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Education in Austria is generally considered to be of a good standard and is on par with other prominent European countries.
Standard Austrian public schools can be attended free of charge, but they are taught in German, and many foreign parents – particularly those with older children – feel that the language barrier is too difficult to overcome. However, there are a few bilingual public schools, which can be a good midway point for those who nevertheless want their children to learn German and integrate into the local population.
There are also private international schools that teach foreign curricula. These schools provide the opportunity for a child to continue with a familiar curriculum with minimal disruption.
Public schools in Austria
Schooling in Austria is compulsory between the ages of six and 15 (Grades 1 through 9). Compulsory schooling begins with primary school (Volksschule or Grundschule) and ends with the completion of junior secondary school (Hauptschule), co-operative intermediary school (Kooperative Mittelschule) or grammar school (Gymnasium). Following this, students wanting to continue on an academic track undertake higher secondary education, while those in search of professional training can undertake a vocational track at a commercial school.
Bilingual public schools
Bilingual public schools are an attractive option for expats who are eager to have their children interact with local students and learn the local language. As part of the public system, these schools are free and follow the Austrian national curriculum.
Instruction in bilingual schools is given in both English and German, and young expat children tend to achieve fluency in both languages quickly and efficiently. Older children may initially struggle, as the curriculum is tailored to those who have knowledge in both languages, but still, with a little determination they can succeed.
Space can be limited, especially for the popular schools in high demand. Students may need to attend an alternative school while waiting for admission.
International schools in Austria
There are a few privately run international schools in Austria, most of which are based in Vienna. The international schools offer either a foreign-country curriculum or an International Baccalaureate curriculum, and are taught in either English or the language of the sponsoring country. Many expat parents prefer to send their children to these schools to eliminate difficulties created by the language barrier, and to allow children to continue with a familiar curriculum and teaching style.
Such comforts are naturally accompanied by high costs, with tuition varying depending on the child's age and school. The more popular schools have limited space, and children still stand the chance of being denied entrance even after paying a hefty application fee. For this reason, it's best to start research and applications as early as possible.
Special-needs education in Austria
Learners officially labelled as having special educational needs attend mainstream schools as far as possible or, for severe disabilities, special schools designed to cater to their specific needs. According to Austrian law, parents have the right to choose the kind of schooling they prefer for their child.
Special schools educate disabled children through a variety of methods depending on the disability by means of small learner groups, specially trained teachers, curricula which pay attention to the respective disabilities and special methods and materials.
Education in special schools covers the whole period of compulsory schooling. After academic education, a pre-vocational year takes place in special schools, during which learners are supported in the transition period from school to the labour market.
Tutoring in Austria
Tutors are widely used in Austria to improve and assist children's schooling. Tutors might be employed to assist in specific subjects such as maths or science, or expat parents will often hire a tutor to improve their child's German language proficiency. Tutors are further used in preparation for important exams or for university entrance exams.
Newcomers to Austria might also find that their child may benefit from having a guiding hand in navigating a new school system or just to build some confidence. Top private tuition companies include GoStudent and TeacherOn.