The Austrian School System
The beginnings of the state schooling system go back to the school reforms made by Empress Maria Theresa in 1774, which provided the foundation for schooling for everyone and for six years of compulsory education. In 1869 the duration of compulsory education was extended to eight years.
The great reform of Austrian schooling took its impetus from the activities of Otto Glöckel in the Vienna Education Council after 1918. Glöckel put the case for optimal education of all children, regardless of their gender and social origin. In 1962 a comprehensive Education Law provided a new basis for Austrian schooling and raised the period of compulsory education from eight to nine years. An important innovation from 1993 on was the integration of handicapped pupils into the regular school system.
The Current School System
The legal basis for the current school system derives from the above-mentioned law of 1962, amendment of which requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The basic legal framework for the external organisation of schooling is the task of the Federal State, whilst the corresponding implementing measures and their execution are the concern of the individual provinces. Since 1975, state schools have in principle been co-educational. Schooling is free of charge.
Primary and Secondary Schooling
After four years of primary school (Volksschule), the tenyears-olds have a choice of two systems: on the one hand, extended primary schooling (Hauptschule) and, on the other, higher secondary schools providing a general education.
The Current School System After four years at a Hauptschule, a one year polytechnic course may be pursued. Subsequently, a start may be made on tuition at a vocational school, accompanied in parallel by on-the-job training. Alternatively, after finishing Hauptschule, pupils may change to the four-year senior course at a general higher secondary school or conclude their training at a vocational secondary school, taking at intermediate level a two-to four year course, or a five-year course at a higher level.
For children with special learning needs various specialised schools are available, or the integrated approach may be employed.
The general higher secondary schools offer an eight-year course. After completing four years at the junior level the pupil may change to an intermediate level or higher level vocational school. Both types of school conclude with the “Matura”, a form of school leaving certificate, possession of which entitles admission to a university. There are special admission requirements for art colleges and for the Academy of Visual Arts.
Schools offering secondary education are subdivided into three types: the general secondary school (Gymnasium), the form of secondary school concentrating more on mathematics and science (Realgymnasium), and the business-oriented (Wirtschaftskundliches Realgymnasium).
Up to the third class these three forms are similar, but from then on the subjects are different (e.g. Latin or foreign languages). At the senior level the distinction lies in terms of different compulsory subjects. Within this system of alternative compulsory subjects, there is also scope for individual focus on a specialised direction.
Vocational education follows two institutional paths. Either the dual system is chosen, involving tuition at a vocational school and parallel on-the-job training, or education is pursued in an intermediate or higher level vocational school.
Apart from providing a general education, the task of the vocational schools is to provide more specialised training for vocations in specific areas. A complete vocational course takes two to five years. The choice of vocational schools ranges from commercial colleges and business schools to colleges offering vocational training in social work, as well as agricultural and forestry colleges, and an extremely diverse group of colleges and schools providing training for technical, commercial and artistic professions. Successful conclusion of a course at one of these institutions is recognised as a qualification to pursue the vocation in question. Thanks to a system of bridges and transfers, it is possible to switch from one branch to another within the school system.
As a result of the introduction of autonomy in schools with regard to the subjects German, mathematics and foreign languages, streaming may be initiated to cater for the differing abilities of the pupils. Furthermore, depending on its particular situation, every school may offer special subjects. With the help of autonomous school timetables, schools can create their own specific profiles by emphasising certain subjects, e.g. the arts or sport.
International Schools in Vienna
The choices for a child’s education in Vienna are as diverse as the population. Schools offering American, British, French and many other curriculums are available. Vienna also offers children an excellent Bi-lingual education (German/English) for those who would like their child to have more of an Austrian School experience and to become more immersed in the German Language.A series of “private schools” under public law exist in Vienna, with tuition given in a foreign language. The Vienna International School and the Danube International School G.m.b.H. teach children from the age of four up to the baccalaureate. At the American International School and the Vienna Christian School children are taught according to the American system up to the twelfth grade. The French language Lycée Français de Vienne – which by an agreement drawn up between the Republic of Austria and France is a state school – is mainly used by the “international community” in Vienna. In addition, there are a number of foreign-language private schools not under public law, such as the Japanese, Arab and Swedish schools.
Austrian Schools Abroad
Austria currently has German-language schools in Istanbul, Guatemala City, Budapest and Prague. There are also bilingual schools in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Leaving examinations at these schools are recognised in Austria and entitle the student to attend a university. There are also some Austrian teachers in the Austrian schools abroad, and others work in different international schools where German is a language of tuition. In addition, some 2000 Austrian teachers work in Europe as language assistants or in exchange schemes.
Within the framework of the EU educational programme SOCRATES II, in the area of school education (COMENIUS), competence in foreign languages and better understanding of other cultures is especially being promoted. This entails innovative projects on the basis of international partnerships. For instance, schools from three different countries work on teaching projects relating to specific subjects. The language of communication here is English, and the medium used is e-mail. Existing school partnerships form the basis for such joint projects, which are mainly devoted to foreign languages.
Source: Austria Facts and Figures