA-annual-Grundtvig-Award, which goes to the best adult education project every year. In 2005 a cooperation-project of Israeli and Palestinian adult education on intercultural learning won the first prize. His contributions were publicly recognized when he was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit of the Hungarian Republic (1998) and the Appreciation Diploma of the Minister of Employment Policy and Labour of Hungary (2003).