Children from age 0 to 6
Very young and pre-school children are taken care of in nurseries (Kinderkrippen ) (for babies and very young children), in kindergartens (from age three to six) and pre-school classes (from age five). Very young children (on average from age two) are also looked after in very small groups by day parents (Tagesmutter), especially in small towns and rural areas.
Schooling is compulsory for nine years in Austria (from age six to 15, first to ninth grade).
The first four years of compulsory education are completed in primary schools (Volksschule or Grundschule); from age ten children can attend either a junior high school or secondary school (Hauptschule, or Kooperative Mittelschule), or in certain provinces, e.g. Vienna, a ‘new middle school’ (Neue Mittelschule) (educational experiment) or the lower grades of a higher general secondary school (allgemeinbildende hohere Schule (AHS) also called Gymnasium). All school types comprise four educational levels.
The ninth school year (age 14-15) can be completed at a polytechnical school (Polytechnische Schule ) (a school emphasising vocational orientation and preparation for an apprenticeship) or in other types of school.
There are also special schools for disabled children or children with special educational needs (e.g. severe learning difficulties, etc.) for the first eight to nine years of their school education (e.g. special needs schools (Sonderschule ) and special pedagogical centres (Sonderpadagogisches Zentrum)).
In many cases, however, these children are also educated alongside others in standard schools in ‘integration classes’.
Other types of school
Intermediate vocational schools (from age 14, 9th-11th or 12th school grades) conclude with a technical examination; higher vocational schools (from age 14, 9th-13th school grade) conclude with a technical examination and the general school-leaving examination (Matura ).
The higher general secondary school and grammar school (from age 14, 9th-12th school grades) also conclude with the general school-leaving examination (Matura).
Training for around 250 professions can be obtained in basic vocational training (apprenticeship) from age 15. Most apprenticeship training courses last between three and four years. The occupation is learned on the job and at the vocational school simultaneously.
After the apprenticeship period, the young person (apprentice) passes a final apprenticeship examination and becomes a skilled technician or craftsman (Geselle/Gesellin ).
The Matura (school-leaving examination) is the prerequisite for higher education (university, academy, technical university, college).
Qualified school-leavers from intermediate vocational schools or qualified apprentices can prepare for university entrance by way of the vocational qualifying examination (Berufsreifeprufung or Berufsmatura).
Qualified school-leavers from junior secondary schools (Hauptschule) or pupils who have dropped out can do so by way of the study entitlement examination (Studienberechtigungsprufung).
In Austria there is a variety of course options in technical studies, humanities, arts and other fields of study. Technical universities offer practical training, facilitating direct access to a profession. Higher education colleges (padagogische Hochschule ) offer training for teachers at primary schools, secondary schools, special schools and polytechnic schools.
In Austria there are also general and vocational colleges and technical universities and university courses for working people which are offered as evening classes.
Private schools in Austria account for about 8% of the total number. Most publicly authorised private schools are denominational schools; in addition there are some schools which teach according to a particular system. Private schools are fee-paying establishments. There are no fees to be paid for state schools. The quality of State schools is very high in comparison to other education systems in Europe.