THE AUSTRIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM - WHAT PARENTS SHOULD KNOW
When moving to a new country with children or starting a family there, as a parent, you cannot avoid diving into the respective education system. The Austrian education system offers a top-notch education that provides a solid foundation for academic growth and personal development, as well as pathways to initial vocational training.
This blog post aims to provide insight into the Austrian education system and serve as an initial guide.
THE AUSTRIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM OVERVIEW
The Austrian education system is designed to enable children to pursue their individual educational paths. Compulsory school education, as defined in the Austrian Federal Constitution, is a cornerstone of this system and applies to all children permanently residing in Austria, regardless of their citizenship. Children of compulsory school age can fulfill their educational requirements through equivalent education methods such as homeschooling or attending private schools without public rights. However, such education must be reported to the local educational authority to ensure that it meets the standards of the state school system.
Compulsory education in Austria begins on September 1st after a child's sixth birthday and spans nine school years. This calculation takes into account the child's age on the day before their birthday. For example, a child born on September 1st starts compulsory education on their sixth birthday, while a child born on September 2nd begins school attendance on September 1st of the following year. It is also important that the child is deemed "ready for school" and capable of following first-grade instruction without being physically or mentally overwhelmed. If a child is assessed by the school administration as not school-ready during school enrollment, they will be placed in a one-year pre-school program.
The Austrian education system is structured as follows:
- 1st to 4th school year (ages 6 to 10 years): Primary School (Volksschule, VS)
- 5th to 8th school year (ages 10 to 14 years): Secondary School (Mittelschule, MS) or lower level of an Academic Secondary School (Allgemeinbildende höhere Schule, AHS)
- From the 9th school year onward:
- Pre-Vocational Schools (Polytechnische Schule, PTS) (ages 14 to 15 years)
- Dual Education with Apprenticeship and Part-time Vocational Education (ages 15-17/19 years)
- Upper level of an Academic Secondary School (Allgemeinbildende höhere Schule, AHS) (ages 14 to 18 years)
- College for Higher Vocational Education (berufsbildende höhere Schule, BHS) (ages 14-19 years)
For school-age children with special educational needs, there are special schools (Sonderschulen) that cater to their specific requirements. These options cover general compulsory education as well as a wide range of educational needs.
THE SCHOOL YEAR
The school year in Austria begins in early September and consists of two semesters. The enrollment period for public schools in Villach typically ends toward the end of February of the same calendar year in which the school starts. In some cases, students can also join during the school year, and they will be placed in appropriate classes based on their academic level and age. Children with insufficient knowledge of the German language can receive special lessons as part of the German language support course for up to two years. In some cases, additional language courses may be offered in the afternoon to support these students.
In Austria, students receive a school report on their performance in the first semester in February and receive their annual certificates, called “Zeugnis”, in July. A nine-week summer break stretches from July to September after the certificate presentation. Additionally, Austrian schools observe statutory holidays and voluntary school-free days determined by regional educational authorities.
In public schools, teaching usually does not extend throughout the entire day, and afternoon care is organized separately, requiring parents to register their children for these services. An overview of school day care services in Villach can be found here.
Villach places great emphasis on the quality of education and has been investing in expanding the school system for years to provide a high-quality and child-friendly school environment. Information about the various education options available in the Drau region can be found in our overview of different schools in Villach.