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Education and Schools

Austria - Education and Schools

The government in Austria sees education as an essential factor in the success of the social and economic future of the country, so the Federal Ministry of Education, the Arts and Culture has authority across the entire educational system. This includes the funding and inspection of general and vocational schools, all University Colleges of Teacher Training (“Pädagogische Hochschulen”) and Adult Education. Laws dealing with education have constitutional status, because they can only be passed or amended by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. However, the day to day running of Primary and Secondary schools is undertaken at a State level, in line with Federal laws.

Babies and children up to the age of three can receive care in crèches (Kinderkrippe) and Kindergartens. Whilst these are paid for by parents, the demand often outstrips supply. In some areas there is a trend towards Childminders, or “Tageseltern”.

Preschools are provided by individual States, and applications are made to the council local to the child’s residence. A place offering 16 hours per week over five half-days is available to all children who will be five years old the next 31st August, and will be free of charge should the parents wish to apply for one.

Education in Austria is compulsory between the ages of six and fifteen. The public school system offers education which is entirely free including books and transport to and from school. However, private schools operate in most areas, including the International Schools based in major cities, which receive all of their operating income from the pupils’ parents.

Schools are open Monday to Friday throughout the term time. The normal school day starts at 8am and ends at 1.35pm, usually with a break of 15 minutes after the third lesson. Each lesson in secondary school usually lasts 50 minutes, with 5 minute intervals between them to walk to the next classroom.

Day care provision and cost for school age pupils will vary in each location. Some schools offer lunch and afternoon care, some communities offer the care through private provision, and each facility will determine its own fees structure. The costs are met entirely by the parents making use of the childcare facilities.

Children start primary school (“Volksschule” or “Grundschule”) in the September of the academic year in which they will reach their 6th birthday, and attend through four years until they are 10 years old.

Children start secondary school when they are in Grade 5, and will attend either

• the lower level of a general secondary school (“Hauptschule”), sometimes also known as a cooperative secondary school (“Kooperative Mittelschule”)
• A new secondary school (“Neue Mittelschule”)
• The lower level of a secondary academic school (“Unterstufe der Allgemeinbildenden höheren Schule”).

In Grade 9, children are presented with further options:

• a pre-vocational course (“Polytechnische Schule”), offers pupils vocational placements and professional theory training for apprenticeships or vocational schools
• a vocational intermediate school (“weiterführende berufsbildende Schule”)
• the upper level of a secondary academic school
• the upper level of a secondary grammar school
• special needs education and training schools for children with mental and/or physical disabilities or special educational needs which cover the first eight to nine years of schooling

The following year, when pupils are about 15 years of age, they may leave school to take up an offer of employment, or undertake a formal apprenticeship. The majority will continue with their course of study at school, leading to the “Matura” diploma, which is required if students wish to enrol at educational colleges and universities.

Those who do not pass the Matura diploma exams may still be admitted to higher educational institutions through the academic qualification tests (“Studienberechtigungsprüfung”), the matriculation exam for professionals (“Berufsreifeprüfung”), Matura examination for vocational trainees (“Berufsmatura”), or Matura examinations for external candidates (“Externistenmatura”).

There is a wide choice of International Schools in Vienna. These include the American International School Vienna (AIS), the Vienna International School, the Japanische Schule Wien, the Lycee Francais, the Arabische Schule, the Schwedische Schule in Wien, the Danube International School Vienna, and the Europäische Mittelschule. The St. Gilgen International School is located in Salzberg, and the International School Carinthia GmbH is based in the southern state of Carithia.

Some of the International Schools teach in English, whereas all State schools will teach in German. The International Schools will also usually offer the International Baccalaureate which would have wider international recognition than the Austrian Matura Diploma, albeit whilst also teaching in line with the Austrian national curriculum.

There is a wide choice of private schools available across Austria, with different fee structures and facilities offered. The website Privatschulberatung (in German but with Google Translation offered) may be helpful to begin the search.

Austrian culture is heavily influenced by the Catholic Church; almost 70% of the population is Catholic, with only about 4.5% Protest, 4% Muslim and 2% Orthodox Christian; about 11% of the population are agnostic. Catholic schools therefore have a significant place in the country’s education system, although they are all private schools. The general population perceives Catholic schools as maintaining higher levels of discipline and rigour than public schools, although Austrian schools do not generally have a bad reputation and the lack of catchment areas for schools means parents have plenty of choice.

Parents who are living legally in Austria and have a child under the age of 18, or whose child is between 18 and 24 years old and attending full time education, are entitled to receive a Childcare Allowance. This follows on from a generous level of maternity leave; the amount of leave and the monthly amount will be determined by the circumstances of both parents.

Universities are, on the whole, provided by the state though the 12 private Universities are an exception to this. More than twenty undergraduate and postgraduate university courses in Austria are taught in English, but the majority are taught in German.

The amounts charged for University education depends on the type of institution attended. Austrian and EU students intending to complete a degree in Austria can attend universities free of tuition cost. Non EU students will be required to pay just over 2,000 euro each year in tuition costs.

Apprenticeships are available throughout Austria, based on standard job profiles of approximately 200 occupations. All parties involved in the apprenticeship must sign a formal contract setting out the terms and conditions; if the apprentice is under 18 years of age then their legal guardians must also sign. Training is done on the job, supplemented by part-time college attendance, for between two and four years; it ends with successfully passing the final apprenticeship exam (the “Lehrabschlussprüfung”). Apprentices do not receive a salary but a monthly “Lehrlingsentschädigung” allowance, based on collective labour agreements and company agreements, and thirty days leave each year. A number of employment rules are in place designed to safeguard apprentices from discrimination, exploitation and harm. There are a number of organisations which can help in the search for an apprenticeship, but begin by looking at the website for BMWFW, the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.

Two careers information centres - BIZ (Berufsinfozentren) and BIWI (the Career information centre of Vienna Trade and Industry, Berufsinfozentrum der Wiener Wirtschaft) - offer advice about education and training opportunities in Austria, including consultation services. See www.biwi.at for further information.

Adult education centres (“Volkshochschulen”) and services are widely available across Austria, including the provision of language courses. Further information can be found on the following websites: BFI
WIFI (Trade & Industry Promotion Institute)
Burgenland adult educational centres (Volkshochschulen Burgenland)
Carinthia adult educational centres (Volkshochschulen Kärnten)
Lower Austria adult educational centres (Volkshochschulen Niederösterreich)
Upper Austria adult educational centres (Volkshochschulen Oberösterreich)
Styria adult educational centre (Volkshochschule Steiermark)
Salzburg adult educational centre (Volkshochschule Salzburg)
Tyrol adult educational centre (Volkshochschule Tirol)
Vorarlberg adult educational centre (Volkshochschule Vorarlberg)
Vienna adult educational centres (Die Wiener Volkshochschulen GmbH)
Career information centres (BIZ)

Read more about this country

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