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Should students take the lead in planning a school’s strategy? This Austrian school says yes

What is the purpose of schooling? For many, it’s the imparting of the specific knowledge that will allow young people to navigate adult life.

Should students take the lead in planning a school's strategy? This Austrian school says yes
Photo: Getty

However, for a growing number of families, it is also about empowerment – giving young people the real-life skills and experiences that will help them achieve sustained success in later life, no matter their chosen career path.

Together with the American International School of Vienna (AISV), we look at how one school is taking an innovative, leading role both in involving students in envisioning its future growth and empowering them to make long-term, impactful decisions.

Start your child’s journey towards life-long empowerment with AIS Vienna today

Developing the school of the future

In order to plan for their continued success, a school needs to create a strategic plan that outlines how it plans to grow and develop in the years ahead. 

This is especially important in challenging and turbulent times as these, when more than ever, global challenges play a role in the daily lives of students. 

When it came time for AIS Vienna to develop their new five-year Strategic Plan 2021-2026, involving student voices was a key concern. 

As High School student Hannah Fidelia Hurtig, who was involved in the planning process, says: “A lot of the time grown-ups can recognise and see what is good for students in the long run, but I think it is important to also realise what the students need right now, and that is where student input becomes especially important.”

Together with Hurtig’s input, ideas from staff, parents, students, and other stakeholders were funneled into four distinct pillars for discussion: Teaching & Learning, Character & Community, Facilities and Finance. Each of these areas was then the focus of planning that could be later judged through clear outcomes. 

“I believe that students will specifically benefit from the Teaching and Learning priority,” Hurtig tells us. “One of the goals is to create an environment where students are provided with the necessary tools and space for purposeful learning, which is then further supported by the teachers around them.

“I also believe that students will benefit from the Character and Community priority, as AIS is focusing on what it means to be a member of the AIS community, fostering diversity and inclusion. I think through this priority AIS will become an even more welcoming place, in which everyone feels motivated.”

For Hurtig, her experience in developing the new AIS Vienna Strategic Plan was one that made her more confident, giving her the skills that will allow her to engage in similar projects in the future. 

She says: “I felt like my voice was heard and everything I said was carefully considered. I especially enjoyed discussions in which ideas would float around and we would come to a conclusion together.”

Hannah Fidelia Hurting

Let your children’s voice be heard – make an inquiry with AIS Vienna today 

Building on the plan

As great as a Strategic Plan can be in developing a roadmap for the future, it’s nothing without concrete action. 

This past school year, AIS Vienna fundraised over €225,000, a significant portion of which was used to furnish a new, cutting-edge Elementary School Science and Innovation Lab that now allows students to collaborate in a dedicated space and engage with tools in ways that simply weren’t possible before.

In the previous school year, extensions were made to both the Elementary and High Schools, allowing students more space and learning opportunities outside a traditional classroom environment. 

Additionally, in line with recommendations that would later become part of the new Strategic Plan, the school’s network infrastructure and online learning environments were overhauled. This would become especially crucial when the coronavirus pandemic closed schools in March of last year.

Bringing together the voices of parents, teachers, supporters and – most crucially – students, AIS Vienna has developed a Strategic Plan that will allow it to continually lead as a centre of educational excellence in not only the Austrian capital, but across the entire country and region. 

Empower your children in an environment that gives them real-life skills. Make an enquiry about enrolment at AISV today

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VIENNA

What makes Vienna the ‘most liveable city’ and where can it improve?

Vienna is once again at the top of the global liveability index, but what does it mean and where can Austria's capital still improve?

What makes Vienna the 'most liveable city' and where can it improve?

The Austrian capital city of Vienna made a comeback as the world’s most liveable city after it tumbled down to 34th place due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Now, Vienna tops a ranking dominated by Western European cities, and it scores highly in nearly all criteria, including stability, healthcare, education, and infrastructure, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

READ ALSO: Vienna returns to top ranking as world’s ‘most liveable city

What does each of these points mean and in which areas is the city still not the best?

The liveability score is reached through category weights, each divided into subcategories. The indicators are then scored based on either judgement of “in-house expert geography analysts and a field correspondent based in each city” for qualitative variables.

In the case of quantitative variables, the rating is calculated based on the relative performance of a location using external data, such as information from the World Bank or Transparency International, for example.

Karlskirche, or St. Charles Church, in Vienna (Copyright: © WienTourismus/Christian Stemper)

Stability

Vienna got a 100 percent score in this category, which is measured based on several indicators. The EIU rating evaluated the prevalence of petty crime and of violent crime. It also looked into the threat of terrorism, military conflict, and civil unrest threats.

Healthcare

This was another category Austria’s capital aced – and an improvement from the pandemic years, when it lost points on healthcare.

READ ALSO: Ten essential apps to download for living in Vienna

The rating considers the availability and quality of both private and public healthcare. It also looks into the availability of over-the-counter drugs and general healthcare indicators provided by the World Bank.

Education

Vienna got a total of 100 points for this category, which considered the availability and quality of private education and looked into World Bank data on public education indicators.

Infrastructure

Another 100 percent for Austria’s capital which was found to have a good quality of road network, public transport, international links, energy provision, water provision and telecommunications. The ranking also considered the availability of good-quality housing.

Theater in Vienna (© WienTourismus/Paul Bauer)

Culture & Environment

This was the only category where Vienna did not get 100 points. Instead, it scored 96.3, which was still higher than many of the top ten cities. Vancouver, Canada, was the only city at the top of the ranking that got a 100. Melbourne and Amsterdam also fared slightly better than Vienna.

READ ALSO: ​​The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

The category looks into humidity and temperature rating, the discomfort of climate for travellers, level of corruption, social or religious restrictions, level of censorship, sporting availability, cultural availability, food and drink, and consumer goods and services.

Among all of these indicators, only the humidity/temperature rating, which is adapted from average weather conditions, didn’t receive the highest grade.

What can Vienna do to get better?

Even in the indicators where the Austrian capital did well, there are always things to improve, especially concerning the risks to the quality of living that rising inflation and the Ukrainian war bring.

When it comes to weather, though the city cannot control when it rains or shines, there are many things it can do to improve living conditions on those scorching summer days or freezing winter evenings.

READ ALSO: ‘Cool streets’: How Vienna is preparing for climate change and heatwaves

As summer and heatwaves arrive, it is already looking to bring more green areas and avoid “heat islands” building up in the city centre. It also has built fog showers, drinking fountains and increased offers of “cool” areas where people can escape the extreme heat.

Also, looking to reduce the use of cars and make life better for residents, Vienna is betting on the “15-minute city” concept. This means that Austria’s capital is trying to make the essential everyday routes and destinations, including metro stations, reachable by a 15-minute walk.

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