Compulsory education


































Textfeld: Special Needs School
















Grades / Class




Pre-Vocational School





Apprenticeship leaving Examination















Lower Secondary School







with part-time










vocational training

























TVE Schools








Advanced-Level Secondary

Vocational Schools



School leaving



Post- Secondary TVE Colleges



Lower Level of Academic Secondary School



Advanced Level of Academic Secondary School



School leaving






Primary level

Secondary level


Tertiary level















Structure - The Austrian Education System

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.


Primary level

Compulsory education starts with a four-year primary school (Volksschule) (or special needs school) on the first of September following a child‘s sixth birthday. Already after her or his fifth birthday, a child may attend pre-school education. 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 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 level of an academic secondary school (allgemeinbildende höhere Schule or AHS). Lower secondary schools provide pupils with a basic general education, prepare them for working life and, at the same time, impart to them the knowledge and skills required for transfer to schools at the upper secondary level. The lower level 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 wide variety of education and training pathways: They may attend a school or college with the focus on either general or technical and vocational education.

The main aim of schools offering general education is to provide pupils with standard entry qualifications for university-level education and a solid basis for more specialised education and training careers. They are attended for another four years and concluded with a final examination; graduates obtain the Certificate of Secondary Education called Reifeprüfung-Certificate or Matura. The various forms of the advanced (upper) level of academic secondary schools 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 art and handicraft.

This means that students can specialise in certain areas with a view to their desired professional career.

Apart from these schools providing general education, there is a great variety of schools and colleges offering technical and vocational education and training (TVE). In principle, two institutional paths may be distinguished between. Students who have completed their compulsory schooling period may either opt for an apprenticeship in the framework of the dual training system or continue their education at a secondary TVE school (berufsbildende mittlere Schule or BMS), which provides medium secondary vocational training, or at an advanced-level  vocational school (berufsbildende höhere Schule or BHS). About twenty percent of all students complete their ninth year of compulsory schooling at a one-year pre-vocational school (Polytechnische Schule), which qualifies them for transition to an apprenticeship training within the dual system. Training for an apprenticeship occupation is provided partly in a company and partly through parttime attendance of a vocational school for apprentices (Berufsschule). It is the task of these vocational schools to impart general education contents and to complement the occupation-specific knowledge and skills the trainees have been taught in the companies providing the training. Apprenticeship occupations may be broken down by economic sectors as follows (figures from 2001): 53.1% of young people start a training in the crafts and trades, followed by those trained in commercial occupations (15.8%), in industry (12%), and in the tourism and leisure industry (10.5%). These four sectors boast the largest shares of trainees and cover a total of 91.4% of apprentices. In addition, 1.9% of all apprentices work in the transport sector and 0.7% in the finance, credit and insurance industry. There are a total of 40,152 training enterprises in Austria. Over the past four years, more than one hundred of the current

273 apprenticeship occupations have been introduced or modernised, seven of which in the field of the information and communication technologies (ICT) with 2,522 apprentices (as of 2001). In 1997, an additional possibility of access to university-level education (universities and Fachhochschule courses) for skilled workers has been established: the so-called Berufsreifeprüfung.

The Secondary TVE schools start after the eighth year of schooling and last for between one and four years. Also the advanced-level secondary vocational schools start after the eighth year of schooling; after five years and a school-leaving examination, successful graduates obtain the Certificate of Secondary Education and TVE-Diploma (called Reifeprüfung- Certificate or Matura). Types of TVE schools and colleges include: secondary business schools (Handelsschulen), secondary colleges for business administration (Handelsakademien), secondary schools for occupations in the social services sector (Schulen für Sozialberufe), secondary schools and colleges for agriculture and forestry (land und forstwirtschaftliche Schulen) and a wide range of schools and colleges for occupations in the technological, business and artistic fields. Successful completion of one of these schools qualifies graduates to practise the occupations concerned.


Tertiary level

Graduates of an academic secondary school or an advanced-level secondary vocational school who boast the Reifeprüfung-Certificate as well as those who have passed the Berufsreifeprüfung are entitled to study at academies (Akademien) and post-secondary TVE colleges (Kollegs) and are granted access to universities, the universities of arts and to polytechnical institutes (i.e. the universities of applied sciences, Fachhochschulen).

Since the autumn of 2001, students at Fachhochschulen and universities have had to pay tuition fees. In contrast to Fachhochschulen, there are no entrance regulations or limitations for universities. The new higher education studies' acts have introduced novelties for Fachhochschule institutions and universities: They provide for three-year Bachelor degree courses, on whose basis one-to-two year Master courses may be attended. At Fachhochschule institutions, students may now also enrol in diploma studies. Graduates of a Master course or a diploma study are entitled to enrol in doctoral studies at universities.


Adult education

Neither continuing education and training (CET) nor vocational education and training (VET) are regulated by law, but offers for both forms of training are provided, 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 colleges and schools for people under employment, master craftsperson courses (Meisterschulen) and parttime 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; CET and VET offers are increasingly complemented by innovative technologies, such as e-learning.