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Expats moving to Vienna with children will need to make a few important decisions, specifically whether to send their children to an international school or to a public bilingual school. Primary factors to consider are the cost of school fees and the curriculum taught, as well as the location of the school.
As there are many schooling options in Vienna, it is important to know what is available in order to make an informed decision.
Public schools in Vienna
Education in Austria is compulsory between the ages of six and 15. Schooling is separated into four years of Volksschule (primary school), and eight years of Gymnasium (secondary school). The latter is further divided into lower secondary school (four years) and upper secondary school, with vocational or academic training being offered for the final four years.
Registration takes place in March. Most schools have an open house (Schnuppertag) in February, which is when parents can speak to teachers and directors. Children are not zoned according to where they live – they can attend school anywhere in the city subject to acceptance.
Due to a significant language barrier, standard public schools are not a feasible option for most expats who only plan on spending a short time in the city, but bilingual schools are a good alternative. At Viennese bilingual schools, students are taught in both German and English. These are effectively public schools, so fees are low or non-existent.
Bilingual schools are popular among expats and local Austrians alike, so competition for places is high. There are just a handful of these schools in Vienna. Expats are therefore advised to apply for a place as soon as possible.
International schools in Vienna
There are several international schools in Vienna where students are taught in English. They are highly regarded but incredibly expensive. The benefit of attending an international school is that it allows students to continue studying in their home curriculum, and children as well as parents can mix with fellow expat families.
Many expats choose to live in the same neighbourhood as the school their child attends. The transition to a new city is made easier thanks to the resources and facilities available at the school. However, some would say that the cultural experience of being in a foreign city is limited by expats surrounding themselves with other expats.
Special-needs education in Vienna
Children with 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 Vienna
Tutors are widely used in Vienna to improve and assist children's schooling. They 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 Vienna 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.