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Ten things you will notice as a parent with a child at school in Austria

Ten things you will notice as a parent with a child at school in Austria
Christof STACHE / AFP
Get a giant sweet filled cone ready and set your alarm for an early start if you are getting ready to send your child to school in Austria.

Most kids have a great time on their first day of school

On the first day of school, all children are given a giant cone or Schultüte filled with sweets.

This considerably enhances the first day of school experience for most children. 

No uniforms

Children in Austria do not wear uniforms, pretty much any outfit goes at school, especially during Faschingsfest or carnival, when fancy dress is obligatory.

In a similarly informal vein, children address teachers by their first names and use the “du” form rather than the more formal “Sie”, at least at primary school. 

A woman dressed as Maria Theresia (Photo by SAMUEL KUBANI / AFP)

Austrian schools can be surprisingly traditional

On the other hand, Austrian schools are surprisingly traditional. Compulsory schooling started in Austria in 1774, under the reign of Maria Theresia, Austria’s first and only female head of state. Since then, many have tried to change the system, but  there have been few reforms.

In 1869 and 1962 new laws were passed which extended compulsory schooling to its current nine years and ended the control of the Catholic church. However many aspects of Austrian schooling are still the same. For example … 

Set your alarm clock

… school starts at the rather early time of 8am, which many parents find a struggle, particularly combined with a commute to work. 

School teaching often ends at around lunchtime or early afternoon. Many primary schools do offer after school options in the form of a Hort, while another option are Ganztagsschule (all day schools), offering learning support and structured activities throughout the afternoon. 

Your child’s teacher will be very important

In primary school, your child stays with the same teacher and classmates all the way through four years of school. How your child is taught and assessed largely depends on the teacher he or she is assigned. 

Ice skating and skiing trips at school?

As you would expect in an alpine state obsessed with winter sports, ice-skating and skiing feature on the sport curricula of many Austrian schools.

You can also expect your child to learn a lot of traditional Austrian folk songs, and even yodelling, as they become fully immersed in a new culture.

Your child will develop a love of Austrian cuisine

Apart from the sweet filled first day at school junk food and sodas in school are generally frowned upon, and school dinners often feature organic options and traditional Austrian dishes such as Kaiserschmarrn (fluffy pancakes) or Rindsuppe (beef stock soup). 

What comes comes after primary school or Volksschule?

After primary school (Volksschule), your child can continue on a vocational path at a Hauptschule or at a more academic secondary school, known as a Gymnasium.

Often these schools will specialise in particular subjects.

For example, Gymnasium schools concentrating more on mathematics and science are called Realgymnasium, and the business-oriented schools are known as Wirtschaftskundliches Realgymnasium

What about English?

Many schools in Vienna offer teaching in English. There are a number of state bilingual schools in which lessons are taught in both English and German.

GEPS (Global Education Primary School) schools have a strong focus on English, and normally feature one hour of English tuition with a native speaker each day.  


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