The Austrian school system is a complicated one. There are many paths you can take according to your preferences and goals. There is also a broad offering starting with different daycare options for preschool kids to specialised high schools for teenagers. The article aims to provide a clear overview of the main options.
Private and public
First and foremost, all stages of education have public and private options.
Apart from regular kindergartens, there are some alternatives. As places are limited and the demand is high, two additional types of daycare are available: Tagesmutter and Kinderkrippe. We will elaborate on them in detail below.
In Vienna, the price difference between private and public institutes is small. The city of Vienna subsidizes childcare for children between 1 and 6 years old. However, families must have their main residence in Vienna.
As for schools, around 8% of them is private and the rest of the public ones are free of charge. The educational standards in Austria are high, even in comparison to other European countries. Publicly authorised private schools are often confessional, mainly run by the catholic church. Thus, the fees are relatively low with approximately €200 – €500 per month.
These are usually mothers (sometimes fathers) who work under certain organisations and are regularly certified there to be daycare mothers Tagesmutter. This childcare system takes place at the home of the Tagesmutter. Depending on the space in their homes, they can take care of up to 5 children.
The second choice parents in Austria have is a nursery, the so-called Krippe. The Krippe is for children between 1 and 3 years, however, it is only possible to get a place if both parents work. You can apply for state institutes at a certain time and get a place for September. In comparison to the private ones, children can start throughout the year, whenever places are available.
Kindergarten starts from the age of three and is not obligatory up to the last year, which starts at the age of 5. By this regulation, the government wants to make sure that children whose first language is not German reach a certain level and are ready for school.
Elementary school: Volksschule
In Austria, we count the years of elementary school from 1 to 4. We do not count from grades 1 to 12, but every next school type always begins with the 1st grade.
The first four years are at the elementary school called Volksschule. Sometimes, when children are not ready for school, they attend Preschool at the kindergarten for a year and get prepared for the first grade better.
Secondary school: Neue Mittelschule/Unterstufe Gymnasium
The next level of school education, starting with the age of 10, offers 2 options for children. The lower secondary school, the so-called Unterstufe Gymnasium, literally translated as lower secondary education, and the new secondary school, the so-called Neue Mittelschule, can be attended.
Both school types comprise four educational levels.
High school: Gymnasium/HAK/…
Before the ninth compulsory school year, children can choose between different forms of education.
They continue in the Gymnasium for another four years and graduate there with the general school-leaving examination “Matura”.
It is usually the most “academic” way of reaching the Matura. It is the right choice for young people who want to study at a university in the future.
The student goes to a so-called Intermediate vocational school (from the age of 14, 9th-11th school grade) which ends with a technical examination. Higher vocational schools (from the age of 14, 9th-13th school grade) end with a technical examination and the general school-leaving examination “Matura”.
After graduating from vocational schools, students have one or more professions or occupations.
Intermediate and higher vocational schools are available in the technical, tourist, and economic sectors and others.
14- and 15-year-old students can complete the ninth grade at a polytechnical school (the so-called Polytechnische Schule). It is a school with a focus on vocational orientation and preparation for an apprenticeship. If the child would like to start basic vocational training (apprenticeship or Lehre in German) from age 15, this is the next stage. Most apprenticeship training courses last between three and four years. There is also a combined option: The student passes “Matura” along with the apprenticeship.
The occupation is learned at work and the vocational school simultaneously. There are around 250 professions that can be obtained this way. After the apprenticeship, the young professional (apprentice) passes the final examination and becomes a skilled technician or craftsman (the so-called Geselle/Gesellin).
A special category is international schooling. There is a variety of international schools in Vienna. The following list represents the most popular ones:
- Vienna International School VIS
- Danube International School
- American International School Vienna
- International Christian School Vienna
- AMADEUS International School
- Japanese International School
- Russian Embassy School in Vienna
And a few smaller, newer schools.
All in all, the school system is quite diverse and offers many kinds of schools to choose from.