The Austrian education system

 

The Austrian education system


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A short introduction

In Austria general compulsory schooling applies to all children permanently resident in this country, irrespective of their nationality, and lasts for nine years. There are private and state schools; in state schools, no tuition fees are charged. The Austrian school system provides for a variety of education and training options, which are designed to meet the needs and interests of children and their parents.

In Austria applies to all children permanently resident in this country, irrespective of their nationality, and lasts for nine years. There are private and state schools; in state schools, no tuition fees are charged. The Austrian school system provides for a variety of education and training options, which are designed to meet the needs and interests of children and their parents.

Primary level

Compulsory education starts with a four-year primary school (Volksschule) [ISCED 1] (or alternatively: special needs school) on the first of September following a child‘s sixth birthday. Five-year-old children may attend pre-school, which is not compulsory. Primary schools are designed to provide all pupils with the same elementary education. Their task is to impart a comprehensive and well-balanced general education, thus fostering the children's social, emotional, intellectual and physical skills and abilities. Special needs schools (Sonderschulen) promote and educate mentally or physically disadvantaged children who are not able to follow lessons in primary or lower secondary schools, and are designed to prepare them for integration into the world of work.

Secondary level

After primary education, pupils have the choice between two types of school, both covering a period of four years: They may attend lower secondary school (Hauptschule) or the lower cycle of an academic secondary school (allgemeinbildende höhere Schule or AHS) [ISCED 2]. Lower secondary schools provide pupils with a basic general education and, at the same time, impart to them the knowledge and skills required for transfer to schools at the upper secondary level. The lower cycle of academic secondary schools aims to impart a broad and advanced secondary general education. Upon successful completion of either of these school types, pupils are free to choose from among a variety of education and training pathways, which may either be technical and vocational or general (AHS) in nature. Vocational training programmes are provided in the dual system (apprenticeship training), at VET schools (BMS) or VET colleges (BHS).

Compulsory education starts with a four-year [ISCED 1] (or alternatively: special needs school) on the first of September following a child‘s sixth birthday. Five-year-old children may attend pre-school, which is not compulsory. Primary schools are designed to provide all pupils with the same elementary education. Their task is to impart a comprehensive and well-balanced general education, thus fostering the children's social, emotional, intellectual and physical skills and abilities. promote and educate mentally or physically disadvantaged children who are not able to follow lessons in primary or lower secondary schools, and are designed to prepare them for integration into the world of work.After primary education, pupils have the choice between two types of school, both covering a period of four years: They may attend or the lower cycle of an[ISCED 2].provide pupils with a basic general education and, at the same time, impart to them the knowledge and skills required for transfer to schools at the upper secondary level. The lower cycle ofaims to impart a broad and advanced secondary general education. Upon successful completion of either of these school types, pupils are free to choose from among a variety of education and training pathways, which may either be orinnature. Vocational training programmes are provided in the dual system (apprenticeship training), at VET schools (BMS) or VET colleges (BHS).

Pupils who have completed lower secondary school or the lower cycle of AHS and want to attend an apprenticeship training programme within the dual system are obliged to complete their ninth year of compulsory schooling before starting the apprenticeship at a one-year pre-vocational school (Polytechnische Schule) [ISCED 3C], which qualifies them for transition to apprenticeship training. About one fifth of all students completes their ninth year of compulsory schooling at a one-year pre-vocational school. Due to the variety of subjects, company visits and practical days at training workshops provided at pre-vocational school, students are offered tailored guidance and preparation for their choice of an IVET pathway and future career. Initial vocational training in an apprenticeship occupation, which they can start upon completion of nine years of compulsory schooling, is provided partly by a training enterprise and partly by a part-time vocational school for apprentices (Berufsschule) [ISCED 3B]. It is the task of these vocational schools to impart general education contents and to complement the occupation-specific knowledge and skills which trainees are taught in the training enterprises.

A proportion of 49.1% of young people take up a training in the crafts and trades, followed by those trained in commercial occupations (15.2%), in industry (13%), and in the tourism and leisure industry (11.5%). These four sectors boast the largest shares of trainees and cover a total of 88.8% of apprentices. In addition, training is provided in the following sectors:

 

information and coaching; transport and traffic; and in the finance, credit and insurance sector.

In 2005, altogether 38,470 training enterprises were counted, a total of 38,552 young people took up an apprenticeship training, which is a share of 42.6% of the age group. That year saw 122,378 young people in an apprenticeship training programme. This corresponds to an increase by 2.8% against 2004 (source: Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, 2005).

Over the past years, more than 100 apprenticeship occupations have been introduced or modernised, many of them in the field of the information and communication technologies, such as EDP system engineering, applied data processing, IT electronics, or media expert (specialising either in media design or media technology).

Currently there are 283 apprenticeship occupations in Austria. Some of these apprenticeship occupations can be completed in so-called double training programmes; these are legally regulated possible combinations of two apprenticeship occupations, such as cook and restaurant specialist. In all, there exist 361 apprenticeship training pathways.

In 1997 the so-called Berufsreifeprüfung (exam and certificate) was established for graduates of an apprenticeship, a VET school (BMS), schools for healthcare and nursing (Gesundheits- und Krankenpflegeschulen), schools for paramedical training (Schulen für den medizinisch-technischen Fachdienst) of at least 30 months’ duration, and for graduates of schools of agriculture and forestry (land- und forstwirtschaftliche Fachschulen). When completed successfully, this Berufsreifeprüfung provides unrestricted access to higher education in Austria: to universities, the universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen), post-secondary VET courses (Kollegs) and post-secondary VET colleges (Akademien).

After graduating from lower secondary school or the lower cycle of academic secondary school, students may also opt for attending a VET school (BMS) [ISCED 3B]. The VET schools start after the eighth year of schooling and last for between one and four years. Also the VET colleges (BHS) [ISCED 3A/4A] start after the eighth year of schooling; after five years and a school-leaving examination, successful graduates obtain the Certificate of Secondary Education and VET Diploma (called Reifeprüfung Certificate or Matura). There are many different types of VET schools and colleges: there are business schools (Handelsschulen) and colleges of business administration (Handelsakademien); schools for social occupations (Schulen für Sozialberufe); schools of agriculture and forestry (land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Schulen); and a wide array of schools and colleges for occupations in engineering, business, arts and crafts, such as colleges of engineering (Höhere technische Lehranstalten), colleges of management and service industries (Höhere Lehranstalten für wirtschaftliche Berufe), schools and colleges for tourism (Tourismusschulen), or schools and colleges for fashion and clothing (Schulen für Mode und Bekleidungstechnik). Successful completion of one of these schools qualifies graduates to practise the occupations concerned.

The main aim of schools offering general education is to provide students with standard entry qualifications for university-level education. The various forms of the advanced (upper) level of academic secondary schools (AHS) [ISCED 3A] offer students a range of options (the classical Gymnasium, which places particular emphasis on foreign languages; the Realgymnasium, which emphasises mathematics, the sciences and/or technical subjects; and the Wirtschaftskundliches Realgymnasium, which places emphasis on economics and social studies). Within the framework of school autonomy and pilot projects, the individual schools may modify their curricula and develop their own specific profiles. In order to safeguard the provision of a broad and advanced general education, there is a core curriculum which is taught in all schools. In addition to these compulsory subjects, the individual school types allow further specialisation in certain areas depending on their special focus. The focus can be on classical languages, mathematics and the sciences, economics and business, instrumental music, or on fine arts. This means that students can specialise in certain areas with a view to their desired professional career. Programmes in the upper cycle of academic secondary schools last for four years and are concluded with a final examination; graduates obtain the Certificate of Secondary Education called Reifeprüfung-Certificate or Matura.

Tertiary level

Graduates of an academic secondary school or a VET college who have acquired the Reifeprüfung-Certificate as well as those who have passed the Berufsreifeprüfung are entitled to study at post-secondary VET colleges (Akademien) [ISCED 5B] and post-secondary VET courses (Kollegs) [ISCED 5B] and are granted access to the universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) [ISCED 5A] and universities [ISCED 5A]. Since the autumn of 2001, attendance of Fachhochschulen and universities has been subject to payment of tuition fees. For Fachhochschulen and universities, the new higher education studies‘ acts provide for three-year Bachelor degree courses, on whose basis one-to-two-year Master courses may be attended. At Fachhochschulen, students may now also enrol in diploma studies, whose graduates are awarded the Dipl.FH degree. Graduates of a Master course or a diploma study are entitled to enrol in doctoral studies at universities [ISCED 6].

Graduates of an academic secondary school or a VET college who have acquired the -Certificate as well as those who have passed the are entitled to study at [ISCED 5B] and [ISCED 5B] and are granted access to[ISCED 5A] and [ISCED 5A]. Since the autumn of 2001, attendance of and universities has been subject to payment of tuition fees. For and universities, the new higher education studies‘ acts provide for three-year Bachelor degree courses, on whose basis one-to-two-year Master courses may be attended. At students may now also enrol in diploma studies, whose graduates are awarded the degree. Graduates of a Master course or a diploma study are entitled to enrol in doctoral studies at universities [ISCED 6].

Adult learning

Continuing education and training is not regulated by law, but offered, above all, by the representations of interest of the social partners and their establishments and complemented by offers of private providers. The adult education sector affords the possibility of acquiring additional qualifications by enrolling in post-secondary VET courses (Kollegs) and schools for people under employment (Schulen für Berufstätige), master craftsperson courses (Meisterschulen) and part-time industrial master colleges (Werkmeisterschulen), specialist colleges (Fachakademien) and universities. Following the principle of lifelong learning, self-study and self-tuition play a key role in adult education; continuing and further training programmes are increasingly complemented by innovative technologies, such as e-learning.

Continuing education and training is not regulated by law, but offered, above all, by the representations of interest of the social partners and their establishments and complemented by offers of private providers. The adult education sector affords the possibility of acquiring additional qualifications by enrolling in post-secondary VET courses () and schools for people under employment (), master craftsperson courses () and part-time industrial master colleges (), specialist colleges () and universities. Following the principle of lifelong learning, self-study and self-tuition play a key role in adult education; continuing and further training programmes are increasingly complemented by innovative technologies, such as e-learning.

 

Selected statistical data

 

1) Surface: 83,871 km²

2) Population, number of inhabitants per km², (2004): 8,174,733 / 97

3) Proportion of population in towns, in % (2005): 67

4) Population growth, in % as against the previous year (2005): 0.11

5) GDP in billion € (2005): 245.7

6) GDP per capita in € (2005): 28,000

7) GDP growth, in % as against the previous year (2005): 1.9

8) Inflation rate, in % (2005): 2.2

9) Overall unemployment rate in %: 7.3 (2005, AMS) 5.2 (2005, EU-ILO)

10) Youth unemployment rate in 15-25 age group, in % (2005): 8.6

11) Youth unemployment rate in 15-25 age group, share in overall unemployment rate, in % (2005): 17.1

12) Share of young people with qualification at secondary level, in % (2005): 85.3

13) Drop-out rate in education and training, in % (2005): 8.7

14) Share of education expenses in GDP, in % (2006): 2.29

15) Share of research expenses in GDP, in % (2006): 2.35

16) Unemployment rate broken down by highest educational attainment, in % (2002):

 

– compulsory schooling, with or without final exam: 14.6

– apprenticeship training: 6.2

– IVET qualification at secondary level:
- academic secondary schools (AHS): 3.7
- VET schools (BMS): 3.2
- VET colleges (BHS): 3.3

– qualification at tertiary level: 2.3

Sources of statistical data:

Figures 1), 2), 3), 4): Statistics Austria

Figures 5), 6), 7), 8): ibw (Institute for Research on Qualification and Training of the Austrian Economy) / Austrian Federal Economic Chamber

Figures 9), 10), 11), 16): Public Employment Service Austria

Figures 12), 13), 14), 15): Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture

 

The ISCED classification system in a nutshell

The structures of education systems vary between countries and can therefore frequently be compared only with difficulty. The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) was designed by UNESCO in the early 1970s to serve as an instrument suitable for assembling, compiling and presenting statistics of education both within countries and internationally, particularly statistical data collections of the OECD. ISCED fosters understanding of OECD information and assessments on the part of educational researchers and educational policy-makers. Specifications of ISCED levels from nursery school to university help people in other countries understand which education level a particular pathway leads to. This may be useful, for example, for obtaining credits and recognition for education programmes and for selecting a partner school (completion of a pathway at the level ISCED 4A entitles graduates to study at university level). An overview plus a detailed description of all ISCED levels can be found in the OECD document: OECD (Eds.) (1999). Classifying Educational Programmes. Manual for ISCED-97 Implementation in OECD Countries.

Sources:

Arbeitsmarktservice Österreich (Public Employment Service Austria, AMS)
A-1010 Vienna, Weihburggasse 30
Phone: +43/1/515 25-0
Fax: +43/1/515 25-226
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.ams.or.at

Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur (Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture, BMBWK)
A-1014 Vienna, Minoritenplatz 5
Phone: +43/1/53 120-0
Fax: +43/1/53 120-3099
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.bmbwk.gv.at/schulen/bw/

Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Arbeit (Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour, BMWA)A-1011 Vienna, Stubenring 1
Unit I/7 – Lehrlingsservice (Apprenticeship Service)
Phone: +43(0)1.71100.5813
Fax: +43(0)1.71100.2366
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.bmwa.gv.at/service/leservice

ibw – Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtschaft (Institute for Research on Qualification and Training of the Austrian Economy)
A-1050 Vienna, Rainergasse 38
Phone: +43 (0)1 - 545 1671 - 33
Fax: +43 (0)1 - 545 1671 - 22
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.ibw.at

Statistik Austria (Statistics Austria)
A-1110 Vienna, Guglgasse 13
Phone: +43 (1) 71128-7070
Fax: +43 (1) 715 68 28
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.statistik.at/

Wirtschaftskammer Österreich (Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, WKÖ)
A-1045 Vienna, Wiedner Hauptstraße 63
Phone: +43 (0)5 90 900
Web: http://www.wko.at

Responsible for content: Dr. Natasha Gruber, Dr. Julia Zdrahal-Urbanek, www.ibw.at
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