Austrian Education System
Compulsory education in Austria
Children residing primarily in Austria are required by law to attend school. Children who are age 6 by September 1st are required to begin formal education at school for a mandatory period of nine years. Parents can opt to send their child(ren) to a public school or to a private school.
Compulsory schools are as follows:
- Grades 1 – 4: primary school (Volksschule)
- Grades 5 – 8: choice of either a lower secondary school (Neue Mittelschule) or the lower level of an academic secondary school (the „Unterstufe“ at an „Allgemein bildende höhere Schule“ (AHS)
- Grade 9: enrollment at a polytechnic school or the completion of an advanced level academic secondary school, or a middle or advanced-level secondary vocational school.
Primary school („Volksschule“ – VS)
The child’s parent or legal guardian must register their school-aged child at the primary school of their choosing. School registration in Upper Austria takes place in November before the beginning of the next school year. Children who reside primarily in Austria, and whose parents or legal guardians reside primarily in Austria, must register their child in school.
Starting school at an earlier age
Children who turn six after the September 1st cut-off date and before December 31st may be permitted to begin primary school early. This requires the child to pass an assessment test in order to determine if the child is ready to learn in a formal learning environment.
Lower secondary school („Neue Mittelschule“)
- Children may only be registered in middle school after the successful completion of primary school
- Middle school is a general school for 10 to 14 year olds
- Gifted students, as well as students with learning disabilities can opt to participate in specially designed education courses
- Austrian law allows each school to offer courses that focus on local topics as well as the students‘ interests and talents (foreign languages, sports, technology, natural sciences, music, art, …)
- Special forms of lower secondary schools offer an expansive selection of educaton programs such as schools that focus on sports (Sporthauptschulen) or music (Musikhauptschulen).
- In the 7th and 8th school year, schools provide detailed information on professional careers in preparation of either continuing school or working.
Polytechnic school („Polytechnische Schule“)
- Students can enroll in a PTS school in the 9th school year.
- This type of school is designed to prepare students for entrance into the job market.
- The student’s selected occupational field is supported by visiting companies in that field, attending practice oriented training, and apprenticeship workshops.
- A student can select an occupational area of interest based on their general aptitude in different areas (metal-working, electrical, woodworking, construction, office and administrative fields, service areas and tourism).
- The school provides in-depth general education and focuses on the students‘ interests and proficiency level.
Secondary academic school („Allgemein bildende Höhere Schule“ (AHS) / „Gymnasium“)
Higher level schools require eight years total of education and are divided into two parts; four years of „lower level“ education and four years of „upper level.“ Students graduate by successfully passing the Austrian „Matura“ school-leaving certificate.
Students must qualify to attend by successfully completing grade 4 in primary school (Volksschule). Grades for German/Reading and Mathematics must either be a „1“ (Sehr Gut) or „2“ (Gut). For students with a grade of „3“ (Befriedigend), a commission will render a decision as to whether or not the child qualifies to attend an AHS school. If the requirements are not met, the child can also take a qualifying examination.
In addition, there are numerous special education programs that focus intensively on certain programs such as sports or music for example. After the 8th year, students may opt to switch to a 3-year or a 5-year technical vocational training college.
Vocational schools („Berufsschule“ BS)
1) Vocational school (Berufsschule) – compulsory schools that offer a dual vocational training system (school subjects and an apprenticeship)
- students must attend the voactional school while completing an apprenticeship
- school attendance is scheduled either as once a week or blocked in an eight-week period
2) Secondary Technical & Vocational High School or collage (BHS – Grade 9 to13)
- In addition to a 5-year general education curriculum, students receive vocational training
- Students graduate by successfully passing the Austrian „Matura“ school-leaving certificate
Types of BHS schools
- Higher Technical and Commerce Institute
- College of FAshion Design and Dressmaking, College of Arts
- College of Tourism
- Commercial College
- Secondary College for Economic Professions
- Secondary College for Agriculture and Forestry
- Educational Institute for Kindergarten Teacher Training
- Educational Insitute for Social Pedagogy
Private schools account for approximately 8% of the total number of schools in Austria. Most publicly authorized private schools are denominational schools. Some schools teach according to a particular system or apply philosophical educational methods. In general, private schools charge tuition and fees, compared to public schools which are free of charge. The quality of education at Austrian public schools is generally quite good compared to other education systems in Europe.
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